This movie shows the idealized career of the singer Al Jolson, a little Jewish boy who goes against the will of his father in order to be in showbiz. He becomes a star, falls in love with a non-Jewish dancer, and marries her. In the end he chooses success on the stage.
“Let me sing a funny song, with crazy words that roll along, and if my song can make you happy, I’m happy…..I’m happy…..” Al Jolson sang those words of the song, ‘ Let me sing and I’m happy,’ in the opening of The Jolson Story, words that epitomized the passion and energy in his music. The Jolson Story does a magnificent job in giving us a taste of Jolson’s magic that spellbound America in the twenties and early thirties, most of his songs are in the show, April Showers, Swanee, Mammy, California Here I Come and , the incomparable, The Anniversary Song, sang as only Jolson can. And, due to some enterprising technology at the time we also hear more of his voice in the Movie that perhaps his fans did in those days with Film Studio microphones capturing and accentuating a deep resonance that is solely Jolson’s. The Film doesn’t attempt to factually explore his life, although we do get a chance to see some truths of the relationship with his real life wife, Ruby Keeler, who in the Movie was known as Julie Benson, played by Evelyn Keys. Interesting to note was the fact that Columbia Pictures, who released the Movie failed to give Warner Bros.the Film company responsible for giving Jolson the role in The Jazz Singer, any recognition whatsoever, presenting further evidence of the Producer’s and Jolson’s desire to give us some entertainment, as opposed to a lesson in history. And, entertained we are, as Larry Parks, with his unbelievable miming to Jolson’s songs……apart from a cameo from Jolson singing Swanee….takes us from Vaudeville days in the twenties with all Jolson’s great songs and routines, to his semi retirement in the thirties. The Jolson Story is a wonderful experience, full of songs we still sing today more than fifty years after they were released, and sung by the man most of us remember as the greatest entertainer of them all……Al Jolson.