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The Jolson Story

Jolson and his family Jolson on stage
This Technicolor masterpiece tells the fictionalized story of Al Jolson, the man who truly was the World's Greatest Entertainer. Tracing his career from his boyhood in Washington, D.C., singing with his father in synagogue, with his boyhood voice provided by the talented then-young singer, the late Rudy Wissler, through his minstrel days, to becoming a headliner on Broadway, this film won the Academy Awards for Musical Scoring for Morris Stoloff, as well as an Oscar for Sound Recording for John Livadary, the movie also was nominated for Best Actor for Larry Parks' portrayal of Al Jolson. It premiered at New York City's Radio City Music Hall on October 10, 1946, 19 years and four days after The Jazz Singer took the world by storm as the first talking picture. Featuring 25 songs by Jolson, including "My Mammy," "You Made Me Love You," and "Ma Blushin' Rosie," Jolson himself appears in a long runway shot, singing Gershwin's immortal "Swanee." While playing a bit loose with the facts of Jolson's life, this film is a must see for anyone who wants to get a flavor of this show business legend.
Jolson playing Jolson! The Spaniard That Blighted My Life

The Jolson Story trailerWhen it opened in New York, at Radio City Music Hall, on October 10, 1946, the line went around the block with folks waiting to see the picture. Jolson said, in a radio interview, that even the good weather did not stop people from coming to see the picture! Here is the original trailer for the movie, including some interesting mistakes regarding the songs, for you to enjoy. Click on the picture for a video clip of the Jolson Story trailer.

Jolson taking to the air with SwaneeAs mentioned above, Al Jolson played Al Jolson during one scene in The Jolson Story, depicting the introduction of George Gershwin's first and biggest hit song, "Swanee." Believing that Parks could not do his special dance step, he convinced the director to allow him to do the shot. Although shot from "miles away," as he put it, you can still see the Jolson magic, as he rises from the stage between steps. Click on the picture for a video clip of this number.

Jolson's Cameo
While most know of the above shot of Jolson playing Jolson singing Swanee on the runway, there is another shot often thought to be Jolson himself in The Jolson Story. Just a few minutes into the picture, Scotty Beckett, playing the young Al Jolson, starts to lip synch to the uncredited Rudy Wissler, singing "Banks of the Wabash," when Steve Martin, played by William Demarest, yells "Give that boy a spotlight." As Scotty stands up, there's a figure, standing to the right of the screen, with a white shirt and vending tray, whose appearance suggests Jolson's in the opening scene of Rose of Washington Square, and is thought by many to be Jolie, himself. A close examination of recent prints of the film shows that this is not Al Jolson at all.

To many Jolson fans, this motion picture telling the fictionalized story of Jolson's life, The Jolson Story, was our introduction to the World's Greatest Entertainer. After the success of the movie, it was brought to radio in a condensed form on the Lux Radio Theatre. Listen along, as Al Jolson plays himself, in a broadcast adaptation of the hit movie. Julie, Papa, and Steve come along for the ride, as well, making this a wonderful hour of radio. We thank member Irving Yavitz for providing us with a beautiful copy of the broadcast.
Click here to listen to this radio program
Al Jolson and company

Scotty whistling Scotty singing

And speaking of Scotty Beckett, ever wonder what happened to him? Thanks to some of the folks at the now defunct MST3K board, we have a little piece about Scotty, with some stills added by yours truly!

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This listing and material Copyright © 2001-2014 Marc I. Leavey, M.D. Baltimore, Maryland
Updated 12 Jun 01
Updated 08 Jul 07
Updated 07 Oct 07
Updated 24 Aug 14