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Monday, November 15, 2010


The producer & director of THE JOLSON STORY/’46 (an unexpected commercial smash) tried to recapture that success with a similar pic about Al Jolson’s great stage & screen rival, Eddie Cantor. The structure is repeated right from the opening where a kid discovers the power in his voice, to the finale where the warmly remembered entertainer is ‘reluctantly’ coaxed out of early retirement. There’s not much dramatic meat on these bones, the big contentious issue is that Eddie won’t slow down to take a family vacation. But it’s less the plot than the repellent cast & changing times that did this one in. Keefe Brasselle’s pop-eyed Cantor, with an angry scar in the middle of his forehead, may be a cringe-worthy ‘Banjo Eyes’ in or out of blackface, but nothing can prepare you for the Jimmy Durante impersonator. Yowsa! The JOLSON STORY really wasn’t all that much better, though it did have the real Jolson on the soundtrack, but it came out just as the country was taking a big breath after winning the war and giving Hollywood it’s biggest year ever . . . right before the deluge.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The only way to see Cantor before Sam Goldwyn neutered him for Hollywood consumption is by wading thru Florence Ziegfeld's GLORIFYING THE AMERICAN GIRL/'29 which has yet to show up on DVD. The film is a bust, but there are morsels of real Follies magic scattered in it. You-Tube has some clips.

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