The Jazz Singer is widely believed to be the first sound film, despite clear and overwhelming evidence to the contrary; it was, however, the first film with a synchronized music and vocal track to truly capture the public imagination, ushering in the sound revolution. The story is a fairly trite melodrama concerning a young Jewish man who wishes to sing popular music but who, in so doing, incurs the wrath of his father, a respected cantor. Essentially a silent film with a prerecorded musical score, The Jazz Singer comes briefly to life in those moments when its star, Al Jolson, ad–libs dialogue, most notably in the scene where he sits at an upright piano in the family parlor and talks gently to his mother. The intimacy of their relationship comes through loud and clear, sounding the death knell of the silent film. Even though the following year, 1928, would be considered by many to be one of the golden years of silent cinema, by 1929 Hollywood had converted almost exclusively to talkies.
Publication excerpt from In Still Moving: The Film and Media Collections of the Museum of Modern Art by Steven Higgins, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2006, p. 123.