Critique: ‘The Jazz Singer’ (1927)

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Directory of World Cinema: American Hollywood 1, edited by Lincoln Geraghty, published by Intellect Books, 2011

Whilst The Jazz Singer can be categorised as a musical, the film is a Hollywood landmark for the talking that takes place between the characters within the scenes.

Just as Jakie is forced to engage with the conflicting demands of tradition and modern expression, with both scenes of synchronised dialogue and silent-era sequences requiring intertitles, The Jazz Singer signalled the birth of the ‘talkies’ and the decline of the tradition silent film feature. In live-recorded dialogue, Jakie tells his transfixed audience ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet’, then he turns to his band and says ‘Now give it to ’em hard and heavy. Go right ahead’. These famous lines perfectly encapsulate the profound effect that the film had on audiences as they rippled out across the mass-consciousness of the movie-going public.

Nevertheless, unlike the later ‘Singin’ Swingin’ Glorious Feelin’ Technicolor Musical’, that is Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – a film about the production of a rival to The Jazz Singer, and similar films in which the tropes of the musical are deployed with a certain predetermined acknowledgement that ‘everything will work out fine in the end’ — The Jazz Singer very seriously foregrounds the conflicts within the narrative…

 

The full 750 word version of this review is published in Directory of World Cinema: American Hollywood 1, edited by Lincoln Geraghty, published by Intellect Books, 2011. 

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