Does Al Jolson's black-faced performance as Jackie Rabinowitz in THE JAZZ
SINGER (1927) accurately portray the situation for Jewish and other white
singers/performers of early twentieth century American theatre? Did they
"have to" perform in black-face in order to appear onstage as "jazz"
singers or "minstrel" comedians? Is that what audiences expected and
tradition dictated--for how long? Or, did whites (and blacks) also sing
and tell jokes in a similar way without black-face during the same period?
These are some of the many issues that arise when I show my students THE
JAZZ SINGER as a glimpse of the minstrel show, black-face tradition and its
influence on modern musical theatre and film. I would appreciate answers,
speculations, and references that might illuminate our classroom
discussion. For example, one of my students here (a white Carolinian)
asked about the last, very emotional scene of the film, as the black-faced
Jackie sings "Mammie" to his Jewish mother in the theatre audience: "Is
that supposed to be funny?"
Dept. of Dance and Theatre
Charlotte, NC 28223
[log in to unmask]
To sign off SCREEN-L, e-mail [log in to unmask] and put SIGNOFF SCREEN-L
in the message. Problems? Contact [log in to unmask]