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THE JOLSON STORY

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THE JOLSON STORY
($20) is a movie that I rate as pure unadulterated Hollywood entertainment, although as a screen biography, this film bears only a passing resemblance to reality. Instead of sticking to the facts of the life of legendary performer Al Jolson, THE JOLSON STORY is a showcase for the songs he made famous. Larry Parks received a much-deserved Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Al Jolson, a performance in which he recreates Jolsonís mannerisms and performance style, while perfectly lip-syncing to then newly made recordings of Jolson performing many of his biggest hits.

The plot of THE JOLSON STORY follows a young Asa Yoelson (Scotty Beckett), a Cantorís son, who is discovered by Vaudeville comedian Steve Martin (William Demarest). After many years on the road and a name change to Al Jolson, the eager young singer, joins a popular Minstrel Show and begins performing in blackface. However, only after Jolson goes his own way, and becomes a "Jazz Singer" does he find fame and fortune on the Broadway stage. Of course, when Hollywood makes the transition to sound, they select Al Jolson, the biggest musical star of the day, to star in the first talking picture. Along the way, Jolson also meets and falls in love with Ruby KeelerÖ er, Julie Benson (Evelyn Keyes), who also becomes a big movie musical star in the early days of the sound era. The cast of THE JOLSON STORY also features Bill Goodwin, Ludwig Donath, Tamara Shayne and John Alexander.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made THE JOLSON STORY available on DVD in a wonderful looking transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. The image appears sharp and produces very good definition. Colors are deeply saturated and give one an excellent impression of what an original IB Technicolor print of THE JOLSON STORY might have looked like. Blacks appear velvety, whites are crisp and contrast is very smooth. The film elements donít show too many signs of age, with minor blemishes and a rare Technicolor anomaly being the worst of them. Occasionally, a grain structure becomes noticeable, but it is never bothersome. Digital compression artifacts are always well contained. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is very pleasant and offers better than expected musical fidelity from the vintage recordings. No other language tracks are included, but English and Japanese subtitles are provided. The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as bonus trailers for  LOST HORIZON and PAL JOEY.

THE JOLSON STORY is wonderful old style Hollywood entertainment built around a songbook of some of Al Jolsonís best-loved songs. If you want to learn something about the real Al Jolson, youíll need to do some reading. However, if you are interested in hearing the music of Al Jolson and seeing some good performances, then the movie is for you. Recommended to movie buffs everywhere.

 

THE JOLSON STORY 


The Jolson Story (1946)

 


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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