Saturday, 19 September 2015

SEPTEMBER 19, 2015

THE JOLSON STORY (1946) Directed by Alfred E. Green and Joseph H. Lewis. ***

Hagiography isn't the word for it. As with THE GREAT CARUSO this film has only the slenderest connection to the true story of Jolson's life. No mention of his brother Harry, no mention of his mother's death before 1900 (she is still around in the film after Al's retirement!) and certainly no mention of his marriages other than to dancer Ruby Keeler (here given a completely fictitious name) or his adopted son. But, of course, the film is about Jolson's voice - the man himself sings most of the songs to actor Larry Parks' miming. So, a serious biography it isn't but very entertaining it most certainly is - if you're a Jolson fan (guilty, m'lud). Larry Parks, who bears little resemblance to Jolson,is excellent and there are good performances from Evelyn Keyes and William Demarest. Jolson's blackface is probably deemed politically incorrect today but his relationship to the black community and black performers is much more complicated and is barely, if at all, touched on in this film. Ultimately this is Hollywood schmaltz but beautifully done.

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