The Jazz Singer

Wait a minute, wait a minute. You aint’ heard nothin’ yet!

From The Jazz Singer, 1927

The 1927 version of The Jazz Singer is the film that marked the change from silent film to the age of “talkies”. Earlier short subject films had dialogue, but this was the first feature-length film. It was a sensation, largely because of star Al Jolson’s appeal.

It was Jolson’s own life that inspired the story in the first place. The story starts with a young Jewish man, Jakie Rabinowitz, singing in a beer hall against the traditions of his devout family. His father wants him to use his voice to be a cantor.

Nevertheless, Jakie runs away from home, changing his name to Jack Robin. He becomes known as a talented jazz singer and is on his way to fame and money. Jack, as well as Jolson himself outside of the movie, sang in blackface using dramatic gestures.

Ten years after leaving home, Jack is called up from his table at a cabaret and sings to the audience with no personal bank account, who responds enthusiastically. He replies, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothing’ yet.” This was Jolson’s trademark line.

However, his ambitions come in conflict with the needs of his family and his core values. Times passes, and he resolves this conflict to the satisfaction of his family and himself. The film ends with Jack performing a song for his mother in a packed theater. All sons should be so loving!

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