The Jazz Singer (1927)

Once you strip away historical significance of The Jazz Singer as the first “talkie,” in which audiences were able to hear musical numbers in a movie for the first time, you are left with some pretty heavy melodrama. Forced to choose between a long Jewish tradition from the old country and the individualism and freedom of America, Jakie Rabinowitz (Al Jolson) chooses the latter and is disowned by his father, a cantor from a long line of cantors who wants his son to be a cantor. This goes on through the whole movie and it wears you out. But then, on the opening night of his first big break in the theater, Jakie finds out his father is dying, and there is no one to sing in the temple on the Day of Atonement. He agonizes and agonizes over the choice he must make between family and career. But what was he worried about? Didn’t he know this was a Hollywood movie where people get to have it both ways? He chooses to sing for his father, and then goes on to sing in the theater too, becoming a great success.

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