Al Jolson Home Page|The IAJS|50th Anniversary
On this page: Jolson's Death | Palm Springs Star | Radio Tributes | Story of his death | Jessel Eulogy | Memorializers | Air Force Award | Good-Bye G.I. Al

Al Jolson - The World's Greatest Entertainer
Al Jolson
The Fiftieth Anniversary
of his passing

This flame represents the eternal flame which shall burn forever, in memory of Al Jolson, the World's Greatest Entertainer, who passed from this world on October 23, 1950. He was loved by the world, and he returned that love to all people without reservation. He shall forever be missed. He shall forever be remembered. May his memory be for a blessing for all those touched by his voice.

Here is a great article about Al Jolson from the New York Times, Sunday, October 22, 2000 issue!
Spike Lee's new film, Bamboozled, deals with his view of the role of blackface in the history of entertainment. Mention blackface, and the name "Jolson" is sure to come up. Here is an article from the Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2000, which seeks to clarify Jolson's image.
Memorials at the
50th Anniversary of his death

The World's Greatest Entertainer had his star placed in front of the historic Plaza Theatre, at Palm Canyon at Tahquitz in Palm Springs, California, on October 14, 2000.
Click to see a page devoted to the placement of a star for Al Jolson on Palm Springs Walk of Stars!
Share the Fame
To add your name to the list of those funding this permanent tribute to the World's Greatest Entertainer, send your contribution, no matter how big or small, to the IAJS. Send your check or money order to:
Tom Nestor
Treasurer, IAJS
1709 Billingshurst Court
Orlando FL 32825
and indicate on the check that it is for support of the Walk of Stars project. A hearty "Well Done" to David and Sue Miller, who got the ball rolling with a sizeable donation of their own, and have kept the ball rolling.

Click here to see and hear a wonderful tribute to Al Jolson produced by Marv Freeman, and broadcast over Arizona radio station KSAZ AM 580 on October 21, 2000.

Click here to see and hear a wonderful tribute to Al Jolson produced by Dr. Saul Drajer, and broadcast over Argentina radio on October 29, 2000.

The Death of the Jazz Singer
Al Jolson, Harry Akst and Martin Fried arrived in San Francisco on October 23, 1950, taking an afternoon flight from Los Angeles. Jolson was scheduled to appear as a guest on the Bing Crosby Radio Show and after booking into St. Francis Hotel they had a seafood dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf.

On returning to their hotel, they played cards for a while before Jolson said: “I’m feeling a bit tired. Think I’ll just have a lie down . . . Do Jolie a favour, Marty, willya? Call room service and get me some bicarbonate of soda - I have a little indigestion.”

Harry decided to call for the house doctor. There were two, but both were on call. Remembering a name his physician had given him, Al told Harry: “Look up Dr. Kerr and ask him to come over.”

Dr. Kerr answered the call: “It’ll take some time to get there.”

“You don’t understand, doctor. This is Al Jolson and it’s an emergency,” said Harry.

Jolson waved his hands: “You crazy bastard! You want everybody to read in the papers tomorrow morning that Al Jolson had to get a doctor for indigestion?” The doctor heard and assured him: “Don’t worry, I’ll be there in half an hour.”

Al turned to his friend, “Harry, I’m not going to last.” Harry recalled, “My heart jumped. I looked down and saw he had been taking his pulse. I said: ‘Al, don’t talk that way. It’ll pass. It’s nothing but indigestion.’”

The hotel nurse arrived first. “Don’t tell me this is the patient . . .” she started cheerfully - Al was still tanned from Palm Springs.

“Nurse,” said Al, “I’ve got no pulse.”

She took his wrist: “You’ve got a pulse like a baby.”

The house physician also arrived about the same time as Dr. Kerr. “I’m a little embarrassed about this, gentlemen,” Jolson said as the two doctors got ready to examine him.

First they asked him what he had done that day and what he had eaten. “Pull up a couple of chairs and let’s talk,” Jolson told them. Two chairs were brought and Dr. Kerr told him how much he admired him: “I saw you in London in 1929.”

Al joked: “You know, President Truman only had one hour with General MacArthur. I had two.”

Suddenly Al reached for his pulse. “Oh, I’m going,” he said sadly, before sinking back on his pillow, his eyes closed. The World's Greatest Entertainer, Al Jolson, born Asa Yoelson only 64 years before, was gone.

Jessel's Eulogy for Al JolsonKnown throughout his life as the "Toastmaster General," none was more eloquent than George Jessel. Here you can read his eulogy to the World's Greatest Entertainer, and hear an excerpt, as Jessel delivered his tribute at Al Jolson's funeral.

Harry JolsonAlthough a veritable sparring partner with him throughout his life, Al Jolson's older brother Harry Jolson loved him, and was also moved to record words of tribute upon Al's passing. Listen to a brief eulogy to Al Jolson by his brother Harry Jolson.

Here is yet one more eulogy for Al Jolson, one in which he was annointed the "sweet singer of Israel," given by the Rabbi of Temple Israel, Rabbi Max Nussbaum. Rarely published, here is your chance to read words of tribute from a different, more personal, aspect of The World's Greatest Entertainer.

There will never be another Al Jolson, but since long before his death others have been trying to copy his voice, or pay homage to his song and style. Check the page of Al Jolson Memorializers, for features on those who seek to preserve the image of Al Jolson after his passing, or those great stars who have performed songs from the repertoire of the World's Greatest Entertainer.

On March 9, 1950, Ronald Reagan, then president of the Screen Actors Guild, sent Al Jolson a letter stating:
It is my great honor and priviledge to be able to send to you the enclosed citation of honor from the Air Force Association, in behalf of the men of the U. S. Air Forces. This is in recognition of your outstanding services to the nation from the morale standpoint in the overseas entertainment work you did so well during World War II.

I was most pleased when the Screen Actors Guild was asked to see that you received this award, for I feel that it is a well-deserved tribute to you, and I know what a wonderful contribution your work represented.

To the left is an image of the Citation of Honor which Al Jolson received.

Eddie Fisher sings Goodbye G.I. AlAfter the death of The World's Greatest Entertainer, tributes and honors accrued to the memory of Al Jolson. None may have been more heartfelt than a song penned by Harry Akst which drew attention to Jolson's most appreciative audience, the men and women in uniform in service to their country. Sung by Eddie Fisher, here is your chance to listen to "Good-Bye, G.I. Al."

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This listing and material Copyright © 2002 Marc I. Leavey, M.D. Baltimore, Maryland
Updated 18 Aug 02