Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Best Actor 1946: Larry Parks in The Jolson Story

Larry Parks received his only Oscar nomination for playing famous entertainer Al Jolson in the Jolson Story.

The Jolson Story is another one of those old fashioned biopics. It is an incredibly positive view of its subject, very inaccurate, and never in depth.  It still is sort of enjoyable in its own particular way anyways.

Larry Parks plays Al Jolson but he does not try to sing like him. He is always dubbed by Jolson himself, which looks a little strange at times but he lip syncs well enough, so it is not all that obvious. When it is the extreme close ups though Parks face just does not fit Jolson's voice. A lot of the performance is spent singing so for portions of the film this is all Parks is doing.

Parks is technically limited by the fact that he is in an old biopic therefore he can never really get under the skin of the character that well. Parks though never goes off on his own to put more into the performance that what is in the script either. He does nothing subtle at all in this performance, but that is not exactly a problem. Jolson is shown just on the surface and that is how Parks plays him.

He has the right sure of himself gestures. He smiles, and says a lot of things very excitingly. He has right amount of showmanship, and he is romantic enough with Evelyn Keyes.  There is scene that requires a little more is when he talks about being a workaholic. He does an okay job in this one scene but he still does not show a deeper side of Jolson which he could have in this one scene.Parks basically does what he needs to do but that just is not that much of a feat.


Anonymous said...

He didn't even resemble Al Jolson...probably a 2 for me.

joe burns said...

I think he'll be fifth, not totally sure. I don't really know much about Al Johnson, except that he performed the song ''Swanee', which I really like, but that's only because Judy Garland sings it. Off-topic, but are you a fan of her?

Louis Morgan said...

Yeah I like her well enough.

scandia52 said...

I've seen this film and its sequel Jolson Sings Again several times to make sure I was commenting what I see as the truth. Larry Parks worked closely with Jolson himself to learn precise lip-syncing, facial mannerisms and body language of the entertainer. Of course Parks didn't look like Jolson. No one does. That's why they call it 'acting'. Jolson himself provided the story he wanted on film which was written into a screen play by a producer who met Jolson in the field in WWII. It's all about the singing and his childhood. It's sweet, old fashioned entertainment and doesn't pretend to be anything else. Actually the sequel delves more into Jolson's depression and illnesses after WWII, which I think is a better film. Parks took the hit for alot of Hollywood in the 50's during senate hearings, and I am sorry he was blacklisted because he could have risen to be a real star. He had the looks, the voice, and a down to earth ability to play off of other actors naturally.