The Jolson Story

One of my biggest supporters on twitter was Zoe Krainik of @hollywoodgenes fame and she was one of the first to encourage me, when I took my first tentative steps with writing a blog. Over the last couple of years we have become good friends and when I saw that Zoe was doing a Blogathon, how could I resist taking part in “The Great Ziegfeld Blogathon 2020”.

I decided to review the film The Jolson Story for a couple of reasons, I never, ever mention on here, anything about my Step-Father, in fact there are only two stand out memorable things about him, his love for both James Cagney and Al Jolson, hence my choice of film, “The Jolson Story”.

I wouldn’t call this a review as such, its merely my memories from watching the film numerous times over the years, I can hardly call myself a critic, it’s more of a ‘Rambling Review’.

I was probably around 12 or 13 when I first watched the film, I was mesmerised by the singing and dancing, the charismatic stage presence and performance of, who I always actually thought was “Al Jolson”. I had listened for many years to his songs and his infamous voice, little did I know at the time that it was in fact actor Larry Parks who played Jolson in the film, although of course it was Jolson’s voice that we heard. I can still hear those enigmatic words today “You ain’t heard nothing yet”.

Is this the first ever example of LipSyncing in a movie I wonder?

The actual film is a biography of Al Jolson’s life, a man famously dubbed “The Worlds Greatest Entertainer” who had made his name and forever marked his place in history, by starring in the 1927 film “The Jazz Singer”, the first ever talking movie.

As a factual film about his life, the film does wander from the plot considerably at times, but unless you knew every nuance of Jolson’s life, then you wouldn’t be aware. The film is all about the Music and the stage presence of Larry Parks, he probably plays Jolson better than Jolson could himself, controversial view point I know!

The musical numbers were absolutely magnificent, with popular songs like;

“You Made Me Love You”, “Toot Toot Tootsie”, “April Showers”, “Mammy”, “About a Quarter to Nine”, “I’m Sitting on Top of the World” and “Rockabye Your Baby”. I never tire of seeing repeated showings of this timeless classic. As Jolson himself would have said: “Settle back folks, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!”

As I write these words, my head is filled with all the songs, “I’m Sitting on Top of the World”, echoing around my head, these songs truly stand the test of time. As I try to remember little snippets, certain lines come back to me, I love the quote from Jolson’s Mum “Papa, Asa isn’t Asa any more!”

Evelyn Keyes (I wonder if we are related? Sorry slipped into Genealogy for a moment then) plays the part of Jolson’s wife beautifully, although if you see my note earlier about following the story and the plot wandering, Evelyn Keyes plays a made up Wife called Julie Benson, Jolson’s actual three wives don’t get a mention!


But do we really care? Not really its all about the Music and Larry Parks stage presence, I’ve said it once and ill say it again, Jolson himself could not have played the part any better, how Parks never won an Oscar for this performance I will never know.

“Broadway? What a street! You know something, baby? It belongs to me. You know something else? If you want, I’ll give it to you.”

I will leave the last words to Larry and Al themselves…….”just like we rehearsed it”

“Sonny Boy”


All My Blogs For Family Tree Magazine in one Handy Place




16 thoughts on “The Jolson Story

  1. First let me say, what a great walk down memory lane! I started singing every one of those songs as you named them! My parents would talk about him. You’re right it’s the music. I need to go watch the movie again to comment on Larry, but it’s the music!
    On another note, I understand some dramatic license but not mentioning any of his real wives and using a fake wife seems beyond creative license. But, I’m going to watch the movie, because it’s about the music, Toot, Toot, Tootsie!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve said this before, but the best part of these blog-a-thons is discovery. I came into this not knowing a lot about Jolson and Ziegfeld in general. But another thing is discovering new blogs!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed reading your “rambling review.” The Jolson Story (and Jolson Sings Again) were movies I never missed during my years of sneaking up to watch movies late at night even on school nights. Both movies instilled in me a love of the songs of that era that has never abated.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s