October 23, 1950 – Death of Al Jolson, Lithuanian-American film actor, comedian and singer. At the peak of his career, he was dubbed “The World’s Greatest Entertainer.” His performing style was brash and extroverted, and he popularized a large number of songs that benefited from his “shamelessly sentimental, melodramatic approach.”
Although he is best remembered today as the star of the first sound movie, The Jazz Singer (1927), he later starred in a series of successful musical films throughout the 1930s. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was the first star to entertain troops overseas during World War II.
According to the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, “Jolson was to jazz, blues, and ragtime what Elvis Presley was to rock ‘n’ roll.” Being the first popular singer to make a spectacular event out of singing a song, he became a rock star before the dawn of rock music. His specialty was performing on stage runways extending out into the audience. He would run up and down the runway, and across the stage, “teasing, cajoling, and thrilling the audience”, often stopping to sing to individual members; all the while the “perspiration would be pouring from his face, and the entire audience would get caught up in the ecstasy of his performance”. (above excerpted from Wikipedia)
In 1994, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 29-cent stamp honoring Jolson (Scott No. 2849):