The Jazz Singer (1980)

PG | 115 mins | Drama | 19 December 1980

Writer:

Herbert Baker

Producer:

Jerry Leider

Cinematographer:

Isidore Mankofsky

Editor:

Maury Winetrobe

Production Designer:

Harry Horner

Production Companies:

Republic Pictures , Associated Film Distribution , EMI Films
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HISTORY

The following statement appears in the end credits: “We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the following in the filming of The Jazz Singer - In California: Maarev Temple Assistant Choir, The Klezmorim Band, Nederland Organization of California, Pantages Theatre, Trans American Video, Crystal Sound Recording, Bucks Steak House, Nissan Motor Corporation (Datsun); In New York: Trax Club, Aura Recording Studio.”
       The opening of the film is a montage about the diversity of people on the streets of New York City, focusing on scenes of ethnic communities, signs and shops, set to the music of the Neil Diamond song, “America.” The same song concludes the film with Neil Diamond singing on the concert stage, as the character “Jess Robin.”
       The film is a remake of The Jazz Singer, a 1927 Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. production and its 1953 Warner Bros. remake (see entries). Major changes in the 1980 film include the absence of the young cantor’s mother, the addition of the wife character, “Rivka Rabinovitch,” and the expanded romantic plot with “Molly Bell,” Robin’s manager and lover.
       In production notes at the AMPAS library, as well as in interviews for a 9 Mar 1980 LAT feature and a 20 May 1980 HR article, producer Jerry Leider said that he was inspired to remake the The Jazz Singer after seeing Neil Diamond in a 1976 television special from the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles and was encouraged by the success of another musical remake, A Star in Born (1976, see entry). Additionally, Leider thought that Diamond would have the same crossover appeal ... More Less

The following statement appears in the end credits: “We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the following in the filming of The Jazz Singer - In California: Maarev Temple Assistant Choir, The Klezmorim Band, Nederland Organization of California, Pantages Theatre, Trans American Video, Crystal Sound Recording, Bucks Steak House, Nissan Motor Corporation (Datsun); In New York: Trax Club, Aura Recording Studio.”
       The opening of the film is a montage about the diversity of people on the streets of New York City, focusing on scenes of ethnic communities, signs and shops, set to the music of the Neil Diamond song, “America.” The same song concludes the film with Neil Diamond singing on the concert stage, as the character “Jess Robin.”
       The film is a remake of The Jazz Singer, a 1927 Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. production and its 1953 Warner Bros. remake (see entries). Major changes in the 1980 film include the absence of the young cantor’s mother, the addition of the wife character, “Rivka Rabinovitch,” and the expanded romantic plot with “Molly Bell,” Robin’s manager and lover.
       In production notes at the AMPAS library, as well as in interviews for a 9 Mar 1980 LAT feature and a 20 May 1980 HR article, producer Jerry Leider said that he was inspired to remake the The Jazz Singer after seeing Neil Diamond in a 1976 television special from the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles and was encouraged by the success of another musical remake, A Star in Born (1976, see entry). Additionally, Leider thought that Diamond would have the same crossover appeal as Barbra Streisand and Elvis Presley. It took an entire year to untangle and secure the rights, claimed by both Warner Bros. and United Artists. This second remake of The Jazz Singer went through multiple delays and significant cast, crew and script changes during filming. The project was initially brought to MGM in the fall of 1977, and Leider declared in a 15 Jun 1978 LAT news brief that he expected to start shooting in the fall of 1978. On 11 Sep 1978, DV reported that after “creative differences” with MGM, EMI stepped in and quickly arranged a new deal with Leider to finance the movie and the soundtrack album. Stephen H. Foreman, who is credited with the adaptation, stated in the 9 Mar 1980 LAT article that “MGM executives were somewhat anxious about the movie being ‘too Jewish’ – and the studio finally rejected the project.” A 29 Dec 1978 HR article confirmed that the film would be a major Christmas release for the emerging company, Associated Film Distribution, a domestic distributor for EMI, with a new start date of principal photography in Mar 1979. Yet the project continued to be delayed throughout 1979. A 15 Aug 1979 Var article summarized the development of The Jazz Singer up to that point, reporting that the production was hindered by complicated rights to the property, the pullout of MGM, and by Neil Diamond’s back surgery in early 1979. Furthermore, a clause in Diamond ‘s contract allowed him the benefit of finishing the original music before filming began. With all these issues behind him, Leider said that shooting would begin on 15 Nov 1979 in Los Angeles with Sidney J. Furie as director and the film scheduled for release in Dec 1980. Although he doesn’t elaborate in the article, Leider confirmed that at one time Barry Manilow was considered as a possible replacement, if Diamond was not available. In the 13 Dec 1979 LAHExam and the 4 Jan 1980 HR, Jacqueline Bisset was mentioned as the top contender for the female lead. But, the 7 Jan 1980 LAHExam stated that Bisset’s asking price of $1 million, plus eight percent of the gross, was too high, and Deborah Raffin was cast with a week’s notice, for a salary of approximately $250,000.
       Filming did commence on 7 Jan 1980, as noted in the 16 Jan 1980 LAHExam. But, before she appeared in front of the cameras, Raffin was “written out” and left the production. According to the 17 Jan 1980 DV, the official explanation was that “conceptual changes” in Herbert Baker’s screenplay led Raffin to “relinquish” the lead. The article cited Diamond as the source of the rewriting frenzy. The 9 Mar 1980 LAT explained that Baker tried to “soften” the Molly character with a Southern background to fit Raffin, but when discussions began about her character singing, it was clear to the production and to Raffin that she was not capable of playing the role. Liza Minnelli, Cher and Donna Summer were named in the 17 Jan 1980 DV as possible replacements in an attempt to cast a “Las Vegas-type singer,” but Lucie Arnaz was soon announced as the female lead in the HR and DV on 22 Jan 1980. She was currently starring on Broadway in the Neil Simon musical, They’re Playing Our Song, and the 9 Mar 1980 LAT stated that Arnaz’s hiring required the production to work around her final performances and to move the crew to New York for filming, further inflating the budget. The article also noted that Arnaz was actually Furie’s initial choice for Molly, but he cast Raffin instead after seeing her in the TV movie, Willa. Arnaz is quoted in the article as agreeing that Raffin was “'a bad choice,'” but she herself wasn’t interested in singing for the part either. The Jazz Singer would be the screen debut for both her and Diamond.
       The 9 Jan 1980, 17 Jan 1980 and 24 Jan 1980 DV also detailed how credits for writing were constantly shifting between Baker, Foreman and Arthur Laurents as the script went through daily revisions, even during filming. Jerome Kass was another writer associated with the production, having worked on a treatment when the project was at MGM, according the 9 Mar 1980 LAT.
       In another major production delay, headlines in the 4 Mar 1980 HR and DV revealed that director Sidney Furie was fired on 3 Mar 1980, after a year on the project. Producer Leider’s statement read: “'We could not come to an agreement on certain concepts for the second half of the film and have decided to amicably terminate our relationship on this particular project.'” The production went on hiatus while a new director was found. The 10 Apr 1980 LAHExam reported that the hiatus was for two weeks, although there was speculation in a 7 Mar 1980 HR that the project would be closed down.
       The 9 Mar 1980 LAT feature article, titled Jazz Singer: The Sound and the Furie, tried to make sense of the disputes from the set. Furie complained that the ending of Foreman’s screenplay, as well as the 1927 original, was “too Hollywood,” involving the singer relinquishing his career and returning to his responsibilities as a cantor. After trying to accommodate Furie’s changes, Foreman eventually left the project for another commitment, and Baker replaced him. A source close to Foreman explained it in the article, “'They took the original story and changed it to one about a young man who leaves his family traditions and his wife to seek his fame and fortune and he becomes so rich that he never goes back at all.'” According to Baker, Diamond agreed with Furie and was also in favor of throwing out the Foreman script. Ten days before shooting, Diamond requested that Laurents work on a “polish” of the script, which was, according to associate producer Joel Morwood, “'a terrible mistake.'” Per his wishes, Laurents received no writing credit in the film and when asked about returning to the project after his initial polish, he refused. The article cited Furie’s concept for the ending as one of the “unofficial” reasons for his firing, as well as Furie’s tendency to give Diamond “too much creative control” within a film production process that was unfamiliar to a musician. The article noted Baker’s additional frustration with Furie’s general indecisiveness, resulting in the miscasting of Raffin. The article explained Diamond’s role on the turbulent set as that of a nervous first-time film actor rather than an arrogant star. In contrast, Diamond said in the production notes that he had never taken acting lessons, believing his years on the concert stage had provided an experience of acting for an audience. The LAT article attempted to assess Diamond’s responsibility for the film’s delays. However, mixed opinions from cast and crew made it unclear to what degree Diamond’s meticulous methods and anxieties hindered the development of the screenplay.
       The 26 Mar 1980 DV noted that Richard Fleischer would replace Furie as director, and that ninety percent of the film needed to be reshot. Furie is not credited in the final film. Also indicated, Laurence Oliver, playing “Cantor Rabinovitch,” stayed on for an additional week of filming, adding an extra $100,000 to his original $1 million ten-week contract.
       The film’s budget escalated in news reports over time. In the 11 Sep 1978 DV, it was mentioned as $8 million, but by Mar 1980, it had climbed to $13 million, according to the 9 Mar 1980 LAT. In production notes, Bob Gaudio, the music producer on the film, said the budget for the sound recording was close to $1.5 million.
       Production notes also provided the following details regarding the locations: filming began in Maricopa, Kern County for the scenes where Diamond was soul-searching in the desert, then Los Angeles, followed by locations in New York City, N.Y., including the exterior of the Eldridge Street Synagogue, the Garden Cafeteria on East Broadway and the 20th Police Precinct Station. The production moved back to the West Coast and several Los Angeles-area locations, including the interiors of the Breed Street Synagogue in Boyle Heights, Venice Beach, the Pantages Theatre and soundstages at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios. The Breed Street Synagogue was the setting for Diamond singing “Kol Nidre.” Production notes mentioned that 800 extras were used in the scene, and 2,400 were required for the final concert scene at the Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, which took seven hours to shoot. Additionally, eleven cameras were used for the concert sequence.
       According to the 20 May 1980 HR, the production wrapped on 28 Apr 1980. The same article included an interview with producer Leider who said that enthusiasm at the Cannes Film Festival for the promotional footage was helping to counter the bad press during filming. When excerpts of the film were shown in US cities, a 14 Jul 1980 Box article reported that Leider demanded the prints, containing four complete songs, be escorted by Los Angeles police officers to protect the music from piracy.
       As noted in the 26 Nov 1980 HR, 26 Nov 1980 Var and 19 Dec 1980 LAT, the premieres of The Jazz Singer in New York and Los Angeles were scheduled as benefits. In New York, the screening was at the Ziegfeld Theatre on 14 Dec 1980 and raised money for the Will Rogers Institute, Center for Health Education, Research and Patient Care. The screening in Los Angeles on 17 Dec 1980 at the Plitt Theatre in Century City benefitted the Women’s Guild of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The film opened to the public on 19 Dec 1980 in selected theaters throughout the US, including the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles and the Ziegfeld in New York.
       The Jazz Singer received mostly negative reviews. In the 19 Dec 1980 NYT, Janet Maslin praised Arnaz as “the best thing” in the film. She criticized Diamond for “looking glum and seldom making eye contact with anyone,” and Olivier for once again using a tired “Old World accent.” The 10 Dec 1980 Var also singled out Olivier’s overused accent and Diamond’s unsympathetic performance, but admitted that the soundtrack would outlive the film.
       Neil Diamond wrote ten original songs for the film, released on EMI Capitol, and not through Columbia Records, his regular label, as noted in the 11 Sep 1978 DV and in production notes. According to the Billboard website, three of the songs from the soundtrack, “Love on Rocks,” “Hello Again” and “America,” charted in the top ten of Billboard ’s Hot 100. Prior to the The Jazz Singer, Diamond had scored one other film, Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973, see entry).
       Diamond’s salary for the film, including royalties from the soundtrack album, was reported between $4 and $5 million in the 29 Dec 1978 and 30 Dec 1979 HR.
       Diamond was nominated twice at the 1981 Golden Globes, for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical and for Best Original Song, Motion Picture (“Love on the Rocks”), which he shared with Gilbert Bécaud. Arnaz was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. At the 1981 Razzie Awards, Diamond won for Worst Actor and Olivier tied for Worst Supporting Actor. The film also received nominations in the categories of Worst Picture, Worst Director and Worst ‘Original’ Song for “You, Baby.”
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BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Backstage
19 Dec 1980.
---
Billboard
20 Dec 1980.
---
Box Office
14 Jul 1980
p. 4.
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1978.
---
Daily Variety
5 Jun 1979.
---
Daily Variety
26 Dec 1979.
---
Daily Variety
9 Jan 1980.
---
Daily Variety
17 Jan 1980
p. 1, 42.
Daily Variety
21 Jan 1980.
---
Daily Variety
22 Jan 1980.
---
Daily Variety
24 Jan 1980.
---
Daily Variety
4 Mar 1980.
---
Daily Variety
26 Mar 1980.
---
Daily Variety
31 Mar 1980.
---
Daily Variety
25 Apr 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Nov 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Dec 1978.
p. 1, 22.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 May 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jan 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jan 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jan 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jan 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 1980
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
20 May 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 1980
p. 3.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
13 Dec 1979.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
7 Jan 1980.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
16 Jan 1980.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
19 Jan 1980.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
12 Feb 1980
Section A, p. 2.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
10 Apr 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Jun 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
5 Mar 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 Mar 1980
Calendar, p. 1, 31-32.
Los Angeles Times
18 Dec 1980
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
19 Dec 1980.
---
Moment
Mar/Apr 1981
pp. 19-25.
New York Times
19 Dec 1980
p. 18.
Variety
23 Mar 1979.
---
Variety
13 Jun 1979.
---
Variety
15 Aug 1979
p. 3, 42.
Variety
4 Jan 1980.
---
Variety
30 Jan 1980.
---
Variety
27 Feb 1980.
---
Variety
5 Mar 1980.
---
Variety
26 Nov 1980.
---
Variety
10 Dec 1980
p. 32.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Jerry Leider Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Exec prod mgr
Asst dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Gaffer
Best boy
Best boy
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
Concert lighting consultants
Concert lighting consultants, Imero Fiorentino Ass
Concert lighting consultants, Imero Fiorentino Ass
Concert lighting consultants, Imero Fiorentino Ass
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Supv film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Prop master
Leadman
Leadman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Women`s cost
Men`s cost
Men`s cost
Neil Diamond's ward designed by
MUSIC
Orig song score written and performed by
Selected compositions written by
Selected compositions written by
Selected compositions written by
Selected compositions written by
Selected compositions written by
Mus prod
Incidental mus by
Remote mus rec mixer
Mus mixer
Supv mus ed
Mus contractor
SOUND
Sd supv
Prod mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd des
Sd des
Concert and playback sd by
Concert and playback sd by, Stanal Sound LTD
Concert and playback sd by, Stanal Sound LTD
Remote rec facilities provided by.
Tech asst, Record Plant Scoring Inc., Remote rec f
Asst eng, Record Plant Scoring Inc., Remote rec fa
Asst eng, Record Plant Scoring Inc., Remote rec fa
Asst eng, Record Plant Scoring Inc., Remote rec fa
Asst eng, Record Plant Scoring Inc., Remote rec fa
Asst eng, Record Plant Scoring Inc., Remote rec fa
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Graphic des
Visual eff
Laser spec eff by
Title des
Title des
Logo des
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Neil Diamond's hair by
Lucie Arnaz's hair design by
Hairstylist
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Scr supv
Prod coord
Asst to dir
Asst to prod
Asst to Bob Gaudio
Loc mgr
N.Y. coord
Transportation
Prod controller
Asst prod controller
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Extra casting
Extra casting
Extra casting
Unit pub
Unit pub
Marketing coord
Concert prod supv, The Arch Angel Company
Road mgr, The Arch Angel Company
Road mgr, The Arch Angel Company
Crew chief, The Arch Angel Company
Equip mgr, The Arch Angel Company
Equip mgr, The Arch Angel Company
Asst to Mr. Diamond, The Arch Angel Company
Prod services and equip provided by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Day of Atonement" by Samson Raphaelson in Everybody's Magazine (Jan 1922) and his play The Jazz Singer , as produced by Albert Lewis and Max Gordon, in association with Sam H. Harris (New York, 14 Sep 1925).
SONGS
"You Baby," words and music by Neil Diamond, ©1978 Stonebridge Music
"Jerusalem," "America," "My Name is Yussel" (Theme), words and music by Neil Diamond, ©1980 Stonebridge Music
"Love on the Rocks," "On the Robert E. Lee," "Summerlove," "Hey Louise," "Songs of Life," words and music by Neil Diamond and Gilbert Becaud, ©1980 Stonebridge Music and EMA Suisse
+
SONGS
"You Baby," words and music by Neil Diamond, ©1978 Stonebridge Music
"Jerusalem," "America," "My Name is Yussel" (Theme), words and music by Neil Diamond, ©1980 Stonebridge Music
"Love on the Rocks," "On the Robert E. Lee," "Summerlove," "Hey Louise," "Songs of Life," words and music by Neil Diamond and Gilbert Becaud, ©1980 Stonebridge Music and EMA Suisse
"Hello Again," music by Neil Diamond and Alan Lindgren, words by Neil Diamond, ©1980 Stonebridge Music, orchestra arranged and conducted by Alan Lindgren
"Amazed and Confused," music by Neil Diamond and Richard Bennett, words by Neil Diamond, ©1980 Stonebridge Music
"Acapulco," music by Neil Diamond and Doug Rhone, words by Neil Diamond, ©1980 Stonebridge Music
"Hine Mah Tove," "Havah Nagilah," traditional adaptation by Neil Diamond, adaptation ©1980 Stonebridge Music
"Adon Olom," "Kol Nidre," traditional adaptation by Neil Diamond and Uri Frenkel, adaptation ©1980 Stonebridge Music
"Shabbat Shalom," words-traditional, music by Uri Frenkel, ©1980 Frogking Music
"Hello Again," "America," Songs of Life," "Hey Louise," orchestra arranged and conducted by Alan Lindgren
"Summerlove," orchestra arranged and conducted by Tom Hensley.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 December 1980
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 19 December 1980
Production Date:
7 January--28 April 1980
Copyright Claimant:
EMI FIlms, Inc.
Copyright Date:
25 March 1981
Copyright Number:
PA103242
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Dolby Stereo®
Color
Color by CFI
Lenses/Prints
Prints by Deluxe®
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
115
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25818
SYNOPSIS

At a synagogue on Eldridge Street in New York, assistant cantor Yussel Rabinovitch, also known as Jess Robin, leads the congregation in the hymn “Adon Olom,” alongside his father, the elder Cantor Rabinovitch. Jess rushes through the final verses and tells his father that he is in a hurry to take his wife, Rivka Rabinovitch, to the library before it closes. Instead, Jess sneaks off with his friend, Bubba, who leads him to the Cinderella Club. As a white man, Jess is surprised that he is being taken to an African-American nightclub. Bubba explains that an agent will be there tonight to see their band, The Four Brothers, but they are missing a member, as Teddy was recently arrested. Bubba and the others convince Jess, who actually wrote the songs, to hide his whiteness and become Teddy. Disguised as a black man in a wig and makeup, Jess performs as one of The Four Brothers, singing lead on, “You Baby” to an energetic crowd. But two men in the audience notice the white color of Jess’s hands. They yell out to the crowd that Jess is white and a fight ensues. At the police station, Jess’s father is confused by his son’s behavior, but posts bail for him and the other band members. Back home at their apartment, Jess admits to his father that he has another identity, as the musician Jess Robin. Jess divulges that he has been performing shows to supplement the small pay he receives as a cantor. But Cantor Rabinovitch thinks it terrible and reminds Jess to honor the sacred, Jewish traditions. He ... +


At a synagogue on Eldridge Street in New York, assistant cantor Yussel Rabinovitch, also known as Jess Robin, leads the congregation in the hymn “Adon Olom,” alongside his father, the elder Cantor Rabinovitch. Jess rushes through the final verses and tells his father that he is in a hurry to take his wife, Rivka Rabinovitch, to the library before it closes. Instead, Jess sneaks off with his friend, Bubba, who leads him to the Cinderella Club. As a white man, Jess is surprised that he is being taken to an African-American nightclub. Bubba explains that an agent will be there tonight to see their band, The Four Brothers, but they are missing a member, as Teddy was recently arrested. Bubba and the others convince Jess, who actually wrote the songs, to hide his whiteness and become Teddy. Disguised as a black man in a wig and makeup, Jess performs as one of The Four Brothers, singing lead on, “You Baby” to an energetic crowd. But two men in the audience notice the white color of Jess’s hands. They yell out to the crowd that Jess is white and a fight ensues. At the police station, Jess’s father is confused by his son’s behavior, but posts bail for him and the other band members. Back home at their apartment, Jess admits to his father that he has another identity, as the musician Jess Robin. Jess divulges that he has been performing shows to supplement the small pay he receives as a cantor. But Cantor Rabinovitch thinks it terrible and reminds Jess to honor the sacred, Jewish traditions. He is adamant that Jess, with his gifted voice, is meant to be a cantor, a tradition that goes back five generations. Jess appeases his father, telling him that he understands why he must be an assistant cantor. Sometime later, Bubba tells Jess that the band got a job performing backup vocals in Los Angeles, California and Jess should join them. But Jess is resigned to satisfying his father’s wishes. However, later at home and at the synagogue, Rivka notices that Jess is preoccupied by Bubba’s news and with writing his own music. Bubba telephones Jess to tell him that the rock star, Keith Lennox, wants to record Jess’s song, “Love on the Rocks,” and Jess needs to fly to Los Angeles immediately for two weeks. Even though his wife does not want to join him, preferring a simple, orthodox life in New York, Jess is determined to go. During a party at the synagogue, Jess breaks the news to his father. Upset, the Cantor thinks Jess will never come back, but Jess reassures him that his life is in New York and lifts his father’s mood by singing and dancing to “Havah Nagilah.” In Los Angeles, Molly Bell, a representative for Keith Lennox Productions, meets Jess at the airport. At the recording studio, after hearing Lennox’s loud rock and roll interpretation of “Love on the Rocks,” Jess reminds the record producer, Paul Rossini, and Lennox, that the song is a ballad. To illustrate, Jess performs the song on the piano. Lennox then tells Jess and the backup singers to get out of the studio, but Molly tells Rossini that Jess’s interpretation of the song is the right one. Despite being fired, Jess, Bubba and the other singers have a party at Molly’s house in Venice Beach. Outside, Molly gives Jess a tape of the song he played in the recording studio and tells him that he should not give up on recording his version of ”Love on the Rocks.” She convinces him to stay through the two weeks and to give his music career a try. She also agrees to act as his manager. Later, she pleads with the producer Eddie Gibbs to book Jess as the opening act for the popular comedian Zany Grey, but Gibbs refuses. Discouraged, Jess prepares to return to New York, and then just in time Bubba arranges a job for him at a Venice nightclub, where Jess performs the songs “You Baby” and “Amazed and Confused.” Thanks to Molly’s persistence, Eddie Gibbs attends the show, and afterwards, Jess learns that Gibbs wants him to open for Zany Gray. To celebrate, Jess and Molly go out for pizza, and while at the restaurant, Jess telephones Rivka and his father about this once-in-a-lifetime break. Feeling rejected, Rivka appears uninterested in joining him in Los Angeles or convincing him to return. As the opening act for Zany Gray, Jess wins over hecklers in the audience with the ballad “Summerlove” and then a more upbeat number, “Hey Louise.” While Jess performs, his wife Rivka arrives backstage by surprise, and introduces herself to Molly. Molly reassures Rivka that her relationship with Jess is a professional one, and tries to convince her that, despite Jess’s family customs, it is clear from his presence on stage that he needs to pursue show business. After performing in front of the cheering audience, Jess tells Rivka that this night is just the beginning a new life, but Rivka remains adamant that this is not the life she wants and returns to New York. Jess meets Molly at the marina, where she is preparing for a boat trip, and tells her that his marriage with Rivka is over, which encourages Molly to be more honest about her romantic feelings for him. They begin an affair, and Jess lives with Molly at her beach house while recording his album. One day, Jess’s father arrives from New York, surprising Jess at Molly’s house. His father demands that Jess come home and fulfill his religious duties as a cantor. But Jess tells him that he is committed to his new career and that he and Rivka are getting a divorce. When Molly arrives, the reason for the divorce becomes clear to Cantor Rabinovitch, and he becomes hysterical. He tears his clothes, a symbolic gesture of mourning for Jewish people, and leaves the house. Jess tells Molly that his father now considers his only son to be dead. After his father’s outburst, Jess is distracted and appears unable to focus on his music. While rehearsing the song, “Jerusalem,” at the recording studio prior to a television appearance, he becomes increasingly irritable, losing his temper with the band and with Molly. Unable to listen to reason, he storms out of the studio. During rehearsal, Molly reveals to Bubba that she is pregnant. Meanwhile, Jess drives through the desert until he runs out of gas. He starts walking and later takes a bus to Laredo, Texas where he buys a guitar. He continues to travel aimlessly through Western towns, hitchhiking and changing his appearance with a beard and a cowboy hat. Jess eventually takes a job singing at a country bar, where Bubba tracks him down and brings him a photograph of his son, Charlie Parker Rabinovitch. Jess returns to the Venice beach house where he is reunited with Molly and meets his son. Despite Jess’s previous behavior, Molly is able to persuade Eddie Gibbs to give Jess another chance by performing one song on “Zany Gray’s Autumn Special from New York.” While Jess is rehearsing for the television show, Leo arrives from the synagogue to inform Jess that his father is not well enough to sing for Yom Kippur. He suggests that Jess sing, “Kol Nidre,” to keep the tradition alive within the Rabinovitch family, but Jess doesn’t seem interested in this gesture of reconciliation, even when Molly reminds him that Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. Changing his mind, Jess arrives at the synagogue for the Yom Kippur service and sings “Kol Nidre,” as his father turns around to look. After the service, Jess approaches his father after a year of not speaking and explains that his music has attracted a devoted following, but his father remains unmoved. Then, Jess shows him a photograph of his grandson. As Jess walks away, the Cantor kisses the photograph, calls Jess “my son” and they hug. At a packed concert, Jess performs the song “America.” His father sits next to Molly and proudly applauds. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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