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Big Boy 1930
Description: Gus, the trusty family retainer, has hopes of riding his boss' horse, Large Boy, to win at the Kentucky Derby.
Released: 11 Sep 1930 Director: Alan Crosland Writers: Harold Atteridge (based on a musical comedy by), Billy K. Wells (screen play & dialogue by), Rex Taylor (screen play & dialogue by) Actors: Al Jolson, Claudia Dell, Louise Closser Hale, Lloyd Hughes Genres: Comedy, Musical
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Big Boy Similar Movies

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Big Boy Reviews:

Actually the film is far from politically correct. But it was made in 1930! Jolson is at his funniest. Sure, he's in blackface for almost all of the film, but this movie serves as an historical recording of one of Jolson's largest Broadway successes. Many folks lump Cantor and Jolson together as related kind performers because both did blackface routines. But where Cantor played the afraid tiny boy (and played it very seriously, making it all even funnier), Jolson played the aggressive braggart. Jolson's Gus is a wise cracking schemer. His Gus is no Uncle Tom! Jolson is often the butt of the joke and this is a nice thing. It softens his aggressiveness and makes him more human. I am only glad that with his heavy ego, Jolson allowed himself to be the butt of jokes. The final punch line of the movie is side splitting and is a unbelievable inside joke. We need to look at these movies with a 1930s mentality. We have advanced greatly in the zone of tolerance, but we could not condemn performers like Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor who were only appealing to the famous tastes of their time.


If faithful Gus can only support the racehorse BIG BOY to victory the Kentucky Derby the white people who employ him will be saved from financial ruin.Strange, offbeat, bizarre, unique. All of these terms can describe this movie which details legendary entertainer Al Jolson in blackface, testing a black man. While acted with tongue very firmly planted in cheek, and meant solely for lighthearted entertainment, this film will definitely not be to each viewer's taste. Not until the final mins does Jolson appear as himself, joking with the audience and reprising the film's dullest song yet once again.The film obviously has its roots in the minstrel tradition in which a group of musical white boys would perform, made-up as blacks. Also, Jolson's own career involved extensive test of blackface routines and he had become quite celebrated for them. For their time, these were all considered quite normal and not offensive (to white audiences). It could also be noted that racial meandering was engaged in routinely in movies for decades, with few top white stars (Helen Hayes, Paul Muni, Kate Hepburn, Ramon Novarro, Edward G. Robinson) testing Asian roles, although these were usually done for a serious, and not a comedic, purpose.Once past the initial oddity, it gotta be told that Jolson is certainly fun to watch and is obviously having a nice time. Singing constantly (none of his large hits, but he does well with a couple of old Spirituals), wisecracking and ad-libbing shamelessly, he is impossible to ignore. In his heyday, he was one of the most famous performers in the globe and it's simple to see why.Although Jolson dominates the film, there are a couple of another performers worth noting. Unbelievable old hero actress Louise Closser Hale, everytime a joy to watch, plays the plantation matriarch. In a lengthy & superfluous flashback scene, beefy Noah Beery appears as a bullying braggadocio who harasses Jolson.It probably goes without telling that there is a fair amount of racism woven into the plot.


BIG BOY (Warner Brothers, 1930), directed by Alan Crosland, is a curious item produced during the early days of sound films. Starring the legendary entertainer of Al Jolson, making his fifth screen appearance, it did offer him the rare occasion to not only reprise one of his many scene roles from a Broadway days, but to display a kind of hero made popular by his contemporary, Eddie Cantor, that of a wisecracking wiseacre who occasionally bursts into song. While Jolson is noted for performing in song numbers in black face, a tradition he would enact in many of his screen musicals of the day, this is the only time he would enjoy a central hero entirely in black-face. In spite of these taboos, Jolson performs his hero in the most relaxed manner, giving the film a various feel from his previous sentimental dramatic efforts that began with his historic "first talkie," THE JAZZ SINGER (1927). One would wonder how his performance would have played had he not performed in black-face. But in his day, Jolson in black-face is more a tradition with him as a clown's makeup and red nose in a circus. And at times, Jolson performs his hero here in a circus-like performance rather than his previous efforts with sentiment and tears. While the title, BIG BOY, pertains to a race horse bearing that name, this is Jolson's film from begin to finish, making not only the game hero secondary, but the helping users (with the exception of fine hero actress Louise Closser Hale) just merely background decorations to Jolson's singing and clowning.After a brief opening consisting of title, cast and credits,with horses seen beyond the lettering racing to win towards the finish line, the storyline (which indicates to its viewers that this is a horse racing story), starts at Bedford Stables where Gus (Al Jolson), is singing to a group of black kids followed by him singing a sentimental ballad to a pony called Large Boy. Two years pass by and Gus is still seen caring and singing to Large Boy, actually a full grown horse. Hoping to recoup the family fortune, the Bedford family state their hopes on Large Man to be trained for the Kentucky Derby by Gus. Shortly before the large race, Jack (Lloyd Hughes) and Annabel (Claudia Dell) return home from school in the east, with Jack accompanied by Coley Reed (Eddie Phillips), Doctor Wilbur (Lew Harvey) and Steve Leslie (Colin Campbell), an English jockey. Reed persuades Jack to urge his grandmother (Louise Closser Hale) to entrust the race to Steve, and succeed in having Gus fired so that the terrible guys can "throw the race." But while Gus succeeds in obtaining employment as an eccentric singing waiter, he eventually learns of the scheme and outsmarts the crooks.Unlike some another Jolson musicals, BIG BOY has some listenable tunes, but none to have appeared to become standards. In the existing film, the songs, written by Sammy Stept, Bud Green, among others, mostly sung by Jolson, that are featured include: "Liza Lee," "My Tiny Sunshine," "Dixie's Land," "All God's Kids Got Shoes" (Negro spirituals, including the traditional "Let My Folks Go"); "Tomorrow is Other Day," "Tomorrow is Other Day" (reprise), "Hooray for Baby and Me" and "Tomorrow is Other Day" (reprise and finale).BIG BOY has its moments of comedic fun, as well as scenes that don't perform well for contemporary audiences, such as the flashback sequence set in 1870 which features of how Gus's grandfather (Jolson) had rescued Annabel's grandmother (a role performed by Louise Closser Hale in modern setting and by Claudia Dell in flashback) from being kidnapped by the villainous John Bagley (Noah Beery). The storyline is then highlighted by a lengthy nightclub sequence where Gus, working as a waiter, gets his last words to some mad customers, (one of them played by hero actor Eddie Kane), along with comedic singing by Jolson to the tune, "Hooray For Baby and Me." BIG BOY also contains some "in jokes" pertaining to one of Jolson's hit tunes to "Sonny Boy" which he introduced in his second film, THE SINGING FOOL (1928). He sings it briefly once from under the table following a rumble set in the restaurant. In the film's final moments where Jolson steps out of hero and black-face, surrounded by the cast in the play, to wrap it up with a Jolson song to the audience on screen. Jolson takes song requests, which is shouted out by many at one time. When one member of the audience asks him to sing "Sonny Boy," everyone suddenly gathers up from their seat to begin walking out before Jolson puts a stop to that by singing the movie's theme song for the third and final time, "Tomorrow is Other Day," a phrase made more popular in the closing line to Margaret Mitchell's novel and David O. Selznick's epic motion picture to GONE WITH THE WIND (1939).BIG BOY not only reunites Jolson with his JAZZ SINGER director, Alan Crosland, it marks his shortest screen detail (67 minutes) and a rarity in becoming his second released movie in a single year. It also marked an end to Jolson's first cycle in motion pictures (1927-1930). While BIG BOY reportedly didn't do well at the box office in 1930, it does, however, remains an interesting antique that occasionally comes out of mothballs when shown on cable television's Turner Classic Movies. On a final note, this, and the another movies of Al Jolson made at Warner Brothers (1927-1936), were at one time accessible on laser disc back in the late 1980s. While BIG BOY never got distributed to home video, it did become accessible on DVD through the TCM Archives collection in 2010.(**)



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