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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: Contrary to modern standards, the crowd loved entertainer Al Jolson’s latest show

 (S-R archives)
(S-R archives)

The reviews were in for Al Jolson’s “Sinbad” at the Auditorium Theater – and they were rapturous.

Jolson kept a capacity crowd “in gales of laughter” with his antics, The Spokesman-Review wrote.

“He yodels a bit and whistles and dances like a wild man,” the reviewer said.

The Spokane Daily Chronicle said the audience gave Jolson “an ovation seldom accorded a stage favorite in Spokane.”

“He is a world-beater in turning a serious story into a side-splitting laugh,” the Chronicle wrote.

Modern audiences might not be as amused. Jolson performed most of the show in blackface, although he sang “his last song in whiteface.”

Besides being the country’s most popular entertainer, he also seemed to be one of the hardest-working men in show biz. He surprised people by appearing in the box office before the show, and he made “a half-dozen improvised curtain speeches” at the end. He was also credited as co-composer of the show’s songs.

Jolson’s appearances in Spokane may well have influenced the direction of popular music in unexpected ways.

A young Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby saw Jolson several times at the Auditorium Theater. Crosby once worked briefly as a prop man at the Auditorium. He would later credit Jolson as one of his role models.

Also on this date

From the Associated Press

1944: During World War II, Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, on “D-Day” as they began the liberation of German-occupied Western Europe.

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