Oct 06 2010

On This Day in History: October 6

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

October 6 is the 279th day of the year (280th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 86 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1927. The Jazz Singer makes its debut in New York City.

The first feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue sequences, its release heralded the commercial ascendance of the “talkies” and the decline of the silent film era. Produced by Warner Bros. with its Vitaphone sound-on-disc system, the movie stars Al Jolson, who performs six songs. Directed by Alan Crosland, it is based on a play by Samson Raphaelson.

The story begins with young Jakie Rabinowitz defying the traditions of his devout Jewish family by singing popular tunes in a beer hall. Punished by his father, a cantor, Jakie runs away from home. Some years later, now calling himself Jack Robin, he has become a talented jazz singer. He attempts to build a career as an entertainer, but his professional ambitions ultimately come into conflict with the demands of his home and heritage.

The premiere was set for October 6, 1927, at Warner Bros.’ flagship theater in New York City. The choice of date was pure show business-the following day was Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday around which much of the movie’s plot revolves.  The buildup to the premiere was tense. Besides Warner Bros.’ precarious financial position, the physical presentation of the film itself was remarkably complex:


Each of Jolson’s musical numbers was mounted on a separate reel with a separate accompanying sound disc. Even though the film was only eighty-nine minutes long…there were fifteen reels and fifteen discs to manage, and the projectionist had to be able to thread the film and cue up the Vitaphone records very quickly. The least stumble, hesitation, or human error would result in public and financial humiliation for the company.

None of the Warner brothers were able to attend: Sam Warner-among them, the strongest advocate for Vitaphone-had died the previous day of pneumonia, and the surviving brothers had returned to California for his funeral.

According to Doris Warner, who was in attendance, about halfway through the film she began to feel that something exceptional was taking place. Jolson’s “Wait a minute” line had prompted a loud, positive response from the audience. Applause followed each of his songs. Excitement built, and when Jolson and Eugenie Besserer began their dialogue scene, “the audience became hysterical.”  After the show, the audience turned into a “milling, battling, mob”, in one journalist’s description, chanting “Jolson, Jolson, Jolson!” Among those who reviewed the film, the critic who foresaw most clearly what it presaged for the future of cinema was Life magazine’s Robert Sherwood. He described the spoken dialogue scene between Jolson and Besserer as “fraught with tremendous significance…. I for one suddenly realized that the end of the silent drama is in sight”.

Critical reaction was generally, though far from universally, positive. New York Times critic Mordaunt Hall, reviewing the film’s premiere, declared that


not since the first presentation of Vitaphone features, more than a year ago [i.e., Don Juan], has anything like the ovation been heard in a motion-picture theatre…. The Vitaphoned songs and some dialogue have been introduced most adroitly. This in itself is an ambitious move, for in the expression of song the Vitaphone vitalizes the production enormously. The dialogue is not so effective, for it does not always catch the nuances of speech or inflections of the voice so that one is not aware of the mechanical features.

Variety called it “[u]ndoubtedly the best thing Vitaphone has ever put on the screen…[with] abundant power and appeal.” Richard Watts, Jr. of the New York Herald Tribune called it a “a pleasantly sentimental orgy dealing with a struggle between religion and art…. [T]his is not essentially a motion picture, but rather a chance to capture for comparative immortality the sight and sound of a great performer.” The Exhibitors Herald’s take was virtually identical: “scarcely a motion picture. It should be more properly labeled an enlarged Vitaphone record of Al Jolson in half a dozen songs.” The film received favorable reviews in both the Jewish press and in African American newspapers such as the Baltimore Afro-American, the New York Amsterdam News, and the Pittsburgh Courier. The headline of the Los Angeles Times review told a somewhat different story: “‘Jazz Singer’ Scores a Hit-Vitaphone and Al Jolson Responsible, Picture Itself Second Rate.” Photoplay dismissed Jolson as “no movie actor. Without his Broadway reputation he wouldn’t rate as a minor player.”

 105 BC – Battle of Arausio: The Cimbri inflict the heaviest defeat on the Roman army of Gnaeus Mallius Maximus.

69 BC – Battle of Tigranocerta: Forces of the Roman Republic defeat the army of the Kingdom of Armenia led by King Tigranes the Great.

68 BC – Battle of Artaxata: Lucullus averts the bad omen of this day by defeating Tigranes the Great of Armenia.

1582 – Because of the implementation of the Gregorian calendar, this day is skipped in Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

1600 – Jacopo Peri’s Euridice, the earliest surviving opera, receives its premiere performance in Florence, signifying the beginning of the Baroque Period

1683 – William Penn brings 13 German immigrant families to the colony of Pennsylvania, marking the first immigration of German people to America.

1762 – Seven Years’ War: conclusion of the Battle of Manila between Britain and Spain, which resulted in the British occupation of Manila for the rest of the war.

1789 – French Revolution: Louis XVI returns to Paris from Versailles after being confronted by the Parisian women on 5 October

1849 – The execution of the 13 Martyrs of Arad after the Hungarian war of independence.

1854 – The Great fire of Newcastle and Gateshead starts shortly after midnight, leading to 53 deaths and hundreds injured.

1884 – The Naval War College of the United States Navy is founded in Newport, Rhode Island.

1889 – Thomas Edison shows his first motion picture.

1903 – The High Court of Australia sits for the first time.

1906 – The Majlis of Iran convene for the first time.

1908 – Austria annexes Bosnia and Herzegovina.

1923 – The great powers of World War I withdraw from Istanbul

1927 – Opening of The Jazz Singer, the first prominent talking movie.

1928 – Chiang Kai-Shek becomes Chairman of the Republic of China.

1939 – World War II: The last Polish army is defeated.

1945 – Baseball: Billy Sianis and his pet billy goat are ejected from Wrigley Field during Game 4 of the 1945 World Series (see Curse of the Billy Goat).

1973 – Egypt launches a coordinated attack against Israel to reclaim land lost in the Six Day War. The Ramadan War Yom Kippur War starts at 2:05 pm that day.

1976 – Cubana Flight 455 crashes into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after taking off from Bridgetown, Barbados after two bombs, placed on board by terrorists with connections to the CIA, exploded. All 73 people on-board are killed.

1976 – New Premier Hua Guofeng orders the arrest of the Gang of Four and associates and ends the Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic of China.

1976 – Massacre of students gathering at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand to protest the return of ex-dictator Thanom, by a coalition of right-wing paramilitary and government forces, triggering the return of the military to government.

1977 – In Alicante, Spain, fascists attack a group of MCPV militants and sympathizers, and one MCPV sympathizer is killed.

   * 1977 – The first prototype of the MiG-29, designated 9-01, makes its maiden flight.

1979 – Pope John Paul II becomes the first pontiff to visit the White House.

1981 – President of Egypt, Anwar al-Sadat is assassinated.

1985 – PC Keith Blakelock is murdered as riots erupt in the Broadwater Farm suburb of London.

1987 – Fiji becomes a republic.

1995 – 51 Pegasi is discovered to be the first major star apart from the Sun to have a planet (and extrasolar planet) orbiting around it.

2000 – Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic resigns.

2000 – Argentine vice president Carlos Alvarez resigns.

2002 – The French oil tanker Limburg is bombed off Yemen.

2007 – Jason Lewis completes the first human-powered circumnavigation of the globe.

1 comment

  1. TMC

    Dalai Lama

    The quality or purity of any spiritual practice is determined by the individual’s intention and motivation.

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