The Jazz Singer - the movie that changed cinematic history!

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From Warner Brothers

boxart.pngThe Jazz Singer, the first feature-length film with completely synchronized dialogue and musical sequences, will mark another milestone January 8 when Warner Home Video releases the Blu-ray™ commencing the 2013 year-long 90thAnniversary of Warner Bros. Studios.

About The Release:

The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length film with completely synchronized dialogue and musical sequences, will mark another milestone January 8 when Warner Home Video (WHV) releases the Blu-ray™ commencing the 2013 year-long 90thAnniversary of Warner Bros. Studios. The landmark film, which brought Broadway superstar Al Jolson “alive” and seemingly singing from the screen, was an immediate sensation when it opened in 1927 and created a revolution in the history of the motion picture industry. It earned Alfred Cohn an Academy Award®* (1927/28) nomination for Best Writing (Adaptation) and Warner Bros. received an Oscar® as a Special Award -- for producing The Jazz Singer, the pioneer outstanding talking picture, which revolutionized the industry. In 1996 the film was selected for preservation in the U.S. Library of Congress’s National Film Registry for its cultural and historical significance.

Special features include the full-length documentary feature, The Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk. The 93-minute film covers the 30+ year struggle to successfully unite sound and image on motion picture screens. The fascinating narrative of failures and triumphs is propelled by insights from notable film historians as well as interviews from many talents who reveal their personal experiences of this tumultuous period in film history.

A separate disc includes more than four hours of extraordinary Vitaphone shorts (see more detail below), unique and historic rarities that capture performances from the era’s great entertainment legends: Burns & Allen, Baby Rose Marie, Weber & Fields, Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields and many others. 

The Jazz Singer will now be offered in an extra premium 3-Disc Blu-ray book format showcasing the feature on Blu-ray for the very first time. The book also includes 90 pages of all of the reproductions, photos and content only previously available in the original 3-Disc DVD Deluxe Edition such as behind-the-scenes collector’s cards, lobby cards, souvenir program, a booklet with reproductions of vintage documents and post premiere telegram from Al Jolson.

Special features include a commentary from film historians Ron Hutchinson (founder of The Vitaphone Project) and Vince Giordano, a selection of vintage shorts and cartoons, a 1947 radio show adaptation featuring Jolson, and more. The Jazz Singer Blu-ray Book will be available for $35.99 SRP.

The Film

The Jazz Singer stars entertainment legend Al Jolson in a story that bore a few similarities to his own life story. Jolson portrays a would-be entertainer whose show business aspirations conflict with the values of his cantor father (Warner Oland). The Jazz Singer began life as a 1925 Broadway play, and was revived early in 1927, starring George Jessel. The part was offered to Jolson, who was then at the height of his popularity.

Jolson had broken new ground on the stage and sold millions of phonograph records. Just his name on the marquee of a Broadway theater, or on a piece of sheet music, almost always guaranteed success. He found the challenge of conquering the screen via the new Vitaphone technology irresistible.

The movie premiered at the Warner Theater in New York City on October 6, 1927 and soon became a national phenomenon, limited only by the relatively small amount of theaters (200) which were already equipped with Vitaphone’s sound-on-disc technology (a process developed by Western Electric and Warner Bros. wherein a 16” disc was synchronized with standard 35mm projection equipment). The film was a smash everywhere it played, and led to the installation of sound equipment all over the nation. Less than 2 years later, nearly 8000 theaters were wired for sound. Fueled by Jolson’s charisma and Vitaphone, The Jazz Singer created the momentum for “talking pictures” that couldn’t be stopped. Silent films would soon become virtually extinct.

Directed by Alan Crosland, the film co-stars Warner Oland, May McAvoy, and Eugenie Besserer. Among the hit songs featured in the film are Jolson’s trademarks, “Toot-Toot-Tootsie, Goodbye,” “Dirty Hands, Dirty Face,” “My Mammy,” and a then-new song composed by Irving Berlin …“Blue Skies.”

Special Features:

  • Commentary by film historians Ron Hutchinson (founder of The Vitaphone Project) and Vince Giordano
  • Collection of vintage cartoons and shorts:
    • “Al Jolson in ‘A Plantation Act’“ - 1926 Vitaphone short
    • An Intimate Dinner in Celebration of Warner Bros. Silver Jubilee – 1930 short
    • I Love to Singa - Classic 1936 WB parody cartoon directed by Tex Avery
    • Hollywood Handicap – Classic 1938 M-G-M short with Al Jolson appearance
    • A Day at Santa Anita - Classic Technicolor WB 1939 short with Al Jolson & Ruby Keeler cameo appearance
  • 1947 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast starring Al Jolson (audio only)
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Early Sound Era

  • Feature-length historical documentary The Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk
  • Two rarely-seen Technicolor excerpts from Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929 WB film, most of which is considered lost)
  • Studio shorts celebrating the early sound era:
    • Finding His Voice (1929 Western Electric animated promotional short, produced by Max Fleischer)
    • The Voice That Thrilled The World - Warner Bros. short about sound
    • Okay for Sound 1946 WB short celebrating the 20th anniversary of Vitaphone
    • When Talkies Were Young 1955 WB short looking back at the early talkies
    • The Voice from the Screen -- 1926 WB ‘demonstration’ film explores the Vitaphone technology, and looks at the making of a Vitaphone short.

Vitaphone Shorts
In the 1920’s Warner Bros. began producing a series of short films which utilized the Vitaphone process. These films ran the gamut from musical theater legends and vaudeville acts, to dramatic vignettes and classical music performances from the most prestigious artists of the era.

Most of these were shorts considered lost for decades, until a consortium of archivists and historians joined forces with a goal to restore these magnificent time capsules of entertainment history. Up until now, contemporary audiences have only been able to see these shorts via rare retrospective showings in a few large cities, or through the limited release of a restored handful of the earliest subjects, which were part of a 1996 laserdisc set.

  • Over 3 1/2 hours worth of rare, historic Vitaphone comedy and music shorts
    • Elsie Janis in a Vaudeville Act: “Behind the Lines”
    • Bernado Depace: “Wizard of the Mandolin”
    • Van and Schneck: “The Pennant Winning Battery of Songland”
    • Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields
    • Hazel Green and Company
    • The Night Court
    • The Police Quartette
    • Ray Mayer & Edith Evans: “When East Meets West”
    • Adele Rowland: “Stories in Song”
    • Stoll, Flynn and Company: “The Jazzmania Quintet”
    • The Ingenues in “The Band Beautiful”
    • The Foy Family in “Chips off the Old Block”
    • Dick Rich and His Melodious Monarchs
    • Gus Arnheim and His Ambassadors
    • Shaw and Lee: “The Beau Brummels”
    • Larry Ceballos’ Roof Garden Revue
    • Trixie Friganza in “My Bag O’ Tricks”
    • Green’s Twentieth Century Faydetts
    • Sol Violinsky: “The Eccentric Entertainer”
    • Ethel Sinclair and Marge La Marr in “At the Seashore”
    • Paul Tremaine and His Aristocrats
    • Baby Rose Marie: “The Child Wonder”
    • Burns & Allen in “Lambchops “
    • Joe Frisco in “The Happy Hottentots”

Where to buy:

The Jazz Singer was released January 8, 2013 on BluRay, and can be purchased at the Warner Brother's Shop on line.

If you prefer, you can also purchase it on DVD in a 3-disc collector's edition.

NOTE: Classic Cinema Online wishes to thank Warner Brothers for the use of the images.