Image of Al Jolson

Al Jolson

​From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Al Jolson (May 26, 1886 – October 23, 1950) was a Lithuanian singer, comedian and actor. In his heyday, he was dubbed "The World's Greatest Entertainer".He was born in the Russian Empire (the part of which is now in Lithuania) and emigrated to America at the age of five with his Jewish parents. His performing style was brash and extroverted, and he popularized a large number of songs that benefited from his "shamelessly sentimental, melodramatic approach". Numerous well-known singers were influenced by his music, including Bing Crosby Judy Garland, rock and country entertainer Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bob Dylan, who once referred to him as "somebody whose life I can feel". Broadway critic Gilbert Seldes compared him to "the Great God Pan," claiming that Jolson represented "the concentration of our national health and gaiety." In the 1930s, he was America's most famous and highest paid entertainer. Between 1911 and 1928, Jolson had nine sell-out Winter Garden shows in a row, more than 80 hit records, and 16 national and international tours. Although he's best remembered today as the star in the first (full length) talking movie, The Jazz Singer in 1927, he later starred in a series of successful musical films throughout the 1930s. After a period of inactivity, his stardom returned with the 1946 Oscar-winning biographical film, The Jolson Story. Larry Parks played Jolson with the songs dubbed in with Jolson’s real voice. A sequel, Jolson Sings Again, was released in 1949, and was nominated for three Oscars. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Jolson became the first star to entertain troops overseas during World War II, and again in 1950 became the first star to perform for G.I.s in Korea, doing 42 shows in 16 days. He died just weeks after returning to the U.S., partly due to the physical exertion of performing. Defense Secretary George Marshall afterward awarded the Medal of Merit to Jolson's family. According to the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, "Jolson was to jazz, blues, and ragtime what Elvis Presley was to rock 'n' roll". Being the first popular singer to make a spectacular "event" out of singing a song, he became a “rock star” before the dawn of rock music. His specialty was building stage runways extending out into the audience. He would run up and down the runway and across the stage, "teasing, cajoling, and thrilling the audience", often stopping to sing to individual members, all the while the "perspiration would be pouring from his face, and the entire audience would get caught up in the ecstasy of his performance". According to music historian Larry Stempel, "No one had heard anything quite like it before on Broadway." Author Stephen Banfield agrees, writing that Jolson's style was "arguably the single most important factor in defining the modern musical . . ." He enjoyed performing in blackface makeup – a theatrical convention since the mid-19th century. With his unique and dynamic style of singing black music, like jazz and blues, he was later credited with single-handedly introducing African-American music to white audiences. As early as 1911 he became known for fighting against anti-black discrimination on Broadway. Jolson's well-known theatrics and his promotion of equality on Broadway helped pave the way for many black performers, playwrights, and songwriters, including Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and Ethel Waters. Description above from the Wikipedia article Al Jolson, licensed under CC-BY-SA, full list of contributors on Wikipedia.


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Born:
May 26, 1886 In Seredzius, Lithuania
Movie/TV Credits:
23
First Appeared:
In the movie A Plantation Act 1926-05-20
Latest Project:
Movie Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical History 2008-10-14
Known For
Poster of GoodFellas
Poster of Go Into Your Dance
Poster of The Singing Fool
Poster of A Plantation Act
Filmography
Movie Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical History 2008-10-14
Movie GoodFellas Jakie Rabinowitz (uncredited) 1990-09-12
Movie Brother Can You Spare A Dime Himself 1975-08-06
Movie The Golden Twenties Himself (archive footage) 1950-04-07
Movie Jolson Sings Again Himself (singing voice) (uncredited) 1949-08-17
Movie Rhapsody in Blue Himself 1945-09-22
Movie Show-Business at War Himself 1943-05-21
Movie Swanee River Edwin P. Christy 1939-12-29
Movie Hollywood Cavalcade Himself (as Mr. Al Jolson) 1939-10-13
Movie Rose of Washington Square Ted Cotter 1939-05-05
Movie Hollywood Handicap Himself 1938-05-28
Movie The Singing Kid Al Jackson 1936-04-10
Movie Go Into Your Dance Al Howard 1935-04-20
Movie Wonder Bar Al Wonder 1934-03-31
Movie Hallelujah I'm a Bum Bumper 1933-02-03
Movie Big Boy Gus 1930-09-11
Movie Show Girl in Hollywood Cameo Appearance at Premiere 1930-04-20
Movie Mammy Al Fuller 1930-03-26
Movie New York Nights Himself - Cameo (uncredited) 1929-12-28
Movie Say It with Songs Joe Lane 1929-08-05
Movie The Singing Fool Al Stone 1928-09-19
Movie The Jazz Singer Jakie Rabinowitz 1927-10-06
Movie A Plantation Act himself 1926-05-20