Music Studies - The Jazz Singer

Music Studies - The Jazz Singer
The Jazz Singer was released in 1927 and it was the first “feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue sequences” (Carrienger, 1979). It is a musical film and the one which announced commercial raise of the sounded motion pictures and the end of the silent movies era. It goes without saying that this film provided a huge emotional and technical stress in the cinematography development. Al Johnson was the one who played the protagonist of the story and he also performed six musical numbers. The Jazz Singer despite providing huge technical stress also raised a number of racial and ethnic questions, which were very acute in American society in the beginning of the 20th century. The film cost 422 thousand dollars, which was a sum for that time, even for Warner Cinema Company, which rarely spent more than 250 thousand of dollars

The film is based on the story performed in the play by Samson Raphaelson. Jakie Rabinowitz is the main hero of the film. The young Jewish, he neglected the rules, tradition and cultural heritage of his devout Jewish family, singing popular melody tunes in the beer hall. It goes without saying that his family could not accept his love to the popular music and when his father (who was a hazzan) punished him for that, Jackie leaves the house and tries to find his fortune. In some years he called himself Jack Robin and became the recognized Jazz singer. He tries to promote the career of successful variety performer, but his professional intentions of his house and cultural heritage

It should be noted that the Jazz Singer could be called very contradictory creative work. Antithesis is the core element that keeps the viewer in tension, causing a clash between the cultural development intentions of the young Hebrew and the cultural heritage and traditions of his people. Huge attention is also devoted to the racial, national and ethnic conflict of American society in the beginning of the 20th century. The main hero, who is working as a popular Jazz Singer, got to use the make up for performance to be alike Afro – American, as Jazz according to the prejudice of the society was considered to be Afro – American phenomenon. The same time, he was still the son of his nation and did not want to bare his Jewish origin being afraid of social blame. This contradiction between desire to be a successful artist and the same time understanding that it is not respectful for the Jew to sing songs, the main hero is torn by his national vision and desire to be a Jazzman. He did not want to stop relations with his family and show himself as a loving sing sending his family letters. But due to the religious and cultural prejudice they could not accept him, even being a successful in his profession: “I never want to see you again — you jazz singer!” (Crosland, 1927) said Jackie’s father and this sounds like a sentence to young Hebrew.

The critics consider the film to be quite primitive from the artistic point of view. They make a stress on the fact that the film used already developed filming tools and hooks and absolute “silent” role embodiment. But the tension kept and masterful expression of young Hebrew torment is still very important. Alongside with the raising of acute American ethnic and national problems attracted numerous viewers and admires to the film. The story of an actor Al Jolson, was also partially alike the story of his protagonist and this also added to the popularity of the film. It should be noted that raising of ethnical prejudice, confrontation between the ethnic groups as one of the mainstream themes in the film was very successful, as these ethnic question alongside with the refuse of some ethnic groups to understand modernization and scientific technical progress was among the most burning in the United States. The sound revolution in the American cinematography, alongside with the raised problems symbolized the upcoming the newest era, of innovation, modernity and refuse of the stereotypes.

Many of the critics (Crafton, 1999), (Glancy, 1995) consider that the impact provided by The Jazz Singer at first on the American cinematography and then on international is inevitable. It was the first sounded motion picture and despite the drawbacks it had it raised a number of serious problems within and pushed cinema industry to the new developmental steps, which now lead cinematography development. Being a box office hit, this film provided huge impact on the further development.

References:

1. Bradley, E. M. 2004. The First Hollywood Musicals: A Critical Filmography of 171 Features, 1927 Through 1932. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.
2. Carringer, R. L. 1979. The Jazz Singer. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
3. Brenner L. S. Fall 2003. Blackface as religious expression. Cross Currents
4. Crafton, D. 1999 [1997]. The Talkies: American Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1926–1931. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press.
5. Glancy, H. M. 1995. Warner Bros. Film Grosses, 1921–51: The William Schaefer Ledger. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. March
6. Crosland A. 1927. The Jazz Singer. Warner Bros.

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