There's a bit of controversy about how this movie came to be. James Gleason, the actor-writer, is credited in some quarters with the original play but so is Irving Berlin. Be that as it may, the story concerns a minstrel show and all of the desperate attempts at keeping the presentation
afloat. Jolson and Lewis are "end men" in the show and Sherman, playing Will West (who was the best emcee [interlocutor] of his day), is the leader of the pack. Moran's father, Bosworth, owns the show, and she is in love with Sherman, who has a roving eye. Jolson, in order to help Moran get some
sort of rise out of Sherman, makes a move on her but Sherman barely notices. Jolson is being fleeced at cards when Sherman drags him out of the game and tells Lewis, the head fleecer, to make good the money or pay for his conniving. Lewis switches bullets in a prop gun and Sherman is wounded on
stage when Jolson fires the weapon, not knowing that real ammunition has been substituted. Jolson is nabbed by the cops but escapes to see Dresser, his mother. She tells him to give himself up, and he is on his way to do that when Lewis admits he made the ammunition switch and Jolson is free. It's
not a funny film, except when they do their minstrel routines. One interesting note is that part of the picture, the minstrel show, is done in bright Technicolor and pops out hard on the eyes after the black and white. We do know that Berlin wrote most of the score that includes: "To My Mammy,"
"Across the Breakfast Table," "Looking at You," "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy," "Knight of the Road," and "Yes, We Have No Bananas" (with Frank Silver and Irving Cohn) which is sung to the music of Verdi's "Miserere" from "Il Trovatore." Van Winkle gets credit for "Who Paid the Rent?" and "The Albany
Night Boat" appears to be a traditional number. Legend has it that Jolson actually drank two bottles of alcohol to add realism to his drunk scenes. Watching him play a sot, we can believe it.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: There's a bit of controversy about how this movie came to be. James Gleason, the actor-writer, is credited in some quarters with the original play but so is Irving Berlin. Be that as it may, the story concerns a minstrel show and all of the desperate attem… (more)