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The Jazz Singer

2 Ratings: 3.5
A movie directed by Richard Fleischer

In New York City, Yussel Rabinowitz (Neil Diamond) trains to be a cantor. Although his father (Laurence Olivier) and wife, Rivka (Catlin Adams), don't approve, he also sings and writes songs for a black soul group under the name Jess Robin. When … see full wiki

Director: Richard Fleischer
Genre: Music, Musical
Release Date: December 19, 1980
MPAA Rating: Unrated
1 review about The Jazz Singer

The Jazz Singer - 1980

  • Jun 2, 2008
Pros: great music, good direction, decent acting

Cons: ....

The Bottom Line: "Lift me, won't you lift me above the old routine;
Make it nice, play it clean jazzman."
~ Carole King

You assume that when our forefathers came to this country it was to offer a better life to their family. One that offered freedoms that were not available in the old country. Despite that, Cantor Rabinovitch had only one thing in mind - his son, Jess, would continue the tradition as Cantor in their synagogue. Jess, being a dutiful son, tried to follow his fathers ways, his fathers dreams, but the other world called to him. While Cantor Rabinovitch believed Jess’s voice was a gift from God to be shared with the religious community, Jess believed it was a gift from God to be shared with everyone.

When an opportunity arises, offering Jess the chance to give his songs a break in the music industry, he takes a plane to LA to search this out. Little did he realize how much it would change his life, and even his marriage.

While I wouldn’t consider this a fantastic movie, I consider the story behind it very creditable. It is all about choices and decisions and the affects they have on you and everyone around you.

Neil Diamond played the part of Jess Robin nee Rabinovitch. He is not an actor but he is a performer. Acting is part skill and part performing. Fortunately a good deal of Diamond’s part was taken up with singing, something he can handle quite well. As far as his acting abilities in the movie, I often found myself thinking - ‘Yes, this is how a child would react to their parent. Yes, this is how a person would react in a similar situation’. That isn’t to say that someone else couldn’t have done a better job, perhaps they could have, but then there is the singing portion.

Since Diamond was responsible for 99.9% of the music in the film, it seemed fitting he should perform it. He wrote the words and lyrics, knew the feel of the song. He could do it best. In that light, I wasn’t opposed to his performance in the movie at all. I will note, however, Diamond became the first person ever to win the Razzie Award for worst actor. Man, I don’t know about that, I’ve seen some pretty bad acting jobs over the years … whatever …

Cantor Rabinovitch was handled by Laurence Olivier. There was scuttlebutt, afterwards, that he considered the entire production one huge piece of crapola. Hey, maybe it wasn’t Othello, but it wasn’t all that bad either. Frankly, I thought he handled the part decently. Or at least what has always been portrayed as a devout Jewish person and father. If he was as discouraged with the production as he stated afterwards, his performance did not suffer from it. Then, again, he is a star so he knows how to work the room.

While not exactly opposing forces, even though Jess left his wife and married Molly, I also enjoyed the parts of Rivka Rabinovitch, Jess’s wife, played by Catlin Adams, and Molly Bell, played by Lucie Arnaz. Rivka was plain and simple, a devoted Jewish wife. She didn’t want what was on the other side of the mountain, she was perfectly happy exactly where she was. Molly, on the other hand, as the music producer, saw the potential in Jess and wanted him to succeed.

The Jazz Singer was directed by Richard Fleischer. Writing was credited to Samson Raphaelson, Herbert Baker and Stephen Foreman. This was a modern day, for 1980, version of the 1927 Al Jolson movie, which some took offense to since it bore little resemblance to the original. That isn’t unusual, most remakes try to update and make changes, in order to draw a newer viewing audience.

It carried an outstanding soundtrack, all words and music by Diamond [except where noted]:
You Baby
My Name Is Yussel
Love On The Rocks [Diamond and Gilbert Becaud]
On The Robert E. Lee [Diamond and Gilbert Becaud]
Summerlove [Diamond and Gilbert Becaud]
Hey Louise [Diamond and Gilbert Becaud]
Songs Of Life [Diamond and Gilbert Becaud]
Hello Again [Diamond and Alan E. Lindgren]
Amazed And Confused [Diamond and Richard Bennett]
Acapulco [Diamond and Doug Rhone]
The following were all traditional adaptations by Diamond
Hine Mah Tove
Havah Nagilah
Adon Olom
Kol Nidre
Shabbat Shalom

Overall impression
Great music and decent story. Acting wasn’t the highlight of the film but certainly not a downfall.



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