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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Jolson Sings Again (1949)

"You might have come across me in your history books."
- Al Jolson (Larry Parks)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: December 07, 2003

Stars: Larry Parks, Barbara Hale, William Demarest
Other Stars: Ludwig Donath, Tamara Shayne, Myron McCormick
Director: Henry Levin

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (blackface minstrel shows)
Run Time: 01h:35m:27s
Release Date: October 21, 2003
UPC: 043396008632
Genre: musical


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-C-B- D

DVD Review

For obvious reasons, there are seldom opportunities to do a sequel to a biopic. But on the other hand, when a film is highly lucrative, it's also awfully difficult for Hollywood studios to resist producing a sequel. And these two concepts collide with mixed results in this sequel to The Jolson Story, taking the subject's life story into the 1940s, with almost the identical cast.

A despondent Jolson (Larry Parks again) throws himself back into Broadway shows, but the joy of singing is gone, and he falls back into an aimless retirement. Manager Steve Martin (William Demarest) gently pushes Al in the direction of entertaining the troops in WWII, and Al throws himself into it, despite his music being passť in a world of crooners like Bing Crosby. Coming down with a fever, Jolson has to give that up too, but falls in love with his nurse, Ellen Clark (Barbara Hale). After the war, Jolson sinks back into obscurity until the success of The Jolson Story brings him a newfound popularity.

The picture picks up about an hour after the conclusion of the first film, so the two make a fairly seamless viewing experience. However, the back and forth of loving and hating singing gets a bit monotonous and hardly meshes with the single-minded warbling of the first installment. Jolson's self-pitying tends to drag the film down a bit, and it's a good thing it's nowhere near as long as the original or it would be hard to take. The recursive nature of the films becomes rather surreal, in that Jolson (Parks) meets Larry Parks (as himself) who is to play him in the first film; this goes to even weirder extremes when Jolson is seen watching the first film and it segues into the first few seconds of this one, becoming a veritable cinematic Mobius strip! It also makes for some fascinating segments, such as Parks as himself imitating himself as Jolson on camera; the timing on these effects shots is superb and makes for some memorable moments.

Parks is still terrific as Jolson, and the makeup work is really quite convincing as we see him as the older man in the same frame as the younger one. The romance feels a little forced, but at least Barbara Hale injects a personality into her part, which is something Evelyn Keyes never managed the first time around. As a result one can overlook Hale's rather inconsistent Southern drawl. Demarest doesn't have as much to do this time, but Ludwig Donath is still enjoyable as old Cantor Yoelsen, Al's father.

The film is significantly shorter and not quite as liberally jammed with songs. There's some repetition but it also includes quite a few classics that weren't addressed in the original. It's not as fun a romp as the first picture, but as sequels go it isn't a disaster, and I'm not sure you can ask for much more. The songs this time are:

Rock-A-Bye Your Baby
Is It True What They Say About Dixie?
For Me and My Gal
Back In Your Own Backyard
I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover
When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along
Give My Regards to Broadway
Chinatown, My Chinatown
I'm Just Wild About Harry
Baby Face
After You've Gone
I Only Have Eyes For You
Sonny Boy
Toot Toot Tootsie
Jolson Story Medley
Pretty Baby
Carolina in the Morning
Rock-A-Bye Your Baby (reprise)


Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Although this also is billed as being Technicolor, the source doesn't appear to be a proper Technicolor print, since it's rather faded. Worse, the colors are unstable and fleshtones waver between pinkish and greenish, giving everyone a rather seasick quality, whether they're supposed to be ill or not. It is, however, still a fairly clean print, though a bit more speckled than the original. Shadow detail is somewhat plugged up and detail is a bit lacking.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: This time around, the audio really is mono as indicated on the keepcase. Hiss is less pronounced, partly since there hasn't been any after-the-fact remixing here. The music sounds pretty good, though it's still lacking in low bass, as is to be expected. Dialogue is easily understandable throughout.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Japanese with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Lost Horizon, Pal Joey
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Columbia skimps on the extras again, with the same trailers for Lost Horizon (with no footage from the film), and the conversational Frank Sinatra trailer for Pal Joey. So much for, "You ain't seen nothin' yet."

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

Larry Parks returns in fine form in this second installment, but alas, the transfer's not as good this time around. The same paucity of extras, however.

 


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