(1946)4Craig ButlerThe Jolson Story is one of the most entertaining Hollywood biopics about an entertainer -- but why is it? Like almost every other biopic of the period (and, for that matter, of almost any period), Jolson plays fast and loose with the facts. Also like many other entertainer bios, the story itself is far from fresh. The dialogue and character development is a notch above average, but neither is as outstanding as should be deserved by a film of this reputation. What Jolson does have that accounts for its magic is a landmark lead performance, the actual, unmistakable voice of the real Jolson and an abundance of the songs that this legendary entertainer made famous. Larry Parks is right on the money as Jolson; it's a great impression, with all of the mannerisms and brashness captured perfectly, but it's also a beautifully nuanced piece of acting. As Jolson, Parks displays a power and a charisma that was never in evidence to the same degree in any of his other portrayals. Yes, he's lip syncing to the real thing when singing rather than using his own voice, but it doesn't matter; he becomes Jolson in a way that is frighteningly accurate. Jolson's singing also adds immeasurably to the film. His voice is as pugnacious, determined, excited, enthralling and demanding as he himself is. And the songs are a time capsule in themselves. Some of them are great, some are hokey, but they all grab the listener and hold onto him in a strange way. Jolson manages to overcome its flaws and to emerge as one of the finest biopics ever.