Various cities: Various. An archive of books and personal material belonging to Arline de Haas, noted author of the photoplay edition for the first talking film, “The Jazz Singer” (1927). Included is her leather-bound presentation copy of her novelization of the film, a work that caused a fundamental and multi-level shift in the world’s conception of cinema and dramatic storytelling, as well as a copy of the book INSCRIBED by De Haas to her parents. The archive contains seven photoplay books written by De Haas (two of which are INSCRIBED to her parents), her copy of the Webster's New International Dictionary, paperwork relating to her estate, including the deed to her Pennsylvania estate, and a photograph, presumably of the author and her brother.
The conception of the “The Jazz Singer” began in 1917 with playwright Samson Raphaelson, who saw popular stage performer Al Jolson, a Russian-born Jew, perform in blackface as part of a performance of “Robinson Crusoe” in Illinois. Raphaelson was taken with Jolson’s voice, which he described as having an intensity he had seen before only among synagogue cantors, and wrote a story about that juxtaposition, based on Jolson’s life and called “The Day of Atonement.” He developed the story into a play, the rights to which were purchased by Warner Brothers with the idea of having George Jessel in the lead role. When Jessel’s involvement became problematic, Jolson—who had achieved great popularity as a blackface singer in the meantime—was offered the part.
The life-meets-art aspect of the film’s pre-production was soon trumped by an equally important new concept—the advent of the talking picture. The first two films by Warner Brothers using Vitaphone were released in late 1926, but both only contained sound for musical numbers. With “The Jazz Singer,” Warner Brothers planned to deploy a new kind of presentation, a complex means of introducing synchronized human speech to film audiences that involved 15 reels and 15 sound discs, along with expert manipulation by the projectionist throughout the screening.
Photoplay editions were standard business in 1927, and most major silent film releases were accompanied by a novelization that included photos from the film. These books sold extremely well, as only a small percentage of the American population had access to movie houses. Thus, photoplays acted both as an extension of and advertisement for new films.
As part of the complex and ambitious release campaign for “The Jazz Singer,” Warner Brothers hired Arline De Haas, already an established columnist and photoplay writer, to do the novelization for the film such that the book would be released simultaneously with the film. The ambition of the release had not only to do with its controversial subject matter and it’s new sound format, but also with its conveyance of a new concept to moviegoers: the musical. The film was not only a success, but literally a 3-level paradigm shift in the way the public would experience entertainment.
Included in this archive are seven Grosset & Dunlap photoplay books written by De Haas: "The Jazz Singer" (1927, author's blue leather-bound presentation copy with gilt titles and page edges), "The Jazz Singer" (1927, inscribed to the author's parents) "Noah's Ark" (1928), "Tenderloin" (1928), "Glorious Betsy" (1928), "Say it with Song" (1929), and "East Lynne" (1931, inscribed to the author's parents). Black and white photograph 3.5 x 5.5 inches, tipped on to a backing board and housed in a frame.
All De Haas' books, including her "Webster's New International Dictionary," have her bookplate to the front pastedown: an image of a nude woman riding a winged horse, thumbing her nose at an old woman who looks to be a caricature of Mother Goose. The bookplate reads "honi soit qui mal y pense" ("shame on anyone who thinks ill of it").
"Say it with Songs" accompanied by a Very Good dust jacket lacking all but two inches of the spine panel, and "East Lynne" accompanied by a Very Good dust jacket with an inch and a half chip to the bottom of the spine panel, else all De Haas books Very Good lacking dust jackets. "Webster's New International Dictionary" in poor condition, showing great use. Photograph and paperwork Very Good plus.