Courtesy of Corbis-Bettmann

Al Jolson 1886-1950

Born in Lithuania Al Jolson launched his career in the 1911 when he starred in his first play, La Belle Paree. By 1920, he was America's highest paid entertainer. As a Jew who often portrayed Southern blacks by performing in blackface, Jolson was able to introduce American black musical styles such as jazz and ragtime to all-white audiences. Numerous well-known singers were influenced by his music, including Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, and Bob Dylan. Jolson starred in several films, most popularly The Jazz Singer (1927), the first full-length talking movie ever made.