(director: Henry Levin; screenwriter: Sidney Buchman; cinematographer: William Snyder; editor: William Lyon; music: George Duning; cast: Larry Parks (Al Jolson), Barbara Hale (Ellen Clark), William Demarest (Steve Martin), Ludwig Donath (Cantor Yoelson), Bill Goodwin (Tom Baron), Myron McCormick (Col. Ralph Bryant), Tamara Shayne (Mama Yoelson), Eric Wilton (Henry), Robert Emmett Keane (Charlie); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sidney Buchman; Columbia Pictures; 1949)

“Without Jolson’s voice on the soundtrack this film wouldn’t have worked.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s the Technicolor musical sequel to Alfred E. Green’s popular 1946 The Jolson Story that completes Jolson’s biopic. This time around it’s directed by Henry Levin (“Murderers’ Row”/”Genghis Khan”/”The Farmer Takes a Wife”), following the same formulaic track as the original, and with almost the same cast and Larry Parks once again playing Jolson. The song highlights, with Jolson’s voice dubbed over the actor Parks, include “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby,” “Is It True What They Say About Dixie?,” “After You’ve Gone”, “I Only Have Eyes For You,” “You Made Me Love You”, “For Me and My Gal,” “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy”, “Sonny Boy”, “Toot Toot Tootsie,” “Baby Face,” “Carolina in the Morning,” “About a Quarter to Nine”, “April Showers”, “Back In Your Own Backyard,” “Chinatown, My Chinatown,” “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover,” “Give My Regards to Broadway,” “Pretty Baby,” “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin’ Along” and, his signature song, “Mammy.”

The pic takes up where the first picture ended. It tells how Jolson retired from showbiz because of his wife Julie Benson, but she divorces him when she sees he misses performing and craves the applause of the crowd. Playwright friend Tom Baron has him star in his Broadway production of “You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet.” Despondent, Jolson quits the hit show and for six years leisurely travels the world, buys racehorses and prizefighters, and dates beautiful women. When his lovely mom (Tamara Shayne) becomes ill with pneumonia and dies, his cantor father (Ludwig Donath) disapproves of his aimless life– especially with a war against the Nazis taking place. Following the lead of his loyal manager Steve Martin (William Demarest), to work for the service in their entertainment department, Jolson signs up to entertain the troops. In Alaska, he meets Col. Ralph Bryant, a movie producer in civilian life, who ensures the tour is a success for the old-timer who was worried the young soldiers wouldn’t know him. On the tour Jolson collapses with a fever and is hospitalized in Sicily, where he’s nursed by attractive down-to-earth Arkansas nurse Ellen Clark (Barbara Hale, before her Perry Mason days). Her character is based on Jolson’s fourth wife, Erle Galbraith, an X-ray technician. Jolson is slow to fully recover, but takes time to work the hospital circuit. In an Arkansas hospital, he runs into the much younger Ellen again and a romance blooms. They are married in California after he collapses upon returning to the stage. Sensing hubby needs to be on the stage again, she asks Steve to get him a gig despite her hubby’s loss of a lung. But Steve finds that no one on Broadway wants to hire him. Jolson is talked into singing at a Community Chest benefit, where he’s last on the card. In the audience is Bryant, his old friend from the service, who is again working as a Hollywood producer. He digs Jolson and comes up with the idea of a film biopic of Jolson’s life, with Parks playing him but Jolson’s voiced dubbed for the actor. The film is a great success, Al’s records are again popular, and he is given a radio program. This has Jolson and wife beaming with joy.

The story is no great shakes, it lags in parts, but the music is Jolson at his best. Without Jolson’s voice on the soundtrack this film wouldn’t have worked.

REVIEWED ON 12/13/2007 GRADE: B-