M1STAH JOLSON AS TOLD TO ALBAN EMLEY By HARRY JOLSON H O U S E - W A R V E N, PUBLISHERS HOLLYWOOD Copyright 1951 By HARRY JOLSON and ALBAN EMLEY All rights in this book are reserved. It may not be used for dramatic, motion-or talking picture, radio, or television purposes without written authorization from the holder of these rights. Nor may the book or any part thereof be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission in writing. For information address HOUSE-WARVEN, Publishers, 5228 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California. SECOND PRINTING, 1952 TO SYLVIA Her gentle encouragement and patient help contributed much toward the preparation and writing of this book. FOREWORD During the first half of the 20th Century, a change took place in the American theatrical world that has no parallel. Historians of the future, who study and recreate this era, will owe much to Harry Jolson. In addition to having been Mistah Jolson, a star on the vaudeville stage, he had the soul of a collector. His files are filled with newspaper clippings, photographs, letters, copies of contracts, advertisements and billings that are a fascinating record of his theatrical career. Harry Jolson has preserved for posterity records that were of little value at the time, but are priceless today. While he was a keeper of records of an incomparable age, he himself played an active and important part in the life that he describes. In this book, not only does he give us the history of a romantic, thrilling era of change, but he leaves to posterity the true story of his brother, Al. This is packed with human inter est, with humor, pathos and drama. It is the story of active, changing America, where two immigrant, Lithuanian-Jewish boys rose by their own efforts to stardom and fame. As Boswell gave to coming generations the story of Samuel Johnson, so Harry Jolson gives us an authentic, unvarnished story of his brother, Al, who was one of the most remark able figures ever to appear in the theatrical world. Ralph Hancock RMl and Cantor Moses Rtultn Joehon, the father of Al and Harry Harry Jolson, 1951 When newspaper headlines screamed of the sudden death of Al Jolson, there were few people in the civilized world who did not feel a tug at the heart strings, as well as a sense of personal loss. A few days later the headlines screamed again. A funeral had been held of a nature that is accorded only to the great. Thousands of sorrowing people remained silently in the streets before a huge temple that was full and overcrowded. It was a fitting tribute to one whose love for people of every race, color and creed overshadowed any regard for himself. In failing health, with one lung cut away, he had paid a final measure of devotion to the boys fighting in Korea. It was an effort that was too great for his failing strength and advancing years. The funeral oration was given by one who was neither rabbi, minister nor priest. He was an actor who had been a friend for many years. What would the father of Al and myself the scholarly, orthodox Rabbi and Cantor Moses Reuben Yoelson have thought about that funeral Perhaps he would have shaken his head and murmured Could it be that I was wrong when I carefully trained the voices of my sons, hoping that they might become cantors Was the theater an evil thing, as I believed Was I mistaken when I accused my son, Harry, of ruining his smaller brother, Al, by inducinghim to run away from home for a career of tinsel I warned them that those who go to theaters are not sincere. They are loafers seekers after pleasure. They applaud and worship the actors one day, only to forget and turn to new idols on the morrow. Millions adored Al Jolson as a fabulous figure in the theatrical world. Many knew and loved him as a generous, loyal, enthusiastic friend. I alone knew him as a baby, a small boy and as a loved brother through the years. He clung to my hand when we came as immigrant boys to a new land...
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