Saturday, August 31, 2013

Not My Victrola

Here is an old favorite of mine, performed by Al Jolson on the first video, and Marion Harris on the second. I've read a lot about Al Jolson, and he suffered horribly from stage fright in his younger days. Someone advised him to "black up" and he found that the layer of makeup was a shield that protected him from embarrassment in front of an audience. You still see that mechanism in our modern world if you look for it. Preachers need their pulpit, politicians can't talk without a podium; some also need a few more accessories like teleprompters or they are totally lost. Me, I do best when I have a chainsaw to hide behind, even though my audience is only theoretical, behind a camera on a tripod. Anyhow, if you hear someone complaining about blackface makeup on performers 90 to 100 years ago, ask them if they have the guts to perform in a theater, with no microphone, and sing clear to the people in the back row. The burnt cork was a crutch, and a method, more than anything folks want to make of it today.

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