224. The Plainsman [C-]
225. The Jazz Singer [F]
The Plainsman: This is a wildly revisionist western, which mixes and matches characters and history to unintentionally hilarious results. Jean Arthur is entertaining as Calamity Jane, until she's forced to become the emotional woman when the script demands it. Cary Cooper is passable as Wild Bill Hickok, though this version of the character would be quite out of place on Deadwood
. And that doesn't even begin to cover the heroic vision of Custer (charging into battle with the American flag waving high), the American Indians who are a collection of every western cliche in the book (Anthony Quinn passes for one in a scene, speaking absolute gibberish), and a completely tone-deaf prologue with Lincoln just before he goes off to Ford's Theatre ("I've never seen him in better health!" exclaims one of his advisors"). The film is well-shot, at least, and the performances (most of them) are passable, but it never reaches any heights worth noting.
The Jazz Singer: This film has such an overinflated reputation in film history books. Mostly, it's a silent film, complete with mimed dialogue and intertitles. With one exception, all the sound portions are musical numbers (one scene involves a musical number and a little dialogue). Warner Bros. had been showing such musical performances for a year with short films--this just seeks to package them together with a silent movie. The transition between sound and silent segments are awkward, and the complete lack of camera movement leaves the proceedings feeling extra-stilted. And don't get me started on Al Jolson in blackface. It's not just offensive, but it prevents any emotions in the film's climax from registering (Racial tension aside, Jolson just looks silly in the make-up, which isn't what you want when the film is supposed to be reaching its emotional climax).