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The singer and star of the first "talkie" risks it all to become a star.
In Washington, D.C., at the turn of the century, twelve-year-old Asa Yoelson, the son of Cantor Yoelson, dreams of a life in show business. While attending a burlesque show with his friend, Ann Murray, Asa sings aloud with the music and catches the attention of comedian Steve Martin. Later, Steve visits the Yoelsons and offers Asa a part in his burlesque act, but Asa's father refuses to allow his son to sing outside of the synagogue. Determined to sing with Steve, Asa runs away from home and boards a train for Baltimore, where the burlesque troupe is performing its next show. No sooner does Asa arrive in Baltimore than he is picked up as a runaway and placed in St. Mary's Home for Boys. There Asa joins the church choir until Father McGee, the head of St. Mary's, reunites him with his parents. With help from Steve, Asa manages to persuade his parents to allow him to join him on tour, and Asa is cast as a "stooge" who sings from his seat in the audience. When Asa's adolescent voice starts to change during a performance, he begins to whistle instead and is such a hit that Steve decides to alter the act and have Asa work with him onstage. As the years pass and the act continues on the road, Asa decides to change his name to "Al Jolson." His parents have accepted their son's desire to remain in show business and follow his career, but Al's visits home are infrequent. When Al is a grown man, he realizes that his singing voice is better than ever. He begs Steve to let him sing onstage, but Steve wants to wait until they have time to re-work the act. The next day, when Al realizes that one of his fellow performers, Tom Baron, is too drunk to perform his blackface routine, he takes Tom's place. As soon as the stage manager realizes that Al is taking over Tom's routine, he orders the curtains closed, but Al goes through the curtains and jokingly tells the audience "You ain't heard nothin' yet." The performance, which is a hit with the audience, is seen by minstral-show producer Lew Dockstader, who later offers Al a part in his show. Out of loyalty to Steve, Al is reluctant to accept, but Steve encourages him to move on. Al joins the minstrel troupe, but soon tires of Dockstader's traditional songs. While in New Orleans, Al hears jazz music for the first time and tries to convince Dockstader to include some new arrangements in the show. Dockstader is uninterested in jazz and the two men agree that Al should move on. While visiting his family in Washington, Al receives a telephone call from Tom, now a director, who offers him a spot at the Winter Garden in New York City. Al accepts the job and is an instant hit. He keeps Tom's show running in New York for two years, and hires Steve as his manager. Al enjoys his success and works constantly, disregarding the pleas of his parents and Steve, refuses to take a vacation or even a day off. In 1927, at the peak of his career, Al announces that he is leaving the stage to appear in the first sound motion picture. During his farewell show, Al meets and falls instantly in love with dancer Julie Benson. Later that night, Julie rejects Al's marriage proposal, but keeps in touch with him through long-distance telephone calls. When Julie opens on Broadway in the play Liza , Al surprises her by attending the performance and sings to her from the audience. After completing his role in the film The Jazz Singer , Al returns to New York, where the film's premiere creates a sensation. He soon marries Julie, promising that he will stop working so hard and build her a home in the country. More films, both for Al and for Julie, constantly delay their plans, however. Despite her own success, Julie continues to long for a life in the country and threatens to leave Al if he does not quit show business. Al eventually grants Julie's wish and retires from the limelight to a country home near Los Angeles, where he, Julie and Steve live a quiet life. Not wanting to lose Julie, Al refuses to sing for over two years. Although she is glad that Al has retired, she worries that he is not happy. When Mr. and Mrs. Yoelson come for a visit on their anniversary, Al reluctantly sings for them, then agrees to go to a nightclub to celebrate. When asked to come onstage, Al at first refuses, then relents, and after his first song, recites his popular phrase, "You ain't heard nothin' yet," and continues to sing. Watching Al's happiness while performing, Julie tells Steve that she was wrong to ask him to give up his career and walks out of the nightclub, leaving her husband to the audiences he loves.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||World premiere in New York: 10 Oct 1946|
|Release Date:||1947||Production Date:||
EB; UCLA; Mertz; AFI
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Columbia Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Columbia Pictures Corp.|
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