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Of all the awards, honors, and accolades accumulated by Al Jolson, billed unchallenged as the World's Greatest Entertainer in his lifetime and since, one meaningful tribute eluded him. This page represents an attempt, albeit a distant one, to achieve that goal.

The Academy Award Although the risk is made light of in the movie The Jolson Story, the making of The Jazz Singer, the first successful talking picture, was not a sure thing. Warner Brothers Studios were in deep financial trouble when they contemplated producing this property, which they had acquired after George Jessel starred in a Broadway production. Although in retrospect it proved to be quite a good move, Jolson's acceptance of stock in lieu of salary in the making of the movie allowed Warner Brothers to proceed with production of The Jazz Singer in the precarious financial position the studio inhabited.

To say that the movie was a success may be a supreme understatement. At the first Academy Award ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences felt that The Jazz Singer was not fair competition for silent films, and awarded the first Best Picture award to Wings.

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Al Jolson, and Darryl Zanuck at the first Academy Awards Ceremony, May 16, 1929, with the special Oscar awarded for The Jazz Singer
At that very first Academy Awards ceremony on May 16, 1929, Douglas Fairbanks presented a special Oscar to Warner Brothers production head Darryl F. Zanuck, who accepted on behalf of his studio for "producing The Jazz Singer, the pioneer outstanding talking picture, which has revolutionized the industry." Zanuck dedicated the award to Sam Warner, the brother who had served as the studio's chief executive and who had died the day before The Jazz Singer opened. Zanuck described the late executive as "the man responsible for the successful usage of the medium." The ceremonies ended on a lighter note as Al Jolson, the movie's star, entertained with patter and song. "I noticed they gave The Jazz Singer a statuette," he said. "But they didn't give me one; For the life of me, I can't see what Jack Warner can do with one of them. It can't say yes."

Well, now it's time we mounted an effort to get Al Jolson an Oscar of his own. On a website called Oscarworld, webmaster Jason O'Brien provides an opportunity to, perhaps, get a name into official consideration. As he says on the site:

As most of you are aware, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does give out other awards besides its annual achievement Oscars for each year's films. These special awards are not given every year, although most every year honorary Academy Awards are given. This is a place for you to have your voice heard about people in the film industry, either past or present, who you feel are long overdue to receive one of these honors ... be it the Thalberg Award, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, or an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement.

Once a nominee has received a substantial number of supporting replies, the information will be forwarded to appropriate members of the media and the Academy. We can't guarantee that your nominee will indeed get serious consideration, but at least it's a place where your voice can be heard.

I have placed Al Jolson's name into nomination in two categories, the Honorary Academy Award, given to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy; and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, given to an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry. All we need are your comments in support of those nominations.

Click this link to go to the Oscarworld site, click the "Interactive" tab, then select the link for the Special Awards Nominations Lobby. You will see Al Jolson under those two awards and please add your comments. Do not nominate him again, as duplicate nominations and all seconding votes that follow will be deleted by the site administrator!


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This listing and material Copyright © 2007 Marc I. Leavey, M.D. Baltimore, Maryland
Updated 13 May 07