The Jazz Singer Deluxe Edition - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

Thread Tools
post #1 of 10 Old 12-30-09, 04:57 AM Thread Starter
Senior Shackster
Richard W. Haines's Avatar
Richard W. Haines
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Posts: 792
The Jazz Singer Deluxe Edition

I'm going to do something strange here which is to highly recommend a bad

Film buffs and afficiandos should watch Warner Brothers "The Jazz Singer"
Three Disc Deluxe Edition to become familiar with the history of sound movies.
The studio has done an extraordinary job of compiling the chronicle of
Vitaphone 'talkies' from 1927-1931. After 1931 the industry abanoned this
synchronized record sound and switched to the more reliable optical sound
format which exists to this day.

Disc One has a restored picture and sound of the groundbreaking feature
starring Al Jolson. While far from perfect they cleaned up the image the
best they could based on the source which was most likely a fine grain
master derived from the nitrate camera negative. The audio sounds like a record
and is a bit distorted with a limited frequency range but that's what audiences
heard when it was released.

Disc Two contains a series of shorts and demos detailing how Vitaphone works.
They become repetitive in the long run but viewers will have a full understanding
of how the complex process operated in production and theaters.

Disc Three has a series of 'lost' Vitaphone shorts that were recently pieced
back together. For years WB had either the picture image or the sound disc
but not both. They did a search through exchanges, theaters and warehouses
and were able to find the missing elements and transfer them to single strip
optical prints. Among the stranger bits were an early Burns and Allen routine
and "Baby Rose Marie" who was later known as "Rose Marie" in the Dick Van
Dyke show.

Other than the feature film, the rest of the materials are fairly worn and
scratchy but these aren't the type of movies that are worth spending large
sums of money on to fully restore. They fall into the category of
'curios'. However they are an excellent history lesson about cinema that
hasn't been detailed before.

Having said all this now I'll have to mention the downside to this box set...

All of the movies are terrible! Both feature and sound shorts are crude to
the point of being campy. You can see why many directors and stars feared
'talkies'. The art of the silent movie had reached a peak by the late twenties.
When you look at the incredible imagery and special effects that Buster Keaton
had photographed (i.e. "Sherlock Jr.") and combine them with the spectacle
of a De Mille epic ("The Ten Commandments"), the primitive visual and audio
quality of these pictures looked like a step backwards.

Early talkies had to contain the camera in a sound proof 'sweat booth' to muffle
the sprocket noise and the image was photographed through a piece of glass which
made it lose it's contrast, grayscale and sharpness. There was little if any camera
movement or artistry in the composition. Performers just did their 'act' in a wide shot
with an occasional close up insert like a photographed stage play. The acts on display in
the third disc are really awful Vaudeville schtick. The comedians aren't funny with
the exception of Burns and Allen and the singers and dancers are clumsy, over weight
and perform off key. It's campy to watch at first but then becomes dull and you long
for a real 'movie' where the performers and camera actually move.

"The Jazz Singer" is a corny melodrama. While Al Jolson is an energetic singer and fun to watch,
he isn't much of an thespian. Even the title doesn't make sense. Jolson sings pop tunes
not Jazz. The story concerns his Orthodox Jewish father insisting he be a cantor in a Synagog
rather than perform on stage. Jolson didn't have the acting skill to show the inner turmoil the role
requried to make it dramatic. There is no suspense or narrative momentum.

The movie isn't really a sound film but a silent picture with a few synchronized
tunes when Jolson performs his act. He also improvised a few lines of dialogue
including the famous, "You ain't heard nothing yet" which became the advertising
tag. However, even within a song you'll see people comment on it and they speak
with title cards. Throughout the movie Jolson alternates between title cards and live
dialogue. The combination doesn't work and is disorienting. The following year Warners
began to film 'talkies' where the entire feature had dialogue rather than just isolated scenes
and that's what made the format catch on. In this picture sound is primarily a 'gimmick'.

Of course for sensitive modern audiences, Jolson's black face numbers will be
disturbing especially "Mammy". Minstrel numbers dated back to the Civil War
and they were a vaudeville staple so it's isn't surprising that they would make
an appearance in the new medium. They didn't disappear entirely from cinema
until 1950 and even "Holiday Inn" has a Lincoln number in black face. The last
reference I'm familiar with was in "White Christmas" where they did a minstrel
number without the make up on.

Aside from the black face numbers, the make up in this movie is very theatrical
and exagerated compared to other early talkies. Jolson has such heavy eye
make up on he looks like he has a couple of shiners.

So there you have it. If you're interested in this subject I highly recommend
this box set as a history lesson even though the 'entertainment' value is very

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 12-30-09 at 05:50 AM.
Richard W. Haines is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 10 Old 12-30-09, 07:06 AM Thread Starter
Senior Shackster
Richard W. Haines's Avatar
Richard W. Haines
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Posts: 792
Re: The Jazz Singer Deluxe Edition

Here are some more historical footnotes...

Sound film was probably inevitable but their introduction might have
been delayed for another decade had "The Jazz Singer" been released
two years later when Wall Street crashed. Timing was everything and
Vitaphone came at the tail end of the "Roaring Twenties". As a result,
most theaters had converted to sound before the Depression kicked in.
Otherwise they would not have had the money. And as it turns out,
sound films were enormously successful during the Depression since movies
were still cheap entertainment and even those who were un-employed were
able to scrape up the pocket change to go to a cinema and forget about their
problems for a few hours.

There was collateral damage however...

While there were some epics like "The Ten Commandments" and "Ben Hur",
most silent pictures were relatively inexpensive to make and distribute.
There was a lot of creative freedom during this era and film-makers like
Buster Keaton, Chaplin, Von Stroheim and Griffith were able to operate
with few restrictions. There was no production code, just a vague
'standards of production' which wasn't rigorously enforced.

Sound film technology was astronomically expensive which meant only
the largest film companies could afford it. So many if not most of the
independent producers, directors and stars lost their creative freedom
during the transition. The 'studio system' consolidated it's power as
the larger companies bought up theaters or swollowed up the indies
since they were the only ones with the financial resources to fund
the new sound proof studios and audio recording equipment. Under
the studio system directors and actors were 'hired employees' not
independent contractors creating personal visions. While some directors
were still able to retain some creative input into their work (i.e. Frank Capra),
their final product could still be re-edited and altered by their employer.
Movies like "Lost Horizon" and "King Kong" were cut by the distributor without
any input or approval by the film-makers. The new studio system also faced
the potential of government censorship under FDR which Will Hays was able
to avoid by creating the 1934 Production Code which all movies had to adhere
to. A "Seal of Approval" was necessary to exhibit a movie in most cinemas.
In the silent era theaters could show any movie they wanted.
Fortunately the 1934 Code was incrementally reformed over the years but initially it was quite
strict and a lot of the risque or violent material contained in silent movies disappeared
from features for a while.

Even the 'look' of movies changed. Silent movies used the entire
available frame within the four sprockets which could be enlarged
onto huge movie palace screens. Optical sound prints cropped the
side of the available frame and put black borders on the top and bottom
of the projected image to accomodate the track so about 20 % of
the image area was lost. As a result, films looked a bit grainier on
the largest palace screens with the exception of Vitaphone pictures
which continued to use the entire frame since the audio was on a
separate record. Movies that were released in both Vitaphone and
optical sound had composition problems with the latter since part
of the image was cropped for the sound track and off center.

During the silent era, all opticals (fades, dissolves and superimpositions)
were done inside the camera by cranking it back and double exposing
the image. All special effects were 'first generation' and had the same
visual quality as the rest of the negative. In the case of Buster Keaton
his special effects are still astounding to modern viewers.

'In camera' optical effects were not possible when recording sound takes
since they needed a slate to synchronize the image with the audio. So studios
had to use 'duplicate negative' stock for the special effects which was much
grainier than camera negative footage. It wasn't until
the late thirties that Kodak developed quality duplicate negative stock for
opticals so that early sound films had very poor visual effects compared to
the silent era. The duplicate stock was so bad that they used to make
'short opticals'. Only the actual effect like a fade or dissolve was on the
duplicate stock. After the effect they cut back to camera negative footage
all within the same shot so you saw a visual 'pop' every time a fade or
dissolve appeared on screen. The image would suddenly get very grainy
as they dissolved to another location and then it would just as suddenly
become sharp again.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 12-30-09 at 07:20 AM.
Richard W. Haines is offline  
post #3 of 10 Old 03-02-10, 01:54 PM
andy summers
Join Date: May 2008
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 440
Re: The Jazz Singer Deluxe Edition

It might be interesting buy on DVD from a standpoint in sound history… Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain't heard nothin' yet!
Attached Thumbnails
The Jazz Singer Deluxe Edition-jazz-singer-dvd-delux-collection.jpg  

Last edited by Andysu; 03-02-10 at 02:05 PM.
Andysu is offline  
post #4 of 10 Old 03-03-10, 06:59 AM Thread Starter
Senior Shackster
Richard W. Haines's Avatar
Richard W. Haines
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Posts: 792
Re: The Jazz Singer Deluxe Edition

What you will hear is a lot of hiss and other audio distortions.
Richard W. Haines is offline  
post #5 of 10 Old 03-04-10, 12:08 PM
andy summers
Join Date: May 2008
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 440
Re: The Jazz Singer Deluxe Edition

Richard W. Haines wrote: View Post
What you will hear is a lot of hiss and other audio distortions.
Hey Richard

That is good and should remain intact as sound history lesson as noise reduction was many decades up the road from 1927.

Then again a user can always buy a Dolby A/SR 363. There noise sorted!

Andysu is offline  
post #6 of 10 Old 03-04-10, 05:43 PM Thread Starter
Senior Shackster
Richard W. Haines's Avatar
Richard W. Haines
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Posts: 792
Re: The Jazz Singer Deluxe Edition

Actually Westrex improved optical sound in the early thirties and decreased the signal
to noise ratio. The early 70mm prints like "The Bat Whispers" and "The Big Trail" circa
1930 had oversized optical tracks on the prints and sounded better than the 35mm optical
track versions that were made simultaneously.

There were two types of optical tracks that were available. Variable area (which is still
used and looks like squiggly lines) and Variable density (which looks like shades of gray)
which is no longer used. Variable density was allegedly the better system but it required
very precise processing. If the density track was too dark or too light it would sound distorted.
Variable area tracks had more leeway and would still playback fine even if the labwork was off.
The optical sound readers in all projectors could play either system back then.

I did come across some unsual prints from the thirties that had a split variable density track.
In other words there were two thin variable density tracks contained within the space allowed
for the soundtrack on the print. One of the tracks contained only the dialogue and the other
had the music and effects combined. I guess this was used for foreign territories where they
wanted to dub and replace the dialogue track. The dual tracks were played as a single mono
track in projectors back then. If you play them in a modern projector the sound is split into
too like a Dolby Stereo track but there is a lot of hiss on the separate channels when played
back that way since they had no noise reduction encoding. One of the prints I saw with this
track was a 35mm re-issue Technicolor prints of "Sweethearts".

While they stopped using the density tracks for 35mm, they continued to use them for 16mm
Technicolor prints. Some of the Hitchcock movies like "The Man Who Knew Too Much" had
16mm Technicolor variable density soundtracks. I don't know if the Perspecta encoding was
contained in the sub-format.
Richard W. Haines is offline  
post #7 of 10 Old 03-05-10, 04:27 AM
andy summers
Join Date: May 2008
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 440
Re: The Jazz Singer Deluxe Edition

Hi Richard

Oh, now that is interesting use of the optical track in early 30’.

I also seemed to recall reading that some Vitiphone discs ether ended up badly scratched or worse broken like as in two pieces. As you know as well as I do, there is no optical track to fall back on.

Ironic isn’t, that some 60 years later with digital encoding Universal will try they’re new dts on the public, and in way its kinder like coming around full circle where sound is yet again being synchronized with with disc (only with computer aided technology), with (tiny little codes imprinted on the film that looks like Morse code).

I’ll have to track this down when it arrives on the DVD region 2 shores doubt bluray get release not till late in the year, not that I’d be missing much thou.

I guess Warner had to make foreign versions around the time, or did Vitiphone have select few, cinemas chosen around the time, to exhibit the film.

Still if one was lucky enough to have Dolby363 they could always use that to reduce the hiss in the home. Or an EQ knock down a few frequencies but! You’ll cut off the higher end! douh! lol

Oh, yeah it had limited frequency response back then but, hey at least it was getting sound out to the audience. Guess some of them thought someone was standing behind the screen. LOL
Andysu is offline  
post #8 of 10 Old 03-05-10, 05:10 AM Thread Starter
Senior Shackster
Richard W. Haines's Avatar
Richard W. Haines
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Posts: 792
Re: The Jazz Singer Deluxe Edition

I actually don't know if the Vitaphone format was utilized overseas. I'll have to look
into it. Thanks for brining that up.

There is a "Vitaphone Project" where some archivists are doing a country wide search
for surviving Vitaphone discs to synchronize them with the silent prints or negatives
that still exist. I know they found some unused mint ones in a cabinet at the Loews
Jersey movie palace when they were restoring it.

Other than Warner Brothers, other studios like Universal released movies in both optical
track prints and Vitaphone discs since many cinemas were set up for both formats through
1931. The missing line, "I know what it's like to be God", from Frankenstein (1931) was
found on the Vitaphone disc version of the movie. In the optical track version the line was
obscured by a thunder clap. So it's worth listening to both discs and optical track negatives
if they exist to see if there are differences.

As you know, in the early days of sound they hadn't figured out a way to dub actors or
print sub-titles on the release print so in the case of MGM, they actually shot multiple versions
of the movie in various languages with the actors reading their lines phonetically off of cue
cards. Some of the Spanish and German language versions of the Laurel and Hardy films still
exist and are on DVD. Apparently Spanish speaking audiences thought they were very funny
since Stan Laural mangled their language with his British accent. "The Blue Angel" and "Dracula" exist in both English speaking and foreign languages too. Filming a movie in different languages
added to the production cost of the feature or short.
Richard W. Haines is offline  
post #9 of 10 Old 03-08-10, 04:55 PM
andy summers
Join Date: May 2008
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 440
Re: The Jazz Singer Deluxe Edition

Hi Richard

I’d be surprised if it was used at the Warner West End at Leicester Square, London during its theatrical run. Might have took a while back then to ship the Vitiaphone amplifier and single loudspeaker along with the print and 78RPM discs.
Andysu is offline  
post #10 of 10 Old 02-12-12, 07:30 AM
Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: new york
Posts: 9
Re: The Jazz Singer Deluxe Edition

how to become a famous singer

Millions of people believe they have what it takes to become a famous singer. For you to break through, you will need more than just talent. You will need patience, dedication and perhaps even a little luck. Give yourself a chance by taking the right steps to get ahead.

1. Try out for "American Idol"
This may be the long shot, but others have tried and succeeded, so why not you? Find out when the show is going on the road to audition talent, and arrive plenty early.

2. Try a Talent Agency
Seek out talent agencies or a singing agent, and find out which ones are willing to take a look at new talent. Talent Box provides an online resource with a wide variety of agents seeking musically qualified new artists.

3.Try acting and singing
Try acting and singing in new media formats, such as Youtube. To stand out, you must be creative in these videos. Get friends together to create a web series to showcase your talent

4. make sure you love singing and acting as an art form, and that you are not solely in it for the fame and money.

5. Take voice lessons. Lessons are great for novice singers to learn proper singing practices, as well as for experienced singers who wish to further develop their technique

Learn more tips and guice about how to become a famous singer here
Sstevemichael is offline  


deluxe , edition , jazz , singer

Quick Reply

Register Now



Confirm Password
Email Address
Confirm Email Address
Random Question
Random Question #2

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address



Activation requires you reply to an email we will send you after you register... if you do not reply to this email, you will not be able to view certain areas of the forum or certain images... nor will you be able download software.


See our banned email list here: Banned Email List

We DO NOT respond to spamcop, boxtrapper and spamblocker emails... please add @hometheatershack DOT com to your whitelist prior to registering or you will get nowhere on your registration.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML is not allowed!
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome