Studio Warner Brothers
Running Time 89 minutes
Production 11th July - 3rd September 1927
Release 6th October 1927
Director Alan Crosland
Screenplay Alfred A Cohn based on the play by Samson Raphaelson
Photography Hal Mohr
Conductor Louis Silvers
Major players

Jack Robin - Al Jolson

Mary Dale - May McAvoy

Cantor Rabinowitz - Warner Oland

Sara Rabinowitz - Eugenie Besserer

Moshe Yudelson - Otto Lederer

Jolson Songs

Dirty Hands, Dirty Face

Toot Toot Tootsie

Yahrzeit

Blue Skies

Mother of Mine, I Still Have You

Kol Nidre

My Mammy 

Background

Jolson was paid $75,000 to do The Jazz Singer but according to Herbert Goldman did not put up any money to finance the picture. The Warner Brothers didn't offer him any stock. Film scholars have depicted Warners as a poverty row studio but they were in fact backed by the banking firm Goldman Sachs. In 1927 they were also expanding having recently taken over Vitagraph. Possibly they might have been overextended if The Jazz Singer had not been a success so maybe that is where the poverty myth comes from.

 

The movie was changed from the original play because Jack Robin returned and remained in the synagogue onstage while the movie ends with Al singing My Mammy. No one would have believed Al Jolson giving up showbusiness.

 

May McAvoy who played Mary Dale became good friends with Jolson but he recalled it as a tough shoot because everything was new. "I thought it would be a terrible flop. I'd do a scene five times with tears in my eyes and then Alan Crosland would say "Do it again - and put some feeling into it!"  

 

Sam Warner who was the Warner Brother who most believed in this new technology sadly died the night before the premiere. 

 

The movie won a special Oscar and Jolson received it with a memorable quip : "This Oscar isn't much good to Jack Warner. It can't say yes."

Reviews

The success of this production is due to a large degree to Mr Jolson's Vitaphoned renditions. (Mordaunt Hall, New York Times) 

Verdict
A milestone in film history Al's improvised dialogue scenes really showed what was possible in talking pictures and meant in retrospect the silent film was doomed. The movie holds up pretty well though Jolson's inexperience in film acting is apparent in a few scenes.