DVD review: Jerry Lewis in The Jazz Singer

Recently restored and released to DVD, this television version of the three-times-filmed story of the cantor’s son who rebels and becomes a popular singing star was made for NBC’s ‘Lincoln-Mercury Startime’ series in 1959, and survives both as original black and white kinescope, and restored colour version. Both are presented on this DVD.

Jerry Lewis remains an acquired taste when it comes to musical comedy, and continues to polarise audience opinion. I regard myself as a casual fan; that is, I can watch most of his films, but recognise that sometimes his work can be embarrassing and mawkish. However, this being a largely serious piece, it at least proves that Lewis can act, and in his supporting players (Eduard Franz and Molly Picon as father and mother, Alan Reed as his agent, and Anna Maria Alberghetti as his young lady friend) he is surrounded by professionals who keep the story moving.

In 52 minutes the story is necessarily truncated to a few key scenes, but the message remains the same, and the closing scenes where ‘Joey Robin’ takes his father’s place in the synagogue are no less moving than in the versions featuring Al Jolson, Danny Thomas, or Neil Diamond.

Released by the Inception Media Group on Region 1 DVD.