The Jazz Singer premiered at Warners' Strand in New York City on October 23, 1927,a date enshrined in film history, with all the dread decisiveness of Waterloo, Sarajevo, and Pearl Harbor. On this date the death knell of the "silent" movie was sounded, and the "talkies" were born. It became a stock scene in movies on Hollywood history (vide Singin' in the Rain) ( 1952): "Warners is trying a new experiment with Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer. It'll never catch on." Then, a few days or a few weeks or a few months later, panic sweeps across the prairies, a panic emblazoned in Variety headlines. Jolson and The Jazz Singer are to the silent mimes in 1927 what Black Tuesday was to be to the financiers of the Jazz Age in 1929.
For most film aestheticians, The Jazz Singer marked the beginning of the end, rather than the end of the beginning. Well into the forties and fifties, serious books and articles on the motion picture continued to maintain that pure cinema was a thing of the past. It had died one night in a theater where people were mesmerized by a Mammy singer. According to the film historians, however, it was not Jolson the singer who shook the medium to its foundations, but Jolson the talker. One would never suspect from all that has been written about The Jazz Singer that this backstage musical was essentially a silent movie with several songs