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Al Stone is singing waiter in a speakeasy who is in love with Molly, the singing star at the speakeasy, but she spurns him. Al gets his big break and goes on to become a Broadway sensation. Written by
The Singing Fool" is relatively unknown compared to the previous year's "The Jazz Singer", probably because it was the first feature film with synchronized dialogue. However, 1928's "The Singing Fool" is important for a number of reasons. For one, it was the first talking picture many people ever saw. Remember that in order to exhibit a talking picture special equipment had to be installed in the theater, and theater owners weren't sure enough of the future success of talking pictures to invest in that equipment until well after "The Jazz Singer" came and went. Also, "The Singing Fool" was the top box office draw of 1928. In fact, with the Great Depression just over the horizon, no film made more money until "Gone with the Wind" in 1939. Finally it is one of the very few talking pictures that survive from the year 1928 due to the ease of breakage of the Vitaphone discs.
The story behind "The Singing Fool" is not that remarkable. It is overly sentimental and you can see from the start exactly where it is headed. Jolson plays singing waiter Al Stone who loves snobby Molly, a singer at the night spot where he works. Likewise, Al is loved in secret by the cafés's cigarette girl. When Al makes a big hit with an agent, Molly suddenly finds Al - and his money and fame - very attractive. Of course Al is blind to Molly's poisonous ways until it is too late. You have to remember that the whole purpose behind the film is to give you a chance to see and hear the world's greatest entertainer, Al Jolson, singing on screen in his prime. In this film you get that in bigger doses than you got in "The Jazz Singer". So, if you are a Jolson fan, you are in for a big treat. However, be warned this film is what was known in 1928 and 1929 as a "goat gland" movie. That is, it is part silent. The exact ratio is about 75% talking, 25% silent. How it is chopped into sound/silent portions is particularly baffling. Some dialogue is sound, then will abruptly transition to silent. Warner's had already made an all-talking picture, in fact they made the first - 1928's "The Lights of New York". That film was supposed to be a two reel short that grew to six reels when Jack Warner was out of town, but it was a huge hit and sent the march towards talking pictures into overdrive. With the technical challenges of making an all-talking picture behind them, you would have thought Warner Bros. would have made Jolson's second talking picture an extra special effort and given it the all-talking treatment too. They didn't, but it was still a huge success. In conclusion, if you are a Jolson fan and you are interested in the early sound era of motion pictures, you'll love this film.
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