The 1940s brought two musicals worthy of your attention.
1946 brought us “The Jolson Story”. This is a much sanitised version of the life of Al Jolson. While there are vague events that are true, it is largely a work of fiction with characters and events created for the purpose of the film. Jolson looks good, and even he (for real) remarked about how nice it made him. His only fault is that he is a workaholic. And arrogant.
Larry Parks plays the singer and is quite splendid. Jolson himself sings the songs and there are many favourites to enjoy.
The film was such a hit that a sequel was made very quickly, “Jolson Sings Again”. In a kind of weirdly surreal way, this continues the story up to the creation of the first film. Parks plays Jolson meeting Parks being cast in the first movie. The real Jolson watches.
Sadly, huge chunks of the first movie are included, as padding and because so many of the best tunes had already been included in the first.
But you feel you have to watch it.
Earlier in the decade, Cagney appeared as composer/performer George M Cohan, a name best associated with Broadway in New York. You may not know of Cohan, but you will know some of his tunes, especially “Over There” and “Give My Regards To Broadway”.
Cagney does his rather stiff legged dancing but apparently it was quite similar to Cohan’s. The producers took steps to accurately reproduce many aspects of the original productions too.
For us, the best part is the sound, which won an Oscar, as did Cagney. In fact, it won four Oscars, and while the story is dated and excessively patriotic (in war time), it’s still a great story.