Cast & Crew
At the request of his wife, Julie Benson, entertainer Al Jolson had retired from show business, but when she hears him sing at a nightclub, she realizes that he loves singing and can never give it up and leaves him. Al does not understand why she would leave and flies to New York to bring her home, but by the time he arrives, Julie has disappeared. When Al's friend and former manager, Steve Martin, joins him, Al asks Steve to find him a job. Al starts performing again, but when he learns that Julie has gotten a divorce, he leaves the show. Even though the country is at war, Al tries to forget his troubles by traveling, buying racehorses and prizefighters, and dating many different women. When Mrs. Yoelson, Al's mother, becomes ill with pneumonia, it takes so long to find Al that she dies before he can return home. After Al finally comes home, his father gently makes it clear that he disapproves of the way Al is spending his time now that the country is at war. Later, Steve reveals that he has taken a job booking talent to entertain the troops, and Al signs up, although he is afraid that the young soldiers will not remember him. In Alaska, he meets Col. Ralph Bryant, a movie producer in civilian life, who remembers him from his childhood in Duluth, Minnesota. His warm regard gives Al the boost he needs, and his tour is very successful. Eventually, Al collapses with a fever and wakes up in a hospital, attended by attractive nurse Ellen Clark, who comes from Arkansas. Ellen's down-to-earth, Southern manner charms both Al and his father, who is visiting the hospital. On her last night before transferring to an Arkansas hospital, Ellen has dinner with Cantor Yoelson, who tells her how much he appreciates her advice to Al to relax and enjoy life. Although he is not well enough to entertain the troops, Al now performs at hospitals, traveling around the world until he arrives at the Arkansas hospital where Ellen is working. Al and Ellen start to fall in love, even though Ellen is much younger than Al. She encourages him to go back on stage, but urges him to get more out of life than just singing. In California, Al collapses again and undergoes an operation on his lungs. Ellen hurries to his side, and they are married. Because Ellen wants Al to face his past, the couple moves into the Encino house that he shared with Julie. They are happy together, but Ellen realizes that Al wants to go back to work. When she asks Steve to find him some work, however, Steve confesses that no one on Broadway wants to hire Al. After Cantor Yoelson arrives for a long visit, Ellen talks a reluctant Al into singing at a Community Chest benefit. The organizers of the benefit reluctantly include him, but put him last on the program. Although many people have already left by the time Al sings, he is a hit with those who remain. In the audience is Bryant, who is again working as a producer, and he decides to approach Al with an idea for a movie based on his life. The following day, Bryant proposes that Al sing new versions of his famous songs, which would then be dubbed over the actor who would play him in the film. The new recordings are well-received, and young actor Larry Parks is chosen to play Al in the film. At the preview, Al is so nervous that he almost passes out from an overdose of tranquilizers, but the film is a great success. Al's records are again popular, and he is given a radio program. When the next benefit is held, Al is one of the featured performers, and is watched by his proud father and a radiant Ellen.
Robert Emmett Keane
Philip Faulkner Jr.
Lawrence W. Butler
B. G. De Sylva
E. Ray Goetz
Sam M. Lewis
George W. Meyer
James V. Monaco
Best Writing, Screenplay
Al Jolson auditioned to play himself.
Sidney Buchman's credit reads: "Written and produced by Sidney Buchman." The scene in the nightclub with "Julie Benson" was taken from the 1946 Columbia film The Jolson Story (see below). During World War II, Jolson contracted malaria while entertaining the troops in North Africa and eventually lost his left lung. He met his fourth wife, Erle Chennault Galbraith, in a Hot Springs, AR, hospital in 1944. For more information about Al Jolson's life, for The Jolson Story. The Variety review notes that producer Sidney Buchman, like the fictional "Ralph Bryant," came from Duluth. The reviewer also points out that Jolson was billed last at a Hillcrest Country Club benefit in Los Angeles, not a Community Chest benefit, as depicted in the film. Portions of the following songs are heard in medleys: "I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover," "Red, Red Robin," "Give My Regards to Broadway," "Chinatown, My Chinatown," "I'm Just Wild About Harry," "Baby Face," "After You're Gone" "Swanee," "Quarter to Nine," "The World Was in Bloom," "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee," "April Showers," "Pretty Baby" and "Carolina in the Morning."
A October 25, 1947 Los Angeles Examiner news item notes that Larry Parks was not expected to star in the sequel because his testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities revealed that he had been a member of the Communist party. According to a September 20, 1948 Daily Variety news item, however, the main barrier to Parks performing the role was a suit he brought against Columbia asking to be released from the contract that he signed before he made The Jolson Story. When the suit was settled, Parks was hired for the part. Before the suit was settled, the filmmakers considered having Jolson play himself in the film, according to a July 27, 1948 Daily Variety news item. Although Columbia originally intended to produce the sequel, a April 6, 1948 Daily Variety news item reported that Jolson had made an agreement with M-G-M to make the sequel at that studio. At that time, Gene Kelly was proposed as the star, and Clark Gable and Greer Garson were considered for other parts. Eventually, the film went into production at Columbia. Tamara Shayne, Ludwig Donath and William Demarest reprised the roles they played in The Jolson Story. As in the earlier film, Al Jolson's voice is heard on the soundtrack singing the songs.
Lux Radio Theatre presented a version of this story, starring Al Jolson, Barbara Hale and William Demarest, on May 22, 1949. William Snyder received an Academy Award nomination for Best Color Cinematography for his work on the film, while Sidney Buchman was nominated for Best Story and Screenplay, and Morris Stoloff and George Duning were nominated for Best Musical Score.