Family & Companions
Celebrated song-and-dance man who was a major Broadway attraction before gaining worldwide fame as the star of the so-called "first" talking picture, "The Jazz Singer" (1927). Known as both "The World's Greatest Entertainer" and the biggest egomaniac in show business, Jolson got his start as a blackface singer in vaudeville around 1906. By the 1910s, he was starring in both book and variety shows on Broadway, including "The Honeymoon Express" (1913), "Robinson Crusoe Jr." (1916), "Sinbad" (1918) and "Bombo" (1921). His hammy, exuberant singing style and his obvious love of entertaining made him a huge star of both stage and recordings.
Jolson made his first films in the mid-20s, a series of early talking shorts. But his immortality came with "The Jazz Singer," the first commercially viable, part-talking feature. Signed with Warner Bros., Jolson made a series of popular, sentimental musicals, including "The Singing Fool" (1928), "Sonny Boy" (1929), "Mammy" and "Big Boy" (both 1930) before his vogue began passing. He left for United Artists in 1933 for the bizarre (and commercially disastrous) Rodgers and Hart film "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum" before returning to Warners. There, he made a series of innocuous musicals, the best of which was the first, "Wonder Bar" (1934).
Jolson's fame declined through "Go Into Your Dance" (1935, co-starring Ruby Keeler, his wife from 1928-39), "Rose of Washington Square" (1939) and "Rhapsody in Blue" (1944). He entertained the troops in both WWII and Korea, and had a resurgence of popularity when he provided Larry Parks' voice in "The Jolson Story" (1946) and "Jolson Sings Again" (1949). He had achieved the status of revered veteran when he died in 1950.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Short)
Immigrated to USA; settled in Washington, DC
Made stage debut
New York stage debut, "La Belle Paree"
Film debut, a talking short for Warner Bros.
Made feature debut, "The Jazz Singer"
Left Warner Bros. for United Artists, made "Hallelujah I'm a Bum"
Re-signed with Warner Bros.
Made last film, playing himself in "Jolson Sings Again"