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Cinema Chats: “The Jazz Singer”
February 9 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pmDonation
The Jazz Singer (1927), directed by Alan Crosland, is notable as the first feature-length motion picture with both synchronized recorded music score as well as lip-synchronous singing and speech. Its release heralded the commercial ascendance of sound films and effectively marked the end of the silent film era.
The film depicts the fictional story of Jakie Rabinowitz, a young man who defies the traditions of his devout Jewish family. After singing popular tunes in a beer garden, he is punished by his father, a hazzan (cantor), prompting Jakie to run away from home. Some years later, now calling himself Jack Robin, he has become a talented jazz singer. He attempts to build a career as an entertainer, but his professional ambitions ultimately come into conflict with the demands of his home and heritage.
Although The Jazz Singer is considered a historical milestone, many consider Al Jolson’s use of blackface in the film to be offensive, which has led to its disappearance from the curriculum. Nonetheless, motion picture historians find the usage of blackface in early minstrel shows worthy of study.
Please join us over Zoom with Jane Gaines, Professor of Film at Columbia University, in a discussion about this film and its impact today.
The conversation will be moderated by Lucy Shahar.
The Jazz Singer can be rented and viewed in advance for $4 on Google Play, Amazon, Apple TV, Vudu and YouTube.
Jane M. Gaines, Professor of Film, Columbia University, and Professor Emerita of Literature and English, Duke University, was 2018 recipient of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Distinguished Career Award. She is author of 3 award-winning books: Contested Culture: The Image, the Voice and the Law; Fire and Desire: Mixed Race Movies in the Silent Era, and Pink-Slipped: What Happened to Women in the Silent Film Industries? She also writes on intellectual property and the history of media piracy—from 1910s film duping to today’s cyberlockers, documentary theory and radicalism, feminism and film, and critical race theory. Most recently she has been part of a group researching the 1930s international film and photo leagues of which the New York Workers Film and Photo League was a part.