The Jolson Story

Friday, 27 November, Year 12 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

The Jolson Storyi is... holy god of chocolate Ganesha Ganapati, how shall I begin!

Let's try this : Asa Yoelson / Al Jolson is a god-awful singer, possibly one of the worst singers imaginable. I'm not saying "one of the worst of his generation", he is atrociously bad on a cosmic scale. He sings about as well as any Singer-brand home appliance, like say his mother's sewing machine. This is neither exaggeration nor rhetorical flourish, but bare statement of fact.

This self-same Al Jolson was the principal, main, chief attraction of the 1920s. No joke, it's golden, check it out for yourself. He is utterly fucking terrible yet nevertheless the main entertainment attraction in the United States for a fucking decade, owing to the shocking backwardness and utter cluelessness of that rural population on one hand and his outright insane psychopathy on the other hand. Dude's Narcissism writ large, he can't sit long enough to read through anything longer than his upper lip, he can't even listen to anyone say anything because he's got shit to say "of his own" burbling out of him. The most he can take in of other people's a slight hint of their facial expressions, and that's that, go Nut McManiac go! Coincidentally he was just the right brand of pedestrian, saccharine lyrical the US farmhands relocated by Stalin Roosevelt and Wilson wanted to hear (or could conceivable digest in their diminutive cranial gizzards), and... well, you believe in Democracy or don't you ?

Here's the capper though : he did it all in blackface. No I'm not fucking kidding, with the white gloves (ever wondered where "jazz hands" came from ?) and the magically peckerwood neck, with the prop straw hat and the eye poppings, blackface, what. Minstrel shows.

Given this hot mess sprawling underneath, the film does a decent job of doing justice to America, true right and proper such as it was : little Jew boys imported from Lithuania to impersonate blacks for audiences in the Northeast much too disinterested in their environment to ever talk to a black guy, and large Irish boys imported from England to impersonate soldiers for audiences in the South, much too disinterested in their own survival to make any kind of sense. That's what it is, you know ? America, that's what it always was. And you wanted to make it great again...

You can probably live out the rest of your life without having any sort of mental truck with this cultural artifact ; and that stands true whether you see it or not.

  1. 1946, by Alfred E. Green, with Larry Parks, Evelyn Keyes, William Demarest. []
Category: Trilematograf
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