Musical Monday: The Jazz Singer (1952)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

Poster_of_the_movie_The_Jazz_SingerThis week’s musical:
Jazz Singer (1952) – Musical #431

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Michael Curtiz

Starring:
Danny Thomas, Peggy Lee, Eduard Franz, Mildred Dunnock, Allyn Joslyn, Tom Tully

Plot:
Korean War veteran Jerry Golding (Thomas) returns home from the war. His father (Franz) has dreams of Jerry becoming a Jewish Cantor, but Jerry wants to become a famous jazz singer.

Trivia:
-Remake of the 1927 Al Jolson film The Jazz Singer, but with new songs.
-Doris Day was originally offered Peggy Lee’s role, but Day turned down the role. Just coming from “I’ll See You in My Dreams” with Danny Thomas, she felt it was too soon for them to be recast, according to TCM host Robert Osborne.
-Danny Thomas did not make another film after this movie, according to Osborne.
-Ray Heindorf and Max Steiner were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture

Notable Songs:
-What Are New Yorkers Made Of performed by Peggy Lee and Danny Thomas
-This Is a Very Special Day performed by Peggy Lee and Danny Thomas

Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee in

Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee in “The Jazz Singer” remake.

My review:
This lengthy, full sound and Technicolor remake of the 1927 “Jazz Singer” is visually lovely but is a tad dull story wise. In my opinion, the original film is dull but is important because of its influence on sound in music. But this 1952 remake doesn’t really pack any sort of punch and is overly long.

The songs by Sammy Fain, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart are toe-tapping-worthy, but all seemed like pretty safe songs for well-known, talented singers like Peggy Lee and Danny Thomas.

While Doris Day didn’t take the role, Peggy Lee seems to have been groomed to sound like her. While Lee talked and sang, I could picture Day in the role.

I also love Danny Thomas and adore the film “I’ll See You in my Dreams,” but he never seemed as comfortable in his films as he did in television, where he ultimately his largest success.

While this movie it’s a terrible movie, it’s not one that I would want to watch over and over again mainly due to how long Warner Brothers dragged out the story. I feel many of the early-1950s Warner Brothers color musicals-particularly the biopics- like this one tried too hard and ended up falling flat.

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One thought on “Musical Monday: The Jazz Singer (1952)

  1. The 1950s was also the unfortunate commencement of the standardized treatment of women in film as images for the camera-as-the-male-eye. Whereas Busby Berkeley used many women’s bodies working together to create huge kaleidoscopic visuals in the 1930s, the films of the 1950s developed individualized male cinematic voyeurism by emphasizing isolated female body parts (I.e. the leg that dangles for the male-eye camera in “White Christmas” when the men enter the nightclub). Cinematic fashion of the 1950s dressed actresses in fashions that emphasized fragility/inability (ie. narrow, teetering heels on women’s shoes, fussy, high maintenance outfits and hairdos) and blatant sexuality (could female breasts be more emphasized than in the 1950s?) characteristics that also defined women’s roles in 1950s films. Films were designed to affirm to the male viewer that his much-enjoyed dominant role in male-female relationships was not only to be socially expected but welcomed by women! If it wasn’t for the sheer beauty of Technicolor, I don’t think any contemporary woman of today could possibly sit through a film from the 1950s without wincing at the the male fantasy trip Hollywood films offered. Poor female cinema goers of the 1950s were forced to “enjoy” aged men lusting younger women (Bogie getting Audrey, Astaire getting Audrey, all old men getting Audrey or Grace K.) and the in-your-face sexual offering of Marilyn with her little girl voice as being ever ready for any man, any time, any where. But ya gotta love Technicolor, I guess!

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