Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 06
October 6, 1927
The Jazz Singer has NYC premiere

On October 6, a day before Yon Kippur, Warner Brothers premiered what would become a breakthrough in film history––the first sound film with both musical and talking parts. The film was the collision of two separate movements. On the one hand, Warner Brothers, who had dabbled in sound pictures for the last few years, was being pushed by brother Sam to make an all talking, all musical film. Previously sound had being restricted to vaudeville shorts and to the musical background of features like Don Juan. On the other hand was the popularity of the stage musical The Jazz Singer, which George Jessel was starring in on Broadway. The two were brought together in the idea of a sound film version of The Jazz Singer. The story of a young Jewish cantor wanting to abandon his father’s tradition of sacred liturgical music for popular song was a story of a generational clash. That same clash was embodied in the idea of a sound film. As the film moved forward, changes occurred.  George Jessel would be out of the film, and the lead would go to the Al Jolson, the man on whom the character in The Jazz Singer was partially based. Just before it was to premiere, Sam Warner, the film's strongest proponent, died. But when the movie screened for the first time at the Warner Brothers theater in New York, it surpassed all expectations. Hardly an exceptional piece of movie making, the film created an uproar, especially when Jolson ad libbed at the start, “Wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothing yet,” Within months, the film had broken all sorts of box office records and forced the film industry, both studios and theaters, to face the future of sound film.


More Flashbacks
December 6, 1990
Edward Scissorhands released

On December 6, 1990, writer-director Tim Burton nervously opened the lid on his most personal film yet, Edward Scisshorhands, as the movie premiered in Los Angeles.

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December 6, 1970
Gimme Shelter Captures History

One of the most immediate and compelling documentaries ever committed to celluloid was released today in 1970, twelve months to the day after the era-defining tragedy that it depicted. Before directing Gimme Shelter, Albert and David Maysles had made vérité documentaries focusing on celebrities such as Marlon Brando, Orson Welles, Truman Capote and the Beatles and it was the latter experience that convinced Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones to invite the brothers and their creative collaborator Charlotte Zwerin to film the free concert they were headlining at the Altamont Speedway. The concert was attended by an enormous 300,000 people but the free love party was so large that the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang were recruited in the last minute to act as security for the event. Rather than being a West Coast version of Woodstock (which had been held earlier that summer) Altamont instead became infamous for the death of Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old African-American man, stabbed to death by the Hell’s Angels after drawing a long-barreled revolver. Amazingly, the Maysles caught the incident on film, turning Gimme Shelter into, as Amy Taubin succinctly put it, rock ‘n’ roll’s answer to the Zapruder footage of JFK’s assassination. Not only does the movie feature the fatal incident but, even more compellingly, in one scene we see a clearly affected Jagger watching the incident again as the Maysles edit the footage. A great concert film as well as a hugely important cinematic document hugely altered the trajectory of the Maysles’ career and remains, along with Don’t Look Back, one of the most important music docs ever made.

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