The Jazz Singer: Cultural and Historical Significance

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“The Jazz Singer”

Before watching “The Jazz Singer”, I had no idea of its cultural or historical significance. I learned that it was the first motion picture to have synchronized dialogue and words. It set the precedent for cinematography, live voice recordings, and real-time dialogue. The film was based on a short story written only a few years prior. The story was called “The Day of Atonement” and was authored by Samson Raphaelson. The short story was then adapted into an onstage musical in 1925 before finally becoming a full length feature film in 1927.

The film follows a young man by the name of Jakie Rabinowitz. He lives with his mother and father in the Jewish ghetto of the lower east side of Manhattan. Jakie is an only child and is expected by his father to follow in the traditional family footsteps of becoming a Cantor. After a brief bit of research, I discovered that a Cantor is a person who leads worship service at a synagogue. However, at the local beer garden, we find young Jakie singing upbeat, rhythmic jazz tunes. Jakie is spotted singing these heinous tunes and handed over to be dealt with by his father. After being lugged home, Jakie is being whipped by his father who is exclaiming that he is teaching him to use his gifts for God. Clinging to his mother, Jakie threatens to run away if his father strikes him one more time. The whipping continues and sure enough Jakie kisses his mother goodbye and leaves home forever. We discover Jakie many years a later. He has been performing under the name Jack Robin. We see Jack performing to a very enthusiastic crowd a local night club. After the song, we hear Jack in what was the first ever, live-recorded spoken words in film. “Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” After the song, Jack is introduced to Mary Dale who helps get his foot in the door to potential major success. Excited about his future possibilities, Jack writes home to his mother, Sara. The letter is read to Sara by...
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