Studio Columbia
Running Time 128 minutes
Production October 1945 - March 1946
Release 10th October 1946
Director Alfred E Green
Producer Sidney Skolsky
Screenplay Stephen Longstreet
Choreographer Jack Cole
Conductor Morris Stoloff
Major players

Al Jolson - Larry Parks

Julie Benson - Evelyn Keyes

Steve Martin - William Demarest

Tom Baron - Bill Goodwin

Cantor Yoelson - Ludwig Donath

Mama Yoelson - Tamara Shayne

Al Jolson as a boy - Scotty Beckett

Jolson Songs

Let Me Sing and I'm Happy

Ma Blushin' Rosie

I Want a Girl

My Mammy

I'm Sittin' On Top of the World

You Made Me Love You

Swanee

The Spaniard That Blighted My Life

April Showers

California Here I Come

There's A Rainbow Round My Shoulder

Liza

About a Quarter to Nine

Anniversary Song

Waitin' For the Robert E Lee

Rockabye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody

April Showers (reprise)

Background

While production on The Jolson Story didn't begin till 1945 Columbia got the film rights in 1943 for a five year period. Jack Warner had offered director Michael Curtiz and the Epstein brothers to write it at Warner Brothers but Al was persuaded when it was suggested that the movie would be the big one of the year for Columbia.

 

James Cagney was offered the role but rejected it because he was tired of being someone else's shadow after Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). The part eventually went to B movie actor Larry Parks.

 

It was decided that it was too complicated to go into all Jolson's matrimonial troubles. It seemed that the decline and fall of the marriage to Ruby said it all. When Ruby Keeler heard she was going to be played on the screen by another actress she threatened legal action. She was paid off but wouldn't allow her name to be used, instead Evelyn Keyes played Julie Benson, Mrs Al Jolson.

 

Jolson's mother remains alive throughout the movie so Al's siblings were omitted and his various managers and friends over the years were combined in the loveable character of Steve Martin, a complete figment of the imagination.

 

The film was Columbia's biggest hit up to that time. It ranked 41st in a recent list based on UK cinema admissions.

Reviews

Only the deaf could fail to be enchanted by the musical numbers. (Howard Barnes, New York Tribune) 

 

I have nothing in the world against this picture except at least half of it seemed to me enormously tiresome. (James Agee)

Verdict
A captivating musical biography The Jolson Story is the best musical biopic ever made. Larry Parks is perfect in the title role making us feel some sympathy for Jolson while also revealing his obsession with audiences. Of course as with all film biographies liberties are taken but the film though a softened view of the real Jolson is not a whitewashed one.