Talkie of the Week: Jolson Sings Again
USA 1949, 96 minutes, color, Columbia Pictures. Director: Henry Levin, Producer: Sidney Buchman, Written by: Sidney Buchman. Cast: Larry Parks, Barbara Hale, William Demarest, Bill Goodwin, Ludwig Donath, Tamara Shayne,
Plot summary: Al Jolson’s success story continues after the divorce from his first wife. He has to learn to come to terms with life outside of show business and the struggles to return to it.
Review: Jolson Sings Again is one of those rare examples of a sequel that lives up to the original film it is based on. The film does not only pick up where The Jolson Story left us, it also continues to charm us with its many convincing performances, Al Jolson’s memorable music and its predecessor’s fairytale quality.
Jolson Sings Again shows an aging and changed Al Jolson who throws himself into work after his wife has left him, only to retreat himself to a jet set life after his many shows start to wear him out. Primarily a star of gossip sections for many years, he finally decides to return to what he does best and is one of the first performers to entertain the troops abroad, starting as early as 1942. Although deeply committed to his assignment, Al Jolson is sent home from Europe after he is struck down by a fever and collapses. He wakes up in an Army hospital to the tender care of Ellen Clark, a hearty young nurse from Arkansas. The story continues as it should: Al falls in love with Ellen and marries her. Her earthy wisdom and classic beauty complement his restlessness with utmost patience and care. It is her, in contrast to his first wife, who supports his passion for singing and the stage. Although commanding him to rest enough to cure his fever, she also encourages him to resume his career in order to kill the boredom and frustration he is struggling with by sitting home all day. It is apparent that his second wife is very different from his first.
Jolson Sings Again ends on a happy note as a good Hollywood fairytale should. It is bittersweet in essence, but very inspiring. Larry Parks gives another breathtaking performance as Al Jolson, lip-synching the master to perfection and adding a believable tranquility to his otherwise lively character. Parks has a sparkling on-screen chemistry with Barbara Hale who plays good-natured, beautiful and savvy Ellen Clark. Based on Al Jolson’s fourth wife in real life, fictitious Ellen Clark adds to the skillful depiction of authentic characters, performed with ease and graceful sweetness by Baby Face Barbara Hale.
Available on VHS and DVD.