Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
October 20
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.


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