This essay offers a reassessment of The Jazz Singer (1927) and Al Jolson by challenging several different lines of persistent criticism: its lack of artistic merit, its effacement of Jewish identity and its racist depictions in light of Jolson's use of blackface. Rather than a failed adaptation of Samson Raphaelson's play of the same name, the picture innovatively reworked both that play and E.A. Dupont's film The Ancient Law (Das Alte Gesetz, 1923), further placing it within a framework of Jewish culture. The black press and Negro moviegoers warmly embraced both The Jazz Singer and Jolson for a variety of reasons, including his promotion of black artists. Among African Americans, he was the most popular Hollywood movie star of the late 1920s.


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pp. 196-222
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