Friday, June 4, 2010

Worth 1,000 Words: WILLIAM DEMAREST & ‘THE JOLSON STORY’


By Steve Crum
STEVE MARTIN (WILLIAM DEMAREST) toasts Cantor (Ludwig Donath) and Mrs. Yoelson (Tamara Shayne) at their anniversary party in this scene from THE JOLSON STORY (1946). Raising their glasses are, from left, Tom Baron (Bill Goodwin), Julie Benson aka Mrs. Al Jolson (Evelyn Keyes), and, to Demarest’s left, Al Jolson aka Asa Yoelson (Larry Parks). Moments later, Jolson would sing The Anniversary Song, specifically written for The Jolson Story. This original Columbia Pictures still is particularly revered by yours truly since it is signed by Demarest. [from Steve Crum’s showbiz memorabilia collection]
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WILLIAM DEMAREST (Feb. 27, 1892-Dec. 28, 1983) was Oscar nominated as Best Supporting Actor for his Steve Martin portrayal in The Jolson Story, an important film among his 140+ movie roles beginning in 1926. Early scenes in The Jolson Story hearken back to Demarest’s pre-movie, vaudeville and Broadway days. He even gets to play a cello, which was part of his original act. It is ironic that one of Demarest’s early films, The Jazz Singer, starred Al Jolson. Nearly 20 years later, he played Jolson’s manager in The Jolson Story and its sequel, Jolson Sings Again (1949).
Demarest is also associated with his fine work in 10 Preston Sturges films (The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek and Hail the Conquering Hero among them), and his most popular role as Uncle Charley in TV’s My Three Sons, 1965-72. The gruff and lovable actor is also memorable in a couple of my favorite movies, Along Came Jones and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
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Jolson (synched by Parks) sings The Anniversary Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=md4_ywlw2aI

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