A letter to the editor of “Entertainment Weekly” following the “Jazz Singer” review

In a time when a good deal of popular music has been pared down to a redundant percussive beat, with lyrics that glorify the degradation of women, sex, and race, it seems outlandish to me that your magazines’ review of the 1927 version of “The Jazz Singer” was so ridiculously self righteous. Yes, I agree that the film is a relic, with only its being the first mainstream sound film to capture the general public’s imagination to keep it alive in the public eye (other than a chance to see the dynamic Jolson strut his stuff), but to decry it’s value because of Jolson’s penchant for wearing “blackface” is along the same lines as banishing from libraries the books of Mark Twain. Why not obliterate everything from our modern day consciousness that might be considered unpleasant?

I’m sick and tired of the PC police deciding what is suitable for open minded Americans. Your reviewer is certainly entitled to his opinion, but if he did his homework he would know that blacking up, as it was known, was an accepted costume in the American theatre. I could supply a list of famous actors and actresses who’ve indulged in this curious, yet traditional practice. It wasn’t done out of hatred or intolerance, but rather out of the ignorance that comes with tradition. I don’t cringe or turn my head away when I see a dated reference in any form of art, I embrace it as a moment in time, and of it’s time. To deny that is the worst form of censorship, and a terrible form of ignorance.

I’m an Italian American, so should I turn away from Marx Brothers films because Chico Marx (a non-Italian) is dressed as an Italian immigrant who speaks with a fake Italian accent? How about white washing the characters of Shylock, or Fagin due to their Jewishness? No, that would be a far worse crime than a great entertainer putting burnt cork on his face. That would be denying the gifts left to us by our cultural predecessors.

Let’s embrace our history. Let’s embrace the good and the unpleasant, the wise and the ignorant. It’s our only hope for advancement.

Nick Santa Maria