Undoubtedly the best thing Vitaphone has ever put on the screen. The combination of the religious heart interest story [based on the play by Samson Raphaelson] and Jolson’s singing ‘Kol Nidre’ in a synagog while his father is dying and two ‘Mammy’ lyrics as his mother stands in the wings of the theatre, and later as she sits in the first row, carries abundant power and appeal.
But The Jazz Singer minus Vitaphone [synchronized sound system] is something else again. There’s really no love interest in the script, except between mother and son.
Al Jolson, when singing, is Jolson. There are six instances of this, each running from two to three minutes. When he’s without that instrumental spur Jolson is camera-conscious. But as soon as he gets under cork the lens picks up that spark of individual personality solely identified with him. That much goes with or without Vitaphone.
The picture is all Jolson, although Alan Crosland, directing, has creditably dodged the hazard of over-emphasizing the star as well as refraining from laying it on too thick in the scenes between the mother and boy. The film dovetails splendidly, which speaks well for those component parts of the technical staff. Cast support stands out in the persons of Eugenie Besserer, as the mother; Otto Lederer, as a friend of the family; and Warner Oland as the father.
1927/28: Special Award (pioneer talking picture).
Nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay, Engineering Effects