The Amazing Colossal Jolson


Terror has a new face!


16 Responses to “The Amazing Colossal Jolson”

  1. Great voice + terrifying rictus = happiness!

  2. “Terror has a new face!”… Blackface!

  3. Christopher Says:

    Black Like Me-The Musical…..lovely sailing off to the Moon visual! ;o)

  4. Recently saw a touching piece of film showing a black vaudeville comedian described by WC Fields as the greatest comedian he ever saw — and this man was compelled to perform IN BLACKFACE, despite being black himself.

    And then there was the news cutting, treasured by my friend Mr McLaren, detailing an amateur British entertainer who chose to be buried in blackface… “He died as he lived.. certifiably insane.”

  5. Was that comedian Bert Williams? I read he was light-skinned, but obliged to play in blackface:

  6. That’s the fellow. But the blackface was real blackface, not just a darkening of his complexion — it was to put him in the category of “blackface comic” and possibly to shield audiences from realizing that he was non-white. It’s the full black face and white lips clown makeup.

    Alas, the clip wasn’t long enough or detailed enough to let us see if the guy was a genius or not, but I’d be inclined to trust Fields, who certainly wasn’t talking out of liberal guilt (as anyone who’s seen Mississippi can attest).

  7. Blackface was standard ops for black minstrel performers. Good reading: Mel Watkins, “On the Real Side: A History of African-American Comedy.” To a large extent it’s really a history of American popular culture. The chapters on minstrelsy are haunting. There’s also a good novel on the subject, “Darktown Strutters.”

  8. That sounds great — I think I read a review of it. Of course, in the UK during my childhood we had The Black and White Minstrel Show on BBC1, prime-time, until nineteen seventy fucking eight.

  9. I won’t say much for the staging of the number in GO INTO YOUR DANCED, but I do love the *song* “A Quarter to Nine.” That’s Harry Warren (music) and Al Dubin (words).

    It was hauled into the stage version of FORTY-SECOND STREET, and the Bebe Daniels character — at this point played by Tammy Grimes — has an affecting scene singing it.

  10. Christopher Says:

    LOL!!!..I remember the Black and White Minstrel Show all the way back when we lived in Perth Australia btw 1964-66…and Golliwogs!

  11. I got a nasty shock a year or two ago when I passed through the sleepy village of Inverary (think Wicker Man) and found a golliwog (the capital G is optional) in a shop. “They’re coming back???” I thought, then, “No — in Inverary they never went away!”

    I composed a poem in his honour —

    O golliwog of Inverary,
    Upon a shelf, alone and scary,
    What immortal hand or eye,
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

    I remember some kids’ puppet show that had a golliwog character, and then suddenly one week he wasn’t there. Ethnically cleansed. I was kind of upset, since he was a favourite character, and I hadn’t really thought of him as representing any racial group.

    In fact, to show my naivety — Song of the South (which still airs happily on UK TV with no concerns expressed about its historicity or assumptions) impressed me no end, but I did not experience Uncle Remus as black. I was actually colour-blind as a tot. That does make me actually believe in the value of innocence.

    Oh, and I like that song too, Chris. Jolson does a great job with it. The staging is a little inelegant, but sweet, and doesn’t rely to heavily on Ruby Keeler’s “dancing”.

  12. “O golliwog of Inverary…” since the Blake homage reminds me of Alan Moore: have you read his recent “Black Dossier”? There’s a big Golliwog making a sizable cameo

  13. Christopher Says:

    GOLLIWOG! love that name..Gollus Wogus…maximus…yeah..the Golliwog was the number 1 costume for Fancy Dress Balls back then..I’ve never been aware of the “golliwog” here in the US..but many things were cleaned out up by the time I moved back here from overseas in ’70

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