The Jazz Singer

Warner Home Video

The 1927 Al Jolson vehicle The Jazz Singer is always hailed as the first “talkie,” but it’s really more of a silent film with songs, sound effects and a handful of dialogue scenes. It’s also not very good, despite some classic tunes and the boisterous personality of its star. Jolson plays a cantor’s son who is disowned when he chooses jazz halls over the synagogue. Director Alan Crosland’s effort starts well, but the last third is a long, dreadful parade of blackface and cheap sentiment. The film may be a dud, but the new three-disc Jazz Singer box set is a treasure chest of extras, including photos, documentaries, recently restored short films from the early sound era, Jolson shorts and promotional films, and a Merrie Melodies cartoon about a crooning bird named Owl Jolson.