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Film Overview - The Jazz Singer (1927)

            The Jazz Singer is the first talking film, which explores the true racial and ethnic identities of a Jewish immigrant named Jackie. Jackie, the protagonist, undergoes a dramatic change in fitting into the American mainstream society. Leaving his family' Jewish faith, Jackie adopts the attitude and culture of the American way of life. He blatantly disregards his father's strict religious rules and ideas and begins his career as a jazz singer. While he wants to be independent of his father's culture, he still deeply craves for his mother's care and love. This paradox demonstrates that he feels torn between his desires and his family ties as he is slowly immersed into American culture and society. The film thus examines the notion of duplicity and ethnicity within Jackie's American identity by showing how Jackie reconciles the conflict between his Jewish heritage and whiteness. .
             The film features stark and strong contrast between the clash between traditional Jewish values and white American mainstream. At the beginning of the film, while Jackie's father, wearing a hat and black robes, sings chants to his God during Jewish religious services solemnly and severely, Jackie performs Jazz songs and dances with joy in a loud and busy public space. This comparison between Jewish religious tradition and popular culture marks the conflict between Jackie and his father. While Jackie shows his ambition as a jazz singer and refuses to become a cantor like his father, Jackie's father condemned him of sacrilege by singing the Jazz songs. This scene clearly delivers the message that the father stubbornly holds to the ancient cultures of his race as much as Jackie desires to assimilate into the American mainstream and escapes from confines within his family and race. The contrast becomes stronger when Jackie came back home and sang a Jazz song to her mother, the film transforms from a silent film to a talking film which synchronizes the scene with the sound.

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