The Story (continued)
The Jazz Singer (1927)
He sings a full-throated rendition of 'Dirty Hands, Dirty Face' (Jolson's first musical performance in the film) about the joys of having a young son. His song is received enthusiastically by the audience. He raises his hand and stops them (in Jolson's first words on screen), speaking some of the most famous lines of dialogue in film history:
Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You ain't heard nothin' yet. Wait a minute, I tell ya, you ain't heard nothin'! Do you wanna hear 'Toot, Toot, Tootsie!'? All right, hold on, hold on. (To the band leader) Lou, Listen. Play 'Toot, Toot, Tootsie!' Three choruses, you understand. In the third chorus I whistle. Now give it to 'em hard and heavy. Go right ahead!
Jack entertains the cabaret crowd with a rousing rendition of 'Toot, Toot, Tootsie,' including a wide variety of creative whistle sounds. Immediately after his performance, Jack is introduced to beautiful dancer Mary Dale (May McAvoy) who has admired his performance from her table in the audience. He tells her: "I caught your act in Salt Lake, Miss Dale - - I think you're wonderful." She has noticed the feeling he injects into his jazz singing: "There are lots of jazz singers, but you have a tear in your voice." "I'm glad you think so - ," he replies. She suggests helping him with his career: "Perhaps I can help you."
The next title card suggests the passage of time: "For those whose faces are turned toward the past, the years roll by unheeded - - their lives unchanged." The film cuts to the Rabinowitz home, where Cantor Rabinowitz instructs a young, would-be cantor to sing. To keep in touch with his family, Jack secretly corresponds to his mother:
"Dear Mama: I'm getting along great, making $250.00 a week. A wonderful girl, Mary Dale, got me my big chance. Write me c/o State Theater in Chicago. Last time you forgot and addressed me Jakie Rabinowitz. Jack Robin is my name now. Your loving son, Jakie"
His mother wonders if he has further rejected his Jewish heritage by falling in love with a Gentile: "Maybe he's fallen in love with a shiksa." When Sara shows her husband the letter, he angrily rebukes her: "I told you never to open his letters - we have no son!" Sara weeps silently to herself.
Meanwhile, Mary has introduced him to an impresario and is responsible for getting him a break that puts him on the vaudeville circuit: "Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake, Denver, a split week in Omaha - - Chicago and Mary's promise realized." He tours with Mary's theatre company, and is thrilled by the experience: "This has been the happiest week in my life. I wish we could always be together - on the same bill." One of the other dancers notices how Jack has fallen in love with Mary: "He's sure goofy about her!" Another dancer responds: "He hasn't a chance with Mary."
Sadly they must part for she has accepted a role on Broadway. Mary shows Jack her telegrammed invitation: "Would you consider leading role new musical production for New York Run rehearsals. By one week answer." Jack encourages her: "What a wonderful chance for you!" but expresses regrets: "I - we all will be sorry to see you go." "I'll miss you, too," Mary replies. Jack thanks her for all her assistance: "I know you will succeed - and if ever I amount to anything, I'll owe it all to you." She wants to keep in touch: "- and will you write - when I get to New York?"
In Chicago while on tour, Jack's memories of his Cantor father are stirred by a special matinee concert of sacred songs he attends, sung by Cantor Rosenblatt.
While enroute through a train station, Jack writes Mary a letter on hotel room stationary: "Mary dear: Just a line to remind you I am thinking of you. Last night I went over big and nearly stopped the show." One of the other performers realizes the fierce competition Jack is giving her: "If they give that jazz singer my place on the bill again - I'll leave the show flat!" The producer is pleased with Jack's work: "Let her rave! Jack deserves the best spot on the bill in any theatre!"
When a train arrives, Jack is told: "You're not leaving on this train! Your booking has been cancelled!" Jack is stunned by the news: "You - you can't mean me - I've been going over big!" Jack is told: "That's the word from New York - " Jack learns that he too has a chance to appear in a Broadway revue bringing him back to New York, his boyhood home. Jack is filled with disbelief: "Don't fool me - I feel bad enough." When he is given a ticket to New York, Jack is thrilled. Four successive titles, each with larger type read: "NEW YORK! - BROADWAY! - HOME! - MOTHER!" The female performer who previously criticized him, now reassured that her place is safe with his departure to a new show, warmly praises him: "I always knew you'd make a hit!"
It is Cantor Rabinowitz's sixtieth birthday. Relatives and friends bring presents which include chicken, a large jug of wine, and three identical gifts - prayer shawls, "just what he needs," says Sara. It is also the day of Jack's homecoming. Yudleson recognizes him on the ghetto street and asks: "Ain't you Jakie - Jakie Rabinowitz?"
Jack is greeted warmly by his mother in his home after his long absence. He tells her: "Mother - you haven't changed a bit in all these years." She is relieved to see him: "That I should live to see my baby again!" He impresses her with the news of his big break: "- I hurried to see you and Papa - and then I'm going to see about my new job." He also surprises her with his new-found wealth by presenting her with a diamond-embedded necklace: "Diamonds! With stones in it! You didn't do any wrong, did you, Jakie?" she asks. In a build-up to his singing, he tells his Mama: "Mama - - you ain't heard nothing yet!"
He is excited to tell her that his "chance has come at last, Mama. I'm going to sing in a big show!" On his father's piano, he sings and plays Irving Berlin's 'Blue Skies' for her, one of the songs he will try out in the Broadway show.
He turns backward from the piano to sing and talk to his mother affectionately (at the start of the second talking interlude) during the singing of the song. In the emotionally sentimental and cliched scene, with ad-libbed dialogue that appears improvised, unrehearsed and natural, he rambles on and on at length, telling his mother how is successful show is going to affect her:
Jack: Did you like that, Mama?
Jack: I'm glad of it. I'd rather please you than anybody I know of. Oh, darlin' - will you give me something?
Jack: You'll never guess. Shut your eyes, Mama. Shut 'em for little Jakie. I'm gonna steal something (he kisses her and then laughs). I'll give it back to you someday too - you see if I don't. Mama darlin' - if I'm a success in this show, well, we're gonna move from here. Oh yes, we're gonna move up in the Bronx. A lot of nice green grass up there, and a whole lot of people you know. There's the Ginsbergs, the Guttenbergs, and the Goldbergs. And, oh, a whole lot of Bergs. I dunno know 'em all. And I'm gonna buy you a nice black silk dress, Mama. You'll see, Mrs. Freedman, the butcher's wife, she'll be jealous of you. Yes she will. You'll see if she isn't. And I'm going to get you a nice pink dress that will go with your brown eyes.
Mama: Oh, no, Jakie, no. I - I...
Jack: What do you mean no? Who, who is tellin' ya? What do you mean no? Yes, you'll wear pink or else. Or else you'll wear pink. (laughter) And darling, oh, I'm gonna take you to Coney Island...Yes, you're gonna ride on the shoot-the-chute...(more laughter) Now Mama, Mama, stop now, you're getting kittenish. Mama, listen, I'm gonna sing this like I will if I go on the stage...I'm gonna sing it jazzy. Now get this.
As he finishes the jazzed-up song 'Blue Skies,' his stern father enters, sees the pair, expresses deep upset, and shouts "Stop!" (not a title this time). (The film returns to its silent-type nature following the outburst.) Sara questions her husband's speechless reaction: "Papa, have you no word for your son?" The elder Cantor glares: "You dare to bring your jazz songs into my house! I taught you to sing the songs of Israel - to take my place in the synagogue!" Jack tries to get his father to understand his more contemporary viewpoint: "You're of the old world! If you were born here, you'd feel the same as I do - - tradition is all right, but this is another day! I'll live my life as I see fit!"
His traditionalist father can't believe his disrespectful son: "You talk that way to a Cantor - - it's sacrilege!" Sara attempts to soothe the two of them: "Don't forget, Papa, it's your birthday - - and Jakie's come home." Jack has remembered his father's birthday with a present: "And I didn't forget it was your birthday, Papa" - it's another prayer shawl. Jack wants his father to know about his great success: "I'm doing fine, Papa, and I'm going in a big Broadway show." His father is shocked to know that he deeply loves jazz music and performs profane music: "A singer in a theatre - you from five generations of Cantors!" Jack defends his music: "You taught me that music is the voice of God! It is as honorable to sing in the theatre as in the synagogue! My songs mean as much to my audience as yours to your congregation!"
Jack is disowned and banished again by his father's orders: "Leave my house! I never want to see you again - you jazz singer!" Jack offers a final plea for understanding from his father: "I came home with a heart full of love, but you don't want to understand. Some day you'll understand, the same as Mama does." Sara fears Jack will never return: "He came back once, Papa, but - - he'll never come back again."
For the new show on Broadway, "rehearsals were rounding the 'April Follies' into - - good form." During rehearsals, the producer wonders if Mary's 'discovery' - Jack - is as good as she thinks he is. Mary is confident: "Don't worry about him. If it's music - he can sing it." Jack realizes that the star of the show, romantic interest Mary has recommended him after happily greeting her: "They didn't tell me you were here...- and you're dancing in the show?...I have more confidence, now that you're here...Then it's you I have to thank for being here."
In the two weeks after being thrown out of his own house, and one night before opening night on Broadway, Jack's father becomes gravely ill. "Grief, stalking the world, had paused at the house of Rabinowitz." Sara has faith in Jakie: "If Jakie knew his father was so sick - he would come." Yudleson finds Jack during a backstage rehearsal, and delivers a request: "Tomorrow, the Day of Atonement - they want you should sing in the synagogue, Jakie." Jack asks: "But my father - he doesn't want me to sing, does he?" Yudleson delivers the sudden news of Cantor Rabinowitz's illness: "...your father - he is very sick - since the day you were there." The Cantor cannot perform on the eve of Yom Kippur, the most sacred of holy days. Yudleson wishes the cantor's son to take his father's place: "But Jakie, your singing would be like sunshine to your Papa...Jakie, remember - - a son's a son no matter if his Papa throws him out a hundred times!"
He is asked to choose between the show and duty to his father - to sing "Kol Nidre" in his sick father's place in the temple for Yom Kippur the following night. But he also would have to miss his big opening night performance: "Our show opens tomorrow night - it's the chance I've dreamed of for years!" This would be the first time his father would be unable to be cantor in many years. Jack feels pressure from Yudleson: "Would you be the first Rabinowitz in five generations to fail your God?" Jack also knows the demands of the theatre: "We in the show business have our religion, too - on every day - the show must go on!"
Dress rehearsal is at one o'clock the next day. Jack is told to "come full of pep!" On "The Eve of the Day of Atonement," Yudleson tells the Jewish elders: "For the first time, we have no Cantor on the Day of Atonement." Pale and emaciated lying in his bed, Cantor Rabinowitz tells Sara in his bedroom that he cannot perform on the eve of Yom Kippur, the most sacred of holy days: "My heart is breaking, Mama. I cannot sing. My son came to me in my dreams - - he sang Kol Nidre so beautifully. If he would only sing like that tonight - surely he would be forgiven."