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JOLSON STORY

Jolson Story


Though legendary entertainer Al Jolson was a highly visible presence on the U.S.O. circuit during World War II, he was generally regarded as a relic of an earlier time until his movie comeback in 1945's Rhapsody in Blue. Showing up 30 minutes into this biopic of George Gershwin, Jolson literally stopped the show with his robust rendition of "Swanee." Suddenly, every Hollywood studio was negotiating with Jolson to film his life story. Warner Bros., the studio that skyrocketed to the top ranks via the 1927 part-talkie Jolson vehicle The Jazz Singer, seemed to have the inside track, but it was Columbia's Harry Cohn who made the deal that Jolson couldn't refuse. An attractively appointed fabrication, the Technicolor The Jolson Story distorts and glosses over the particulars of Jolson's life, but the results are so darned entertaining that nobody really paid attention to its inaccuracies. The story begins in turn-of-the-century Washington, D.C., where young Asa Yoelson (Scotty Beckett), son of an immigrant cantor (Ludwig Donath), ignores his religious studies in favor of popular music. Asa is hired as an "extra added attraction" boy tenor by a vaudevillian; when his voice breaks, the boy wins over the audience with his whistling ability. Growing into manhood, Asa Yoelson -- now "Al Jolson," and now played by Larry Parks -- becomes fascinated with African-American jazz music. He breaks away from his initial vaudeville assignment by joining Lew Dockstader's (John Alexander) blackface minstrel troupe, then goes on to success as a "single." Ascending to Broadway, Jolson establishes a reputation as an inveterate ad-libber, as well as an indefatigable singing performer, frequently holding an audience in thrall until the wee hours of the morning. Along the way, he falls in love with singer Julie Benson (Evelyn Keyes), a character based on Jolson's third wife Ruby Keeler, who refused permission to have her name used on screen. As Jolson attains superstardom, his ego assumes gargantuan proportions, alienating many of those around him, including his wife Julie. Anxious not to lose Julie, Jolson promises to change his ways. He even goes into retirement so as to spend more time with his wife. But when coerced into performing before a nightclub audience, Jolson is "hooked"once more -- whereupon the understanding Julie walks out of his life, realizing that she can never compete with Jolson's love for his audience. Like its subject, The Jolson Story delivered exactly what the audience wanted to hear. Faithful Columbia contractee Larry Parks was catapulted to stardom as Jolson, though in retrospect he seems a curious casting choice: his miming of Jolson's style is painstakingly accurate, but he seems too boyish and unwordly for the role. Jolson, then well into his sixties, had wanted to play himself on screen, but was talked out of it after a rather embarrassing screen test. He consoled himself by personally coaching Parks in the role (his attitude toward the young performer alternated between avuncular and adversarial through the shooting), and by providing his own voice in the musical sequences. Jolson also appears in long-shot during the "Swanee" number, which like all the film's musical highlights was directed by cult favorite Joseph H. Lewis (whose "dry run" for this assignment was the 1945 PRC production Minstrel Man). A wealth of Jolson standards are heard in The Jolson Story, including "You Made Me Love You," "I'm Sitting on Top of the World," "My Mammy," "There's a Rainbow Round My Shoulder," "Toot Toot Tootsie," "The Anniversary Waltz," "Rock-a-bye Your Baby," and "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy." The film was nominated for several Oscars, winning in the "best sound" and "best score" categories. A fantastic box-office success, The Jolson Story spawned a 1949 sequel, Jolson Sings Again. Ironically, despite Larry Parks' contributions to the film, it did little for that actor and instead reignited Jolson's celebrity during the last several...

  • Condition: Used - Good
    HPB condition ratings
    • New: This movie is unopened and brand new.
    • Fine/Like New (EX): Near new. No defects, little sign of use. Plays perfectly. Not necessarily sealed or unused, but close. No skipping; no fuzzy or snowy frames in VHS.
    • Very Good (VG): Attractive and well cared for but no longer fresh. Minor signs of wear, but will play almost perfectly. For VHS: barely detectable distortion or very few fuzzy or snowy frames.
    • Good (G): This item is in okay condition and basically works well. There may be some minor distortion on VHS tape; slight scratching or wear on DVD.
    • Fair (FR): Basically plays, but may be obviously well-worn with some scratching or tape distortion.
    • Poor (P): Disc or tape is intact, but may be scratched or stretched. There may be skips or distortion or product defects.
    Conditions Guide
  • Format: DVD
  • Sold by: HPB St Louis Park
  • Seller rating:
  • Publisher: Sony Pictures Home
  • UPC: 043396009011
  • Region: Region 1


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HPB condition ratings
  • New: Item is brand new, unused and unmarked, in flawless condition.
  • Fine/Like New (F): No defects, little usage. May show remainder marks. Older books may show minor flaws.
  • Very Good (VG): Shows some signs of wear and is no longer fresh. Attractive. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
  • Good (G): Average used book with all pages present. Possible loose bindings, highlighting, cocked spine or torn dust jackets. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
  • Fair (FR): Obviously well-worn, but no text pages missing. May be without endpapers or title page. Markings do not interfere with readability. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
  • Poor (P): All text is legible but may be soiled and have binding defects. Reading copies and binding copies fall into this category. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
Conditions Guide
HPB condition ratings
  • New: Mint condition or still sealed (SS). Absolutely perfect in every way. New.
  • Fine/Like New (EX): No defects, little sign of use, well cared for. Plays perfectly. Close to new. Not necessarily sealed or unused, but close. Could be an unopened promotional or cut item. Sometimes called: mint-minus.
  • Very Good (VG): Will show some signs that it was played and otherwise handled by a previous owner who took good care of it.
  • Good (G): Attractive and well cared for, but no longer fresh. Minor signs of wear, scuffing or scratching, but will play almost perfectly. For vinyl: barely detectable crackles or pops.
  • Fair (FR): This item is in okay condition. For vinyl: good is not so good and the record may have low level crackles or pops when playing. CD: one or more tracks may skip.
  • Poor (P): Obviously well-worn and handled. Most vinyl collectors will not buy good or below, but some tracks on CD or vinyl will play.
Conditions Guide
HPB condition ratings
  • New: This movie is unopened and brand new.
  • Fine/Like New (EX): Near new. No defects, little sign of use. Plays perfectly. Not necessarily sealed or unused, but close. No skipping; no fuzzy or snowy frames in VHS.
  • Very Good (VG): Attractive and well cared for but no longer fresh. Minor signs of wear, but will play almost perfectly. For VHS: barely detectable distortion or very few fuzzy or snowy frames.
  • Good (G): This item is in okay condition and basically works well. There may be some minor distortion on VHS tape; slight scratching or wear on DVD.
  • Fair (FR): Basically plays, but may be obviously well-worn with some scratching or tape distortion.
  • Poor (P): Disc or tape is intact, but may be scratched or stretched. There may be skips or distortion or product defects.
Conditions Guide
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