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April 12, 2010


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I have to confess I twitched a little, many years ago, when I read Jerry Lee Lewis's statement that "there are only four real American song stylists - Al Jolson, Jimmie Rogers, Hank Williams and me." At that time Jolson stood out from the list as an embarrassing misstep. Now, knowing what I know about the importance of blackface in the prehistory of rock'n'roll, I embrace the embarrassment. Bring it on! I'll suffer it gladly.

The Siren

I am so not a Jolson person, but I loved this piece nonetheless. I am pretty sure that I saw this years ago and, as always, was put off by Jolson's determination to be loved. But you do make me want to see it again.

I am always puzzled by the double (more like quadruple) standard applied to certain old movies in terms of what ticks people off. I often think it's just favoritism; if it's a big enough movie and fondly remembered, people just ignore what's right in front of them. Much better to drag a problematic, lesser movie out and look at its virtues and faults clearly, with context but not excuses, as you do here.

My great-grandfather had a successful minstrel act. I am sorry he didn't live long enough for me to ask him about it.

Owain Wilson

A lovely, evocative article. I really enjoyed it.

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