Programming and providing support for this service has been a labor
of love since 1997. We are one of the few services online who values our users'
privacy, and have never sold your information. We have even fought hard to defend your
privacy in legal cases; however, we've done it with almost no financial support -- paying out of pocket
to continue providing the service. Due to the issues imposed on us by advertisers, we
also stopped hosting most ads on the forums many years ago. We hope you appreciate our efforts.
Show your support by donating any amount. (Note: We are still technically a for-profit company, so your
contribution is not tax-deductible.)
Subject: ARCHIVE: October 23, 1950 ~Famed entertainer Al Jolson, considered one of the great American entertainers of the early 20th century, particularly during its Jazz era, best remembered today as the star of Hollywood's first talking picture, "The Jazz Singer" (1927), dies at 64, of a massive heart attack during a poker game at a Sand Francisco hotel. ...
American singer, comedian, and actor. He was dubbed "The World's Greatest Entertainer" at the peak of his career. His performing style was brash and extroverted, and he popularized many songs that benefited from his "shamelessly sentimental, melodramatic approach." In the 1920s, Jolson was America's most famous and highest-paid entertainer.
Although best remembered today as the star of the first talking picture, The Jazz Singer (1927), he starred in a series of successful musical films during the 1930s. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was the first star to entertain troops overseas during World War II. After a period of inactivity, his stardom returned with The Jolson Story (1946), for which Larry Parks played Jolson, with the singer dubbing for Parks. The formula was repeated in a sequel, Jolson Sings Again (1949). In 1950, he again became the first star to entertain GIs on active service in the Korean War, performing 42 shows in 16 days. He died weeks after returning to the U.S., partly owing to the physical exertion of performing. Defense Secretary George Marshall posthumously awarded him the Medal for Merit.
According to music historian Larry Stempel, "No one had heard anything quite like it before on Broadway."
Author Stephen Banfield wrote that Jolson's style was "arguably the single most important factor in defining the modern musical".
Jolson has been dubbed "the king of blackface" performers, a theatrical convention since the mid-19th century. With his dynamic style of singing jazz and blues, he became widely successful by extracting traditionally African-American music and popularizing it for European-American audiences who were otherwise not receptive to the originators. Despite his promotion and perpetuation of black stereotypes, his work was sometimes well-regarded by black publications and he has sometimes been credited for fighting against black discrimination on Broadway as early as 1911. In an essay written in 2000, music critic Ted Gioia remarked, "If blackface has its shameful poster boy, it is Al Jolson", showcasing Jolson's complex legacy in American society.