Al Jolson


  1. Rex Ingram, The Green Pastures, 1935.     First, Warner Bros acually wanted De Lawd to be played, oh, no, by Al Jolson in his blackface. Then, Paul Robeson refused point-blank. Finally, the nearly four-minute trailer was devoid of black faces, just a lot of white film-makers, and a long shot of black extras. For a film about the New Testament as seen by blacks. How’s that for believing in your product?
  2. Jackie Oakie,  Bowery To Broadway, 1944.     “The World’s Greatest Entertainer” refused a 1934 three-picture Warners deal.  Too many strings.
  3.  Larry Parks, The Jolson Story, 1946.     He offered, of course, and was bitterly annoyed at not being allowed to play himself (as he did in most films!).  He did, though, stand in for Parks in some stage long-shots and,  of course, supplied the unmistakable soundtrack for Columbia’s greatest triumph leading to the only bio-sequel in Hollywood history  –  making Al a star reborn for his final years.
  4. Larry Parks, Jolson Sings Again, 1948.   While attending the 1946 premiere of The Jolson Story, Al actually overheard someone saying:  “Too bad that Jolson isn’t alive to see this picture.” And he had played himself in the long-shots of the Swanee number! This time he was tested because of the Communist slurs about Parks. Jolson proved too old, of course, and Parks too important… for now. Jolson was seen – or missed – in a great stetson in a scene, watching Parks shooting The Jolson Story. With no plans for a third Jolson movie, poor Parks was black-listed – ruined! – by such oafs as Senator Joe McCarthy and numbnuts Ward Bond.
  5. Sidney Poitier, Porgy and Bess, 1959.      Columbia’s  crude czar Harry Cohn once  put in  a bid for the  rights. His  idea?  White  stars in blackface!  Jolson as Porgy,  Rita Hayworth as Bess, Fred Astaire as Sportin’  Life. Cohn’s notion was not that bizarre.  Jolson  was due for a Jerome  Kern  stage musical  version  of  it in 1933, then the Gershwins  took it over and Ira refused to sell the rights to producer Samuel Goldwyn  – or anyone else –  for 22 years!)


 Birth year: 1886Death year: 1950Other name: Usual occupation: SingerCasting Calls:  5