Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  Expert Witness
Books:
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Writings:
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Playboy
  Blender
  Rolling Stone
  Billboard
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
  Recyclables
  Newsprint
  Lists
  Miscellany
Bibliography
NPR
Web Site:
  Home
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
  Archive
Venues:
  Noisey
CG Search:
Google Search:
Twitter:

Al Jolson

  • Let Me Sing and I'm Happy: Al Jolson at Warner Bros. 1926-1936 [Turner Classic Movies/Rhino, 1996] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Let Me Sing and I'm Happy: Al Jolson at Warner Bros. 1926-1936 [Turner Classic Movies/Rhino, 1996]
It's hard now to grasp that, generation gap aside, this native of Lithuania was nothing less than the Elvis of the first half of the 20th century. But fame was fleeting in that trendy, technology-driven era, and by the mid-'30s, as foolish kids and fickle oldsters embraced the big-band fad and "crooning" style, "The World's Greatest Entertainer" was slipping badly. While it's true enough that his emotionality was too cornball for an emerging generation of pseudosophisticates, the biggest problem was his resistance to new media--his radio shows were spotty, and much worse for history, his studio recordings were stiff. As anyone who screens The Jazz Singer learns, however, movies were the exception. Hollywood let him roll his eyes and shake his fanny in front of onlookers who could feed him the approval he craved. Whether he's wearing burnt cork or pancake makeup, appropriating Irving Berlin or an Oedipal kiss from his mammy, his verve, spontaneity, and sexual magnetism are as startling as, well, Elvis's. A-