“Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!”
THE JAZZ SINGER
Al Jolson loved the short story in Everybody's Magazine. So close to his own life as showbiz star in new-world conflict withhis old-world, Jewishcantorfather.Jolson asked director DW Griffith to film it."Too racial,"said Griffith,still miffed with Jolson for refusing to finish Mammy's Boy, 1923.
Jolson next aimed for a stage revue version, but authorSamson Raphelsonrefusedpermission.Hewrotehis ownstage play version- hecalledita"simple,corny,well-felt, little melodrama."Yet the Broadway run only closed after 38 weeks when its star, George Jessel, was signed by the three Warner brothers for the film - and quit after squabbles over money(said Jack Warner), script changes (said Jessel).
Jessel was offered $30,000. When hearing the film would be made with Viatphone sound,he wanted $10,000more. Jack Warner, the youngestand, ultimately,the most powerful of the brothers, agreed. Not good enough for Jessel. He wanted it in writing from the oldest brother, Harry, who had bought the film rights for Jackand his elder brother, Sam, to produce.
“Ifyou can’t takemyword,”shouted Jack,
“let’s forget the deal.”
Jessel always insisted it wasn'tthe money but the new script thatmadehim leave -it changed theending of Jackie Rabinowitz taking his cantor father's place in the synagogue.
More likely, Jack Warner feltthat Jessel (like Harry) was too Jewishfor the moreassimilated family drama he envisaged as opposed to Harry's dream of "a goodpicture...for the sake of racial tolerance."
Jack tested more assimilated, all-American Jews.
Buster Collier Jr was his favourite.
Except his test proved flat.
making Eddie Cantor a hot, if reluctantcontender.
“Impossible,” said Eddie, “to match Jessel.”
Jolson repeatedhis interestand signed - for $75,000 -and finally made hisstory.Raphelson (a future Lubitsch scenarist) admitted that seeing a Jolson concert at college had inspired his story.However,hefeltthe resulting firsttalkiewas "an ill-felt, silly, maudlin, badly timed thing."
Producer Sam Warner, whogot his four,feudingbrothers into the movie gamein1905,died the day beforethe historic premiere ofOctober 6,1927.The nightwhen Vitaphone allowed Jolson(who had sung on-screen in AprilShowers,1926) to actually speak.Indeed,to prophesy. "You ain't heard nothin' yet..."