On 23rd December 1945 Al's father Rabbi Moshe Yoelson died about the time of his 88th birthday. Al had always wanted wholehearted praise from his father but never got it, still he respected him and called him a scholarly gentleman.

 

In his final years Al was to turn back a bit to the religion he had rejected when his mother died and make peace with his god.  

 

 

 

 

The Jolson Story (1946) was a huge success and got the best reviews of any film Al had ever been associated with. The whole country was soon Jolson crazy and Al began a series of guest spots on radio promoting the film. Larry Parks' portrayal was a softened version of the real Jolson but Stephen Longstreet's screenplay did capture the love affair between Al and his audience, that he would sacrifice anything for,even his marriage.

 

The movie revived Jolson's career on radio and records. The bobbysoxers went out and bought his records in huge numbers and his Kraft Music Hall radio series was the top show on the air in the 1947-1948 season.

 

Al Jolson was now in his seventh decade and looked it though whenever he sang it didn't matter. At one party Jolson sang his heart out and another guest was asked for a song of his own : "I can't follow that" said Frank Sinatra and walked away.

 

Columbia decided to make a sequel to The Jolson Story (1946) and Harry Cohn told Al if he wanted to play himself that was ok. Al thought why risk sinking a ship that was sailing along fine : "This kid Larry Parks plays me better than I play myself." 

Jolson Sings Again (1949) was the result. I Only Have Eyes For You was the new Anniversary Song. The old man of 63 was singing better than ever.

 

He made a tour of New York film theatres to promote the film, it was his last appearance in the city where he had been King of Broadway almost 40 years before. On 31st October 1949 Al signed a three year contract with CBS for radio and television. He was set to star in a new minstrel TV series in the autumn of 1950. At home Al and Erle had adopted a boy Asa Junior, then came Alicia a little girl named after Al.  

A tired Jolson and Harry Akst arriving in Korea, September 1950
A tired Jolson and Harry Akst arriving in Korea, September 1950

In September 1950 Al Jolson paid his own way to entertain the troops in Korea. It was 48 hours by plane which broke down part way through the journey. The only place Al could sleep was a drafty hut and he arrived in Korea suffering from a heavy cold. He was warned not to sing but did 42 shows pushing himself beyond the limit with only one good lung.

 

 

He never really recovered from that and barely a month later on 23rd October 1950 Al Jolson died of a heart attack in San Francisco where he had gone to keep a radio date with Bing Crosby. He was 64.