28 February 2000 | harry-76
A Depression Cinematic Oddity
The best way to appreciate this odd film is to put one's self back in the early 30's, the "Depression era." The drama glamorizes life on the streets and parks, probably to make the ordinary hard-up person feel better about his own financially depressed plight. It also played into the prevailing poverty consciousness of the mass public. Making money seem like something bad, and life on the park bench something wonderful probably appeased and distracted attention from those who were the power-people, calling- the-shots of society. No matter about the lack of human conveniences, just pick a spot in the park and enjoy communing with the birds, squirrels, flowers and trees. Forget about the storms, the cold, the inclimates, it's always fair weather in this film's world. As for Al Jolson, he was a one-of-a-kind entertainer. Sometimes sappy, sometimes, hammy, and other times, sweet and kind--at least in his screen persona. Like him or not, Jolson remains one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century. Statistics alone prove his status. After knocking 'em dead in hit after hit on Broadway, he was the first to take an entire Broadway production on the road across the country. He was the first to employ a walkway ramp down the center of the theater, cutting out scores of expensive seats. He was the first to make a "talking picture." Then years after being retired and almost forgotten, with loads of young newcomers taking the spotlight -- Jolson came back, making not just a respectable showing, but to the very top of the charts, for two years over Crosby, Como and Sinatra. Never in the history of showbiz has there ever been such an unprecedented comeback. His voice deeper, richer, and more beautiful than ever before, he reigned supreme. And, we dare say, were he to somehow come back today--singing exactly the same songs--he'd be equally as popular and beloved. As his saying goes, "You ain't heard nothin' yet!" The film itself has two lovely songs by Rodgers and Hart: the title song and "You Are Too Beautiful," neither of which is given its full due in the movie. The rest of the film is an oddity, with the charismatic Jolson playing at about half-effort. The legendary Lewis Milestone is the director.