Tuesday, December 29, 2015

FLAp Podcast ep. 2: BOULEVARD


I discuss further aspects of ROBIN WILLIAMS' last dramatic film BOULEVARD together with co-host Jens. This episode led to inspiring discussions behind-the-scenes with many different people including DOUGLAS SOESBE, the writer of Boulevard. Stay tuned for another interesting episode.

Monday, December 28, 2015

FLAp Podcast ep. 1: ROBIN WILLIAMS


I created FLAp Podcast, a film, literature and art podcast, in September of 2015. We will publish discussions on various topics of these fields as video podcast episodes and invite all of you to be part of it. Is there anything you are interested in, anything you would like to talk about with someone? Then get in touch with us. The only "rule" is that the topic must fit in the categories of film, literature or art.

In October 2015 we published our first FLAp Podcast episode. I discussed ROBIN WILLIAMS' performance in his last dramatic film BOULEVARD, as well as the performance of the rest of the main cast; I also focused on the story and the cinematography. Enjoy the review and the film clips. Make sure to also check out the second FLAp Podcast episode, in which co-host Jens and I take a look at further aspects of the movie.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


We have been working on a JOLSON DOCUMENTARY for pretty much a decade now. Do you know who AL JOLSON was?

AL JOLSON (born 1886 as Asa Yoelson in Seredzius, Lithuania), was one of the most successful entertainers in the first half of the twentieth century. Today, he is mainly known for his role in the first talking picture THE JAZZ SINGER, produced by Warner Bros. in 1927. Before that film was made, Jolson had already "owned" Broadway for more than two decades. His song SONNY BOY, the theme song of the talkie THE SINGING FOOL (1928), could very well be the first song of a movie to sell over a million copies.

Jolson remained a world icon until he passed away in 1950, shortly before the invention of TV. For his contributions to American soldiers during WWII and the Korean War, a trip that eventually cost him his life, George Marshall, Secretary of State, awarded him with the Medal of Merit, the greatest American award for civilians. Being the star of stage, screen, and radio, he shaped the American popular culture as well as the music industry as we know it today.

Jolson influenced numerous later artists including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, and Rod Stewart. Of course, there is much more to discover about Jolson and his career; we will continue to publish interesting bits & pieces on our blog. For more information, we highly recommend the website of the INTERNATIONAL AL JOLSON SOCIETY.

Whether you have known Jolson's name for a long time or you just now read something about him, you might like to check out the first episode of Nigel Dreiners WILD ABOUT JOLSON PODCAST I participate(d) in.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Actor John Lithgow (born 1945)

In 2008, I discovered John Lithgow because of his wonderful children's book MAHALIA MOUSE GOES TO COLLEGE. It is an inspiring book for children (and adults). Shortly after that I saw him live in his one-man show STORIES BY HEART (in New York City and London); a show at least equally inspiring. Jens and I met John Lithgow in Chicago in February of 2008 and in New York City later that year. We started to interview a few people and collected some very interesting material about Mr. Lithgow. We will share parts of this material in a special FLAp Podcast episode, so stay tuned for that.

Famous stage, screen, and TV actor John Lithgow was born into a theater family. His father, Arthur Lithgow, was a stage actor, director, and producer. He also founded the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Ohio.

After graduating from Harvard University, John Lithgow was trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

Among many others, his New York theater work include:
The Changing Room, My Fat Friend, The Front Page, M. Butterfly, The Retreat from Moscow, Mrs. Farnsworth, All My Sons, Mr. and Mrs. Fitch, and the musicals Sweet Smell of Success and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Having appeared in more than 30 films, his work include:
The World according to Garp, Terms of Endearment, All That Jazz, Blow Out, Twilight Zone: the Movie, Footloose, 2010, Harry and the Hendersons, Raising Cain, Cliffhanger, Shrek, Kinsey, Dreamgirls, and Confessions of a Shopaholic.
Among his significant work for TV were Third Rock from the Sun (NBC), Don Quixote (TNT), The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (HBO), and the 4th season of Dexter (Showtime).

John Lithgow also wrote eight best-selling children's books and recorded three highly successful children's albums. He also performed live for children with major US symphony orchestras and successfully performed his very personal one-man show Stories by Heart in the USA and England. Among many other awards, Mr. Lithgow received two Tony Awards, five Emmy Awards, two Oscar nominations, and four Grammy nominations.

John Lithgow had also worked as a stage director early in his career, and also acts as a painter. He received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001. Four years later he was included in the New York Theatre Hall of Fame. In the same year he received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Harvard University.


As a high school student, I interviewed actor Ulrich Mühe in Berlin (April 2000)

Here you can read the interview with the late actor Ulrich Mühe. The link will refer you to our website at www.aj-images.com. The English translation of the interview needs a make-over, I translated it when I was still a high school student, so please be kind. :)


Ulrich Mühe (1953 - 2007)

"The perfidy of violent systems is that they are working with their victims' shame."

With Ulrich Mühe, a wonderful actor and man had left the stage way too early. Getting to know him through the East German film production DER KLEINE HERR FRIEDEMANN (1990), a film adaptation based on THOMAS MANN'S novel of the same name, this actor provoked me to see various outstanding theater productions in Germany and Austria. Unforgotten is his collaboration with dramatist HEINER MÜLLER (HAMLETMASCHINE, 1990) which allowed me to learn a lot about my German identity.

Mühe's death was tragic and ironically linked to his personal experiences in Communist Germany considering the fact that his last big and successful movie role was in the Academy Award winning film THE LIVES OF OTHERS (2007) dealing with that particular aspect in German history.

I met Ulrich Mühe several times, but for the first time in April of 2000 when I was still a high school student. I couldn't believe he agreed on meeting me and a former fellow classmate for an interview. You can find this ULRICH MÜHE INTERVIEW here on this blog.

Namely the words must remain clear. Because
a sword can be broken, but the words
fall into the fuss of the world unobtainable
making recognizable the things or irrecognizable.
Fatal for men is what's beyond recognition.

Heiner Müller, German playwright, 1929 - 1995

Variety, July 25th, 2007: Ulrich Mühe, 54, actor
Thesp starred in 'Lives of Others'

German thesp Ulrich Mühe, who played the lead in this year's foreign-language Oscar winner "The Lives of Others," died July 22 of stomach cancer in Walbeck, Germany. He was 54. He was diagnosed with cancer in February, amid the hype surrounding "The Lives of Others," for which he won prizes at the European Film Awards, the Munich Film Fest and the German Film Awards for his role as Gerd Weisler, a Stasi secret police surveillance expert who listens in on the life of an artist couple -- a playwright and an actress -- and comes to sympathize with their plight.
Mühe also appeared in Dani Levy's recent comedy "My Fuhrer: The Absolutely Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler," which was a B.O. hit in Germany. Born in Grimma, in communist East Germany, Mühe trained as a construction worker before serving in the military. He then studied acting in Leipzig at the Hans Otto Theaterhochschule, one of Germany's oldest acting schools. He is survived by his wife, actress Susanne Lothar, and their two children, as well as a daughter, actress Anna Maria Mühe, from his previous marriage to actress Jenny Groellmann. [Additional information by AO: Mühe is also survived by his two eldest sons from his first marriage with a dramatic advisor.]

By Variety staff

New York Times, July 26th, 2007: Ulrich Mühe, Film and Stage Actor, Dies at 54

FRANKFURT, July 25 - Ulrich Mühe, a popular German actor who won acclaim as a tormented Stasi officer in cold-war East Germany in the Oscar-winning film "The Lives of Others" died on Sunday in his family home in Walbeck. He was 54. The cause was stomach cancer, his family said. They said he was buried Wednesday in Walbeck, in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, where he lived with his wife, the actress Susanne Lothar, and their two children.
Mr. Mühe officially confirmed he had cancer only in the last week, in an interview that first appeared in the online edition of the German newspaper Die Welt on Saturday. He said he first learned of his illness in February and underwent surgery shortly after the Academy Awards ceremony that same month, when "The Lives of Others" - was named best foreign film. The film, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and released last year, received many German and European movie awards, won rave reviews and attracted a worldwide audience. Mr. Mühe won Germany's golden Lola Award as best actor.

He played Capt. Gerd Wiesler, an agent with the East German secret police, who is assigned to keep a successful playwright and his lover under constant surveillance, only to become fascinated by them and protective of them as he grows disillusioned with the Communist state.
Born in Grimma, in the eastern state of Saxony, Mr. Mühe established his acting career in East Germany's thriving theater scene and furthered it in the reunified Germany, becoming a popular presence in television and film as well. The East German playwright Heiner Müller, who died in 1995, discovered Mr. Mühe in 1979 while Mr. Mühe was performing in the East German city of Karl-Marx-Stadt, now Chemnitz. Mr. Müller took him to East Berlin's renowned Volksbühne theater. Mr. Mühe later joined the ensemble at Deutsches Theater in 1983, where he became a celebrated actor.

This year, Mr. Mühe had a major supporting role in "Mein Führer: The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler", a comedy by the filmmaker Dani Levy, which received a mixed reaction by German critics but did well at the country's box office.
Besides Ms. Lothar and their two children, his survivors include three other children, one of whom is the actress Anna Maria Mühe, from his two previous marriages. Last year, Mr. Mühe lost a highly publicized legal battle waged against him about his right to continue to refer to one of his ex-wives, the actress Jenny Gröllmann, as a former Stasi informant, an accusation she denied. Ms. Gröllmann died of cancer last year at the age of 59, before the matter was resolved.
Mr. Mühe fought against the government as one of several artists demonstrating before the Berlin Wall fell. On Nov. 4, 1989, shortly before the wall fell and before a half-million people on Alexanderplatz in East Berlin, he declared the Communists' power monopoly to be invalid. 

By Sarah Plass

OUR JOLSON STORY - Andrea & Jens

First article in the Jolson Journal (2008) about how we discovered Al Jolson

Here you can read the article, the link will refer you to our website at www.aj-images.com.

BECAUSE IT'S MY DREAM - Wyman Brent's library in Lithuania

Article about Wyman Brent's Vilnius Jewish Public Library

Thanks to the International Al Jolson Society, the library in Jolson's home country has all of Jolson's films and music on the shelves. Here is the story behind its founding (the link will refer you to our website www.aj-images.com).

On a personal note, filmmaker Andrea Oberheiden and Wyman Brent met because of Andrea's and Jens' documentary AL JOLSON AND THE JAZZ SINGER which Mr. Brent wanted to obtain for his library. Two years later, Wyman and Andrea got married and another year later, they welcomed their son Glenn Jolson Brent.

LITHUANIA, HERE WE COME - Andrea & Jens in Jolson's home country

Article in the Jolson Journal about our trip to Jolson's homeland in 2010

You can read this article by clicking on this link, it will refer you to our website at www.aj-images.com.

Monday, December 7, 2015



THE INTERNATIONAL JEW, an anti-Semitic four volume set of pamphlets published by HENRY FORD in the early 1920s, contained a list that was supposed to describe the Jewish influence in American life and culture. PROF. MARJORIE GARBER from Harvard University talked about that list in a course on Shakespeare (spring 2007). While summing up those nonsense points, the students started to laugh when Henry Ford talked about jazz music being Jewish music. Prof. Garber then mentions briefly the beginning of jazz music and an artist called AL JOLSON.

How much the way Al Jolson performed and interpreted songs was actually linked to jazz music, you can read in my article AL JOLSON AND THE "JEWISH JAZZ" in JAZZ IN FILM, available on amazon. There are many great articles in this book that look at the topic of jazz in general and jazz in film in particular from many different angles. The language is German.


Singer Rudy Wissler (1928 - 2007)

As a teenager, singer and actor Rudy Wissler provided his voice for the young Al Jolson in the Academy Award winning biopic THE JOLSON STORY, produced by Columbia Pictures in 1946.
Although his work was one reason for the enormous success of that film, he was not mentioned in the credits.

Rudy was a singer all his life. He started to perform at the International Al Jolson Society Festivals in San Francisco in 1999. He gave his last performance for the Jolson Society in Philadelphia in 2006.

After learning about his sudden death, we produced a short about Rudy featuring an interview that he had given to us in Philadelphia in 2006. It was one of the first interviews we had done for our JOLSON DOCUMENTARY.

After his death, we produced a short to honor Rudy. You can watch the trailer below and find the entire film on our website www.aj-images.com.


Child actor Davey Lee (1924 - 2008)

DAVEY LEE starred as a child actor with AL JOLSON in two of the first talking pictures: THE SINGING FOOL (1928) and SAY IT WITH SONGS (1929). In the SINGING FOOL, Jolson sang a song to little Davey Lee that might very well be the first million selling record ever: SONNY BOY.

After a stroke, Davey Lee lived in a nursing home in Los Angeles, California until he passed away on June 17, 2008.

Enouraged by someone from the INTERNATIONAL AL JOLSON SOCIETY, we wrote a letter to Davey Lee in 2007 to let him know that he has not been forgotten.

Our message sent to Davey Lee (2007):

We are two film students from Germany, and we got your address from members of the International Al Jolson Society. One year ago we started to work on a documentary about Al Jolson, and since we found out that there is still a possibility to contact you, we wanted to do that. Unlike most Jolson enthusiasts, we did not hear of Jolson because of the film "The Jolson Story". In 2005 we attended a course at our university that mentioned "The Jazz Singer" as the first talking picture. We bought the movie, watched it, and got captured by Al Jolson. Because of our growing interest, we wanted to watch the Jolson films in the chronological order. So, the second movie we watched was "The Singing Fool", the third one was "Say it with Songs". It was difficult to obtain this movies but we were able to get them through the IAJS of which we are also members now.

We both were born in the 1970s and 1980s, so it was a unique experience for us to watch that kind of films - important films because they are among the first talking pictures. And it's an even more unique experience for us to be able to get in touch with you. You may not know that "The Singing Fool" had run in German cinemas before "The Jazz Singer" was shown. It might have something to do with the fact that people back then had not expected that talkies would be successful. We know that "The Singing Fool" was even a bigger success than the first talkie "The Jazz Singer". Because of its big success, its actual forerunner "The Jazz Singer" was later also shown in German cinemas.

We just wanted to let you know that there are still people out there who discover these films and get a thrill out of it - even if (or just because) they come from a completely different time. We can "t think of any other medium that is able to have such a sensuous influence even almost 80 years after its creation than film.

When we decided to make a documentary about Al Jolson, we were very happy that he had made several films and that there are still people around that deal with this era. Without these people and without these films, we couldn't do what we want to do. For us, it's great to work with material that belongs to the roots of the first medium that was able to evoke a global impact because of its transportation of image and sound, satisfying two of the most important senses of the human being: the eye and the ear.

We love the scene with you on Al Jolson's knees when Jolson tells you a bed time story and later sings "Sonny Boy" to you. We think it's also a very modern scene because it's a father who rocks the baby to sleep. And it's also a reproduced and quoted scene, at least in the German film history. Maybe you have heard of the film "Wenn der Vater mit dem Sohne" ("Father and Son") with Heinz Ruehmann from 1955. The father here also rocks the baby to sleep, a very famous scene - we now know that it wasn't a new idea. And in both cases the role of the protagonist is the one of a broken clown.

After having watched "The Singing Fool" and "Say it with Songs", we wanted to contact you. We've heard that you suffered a stroke and that you are still not in the best of health. We want to send you all of our best wishes and let you know that we are very happy about the opportunity to write you!

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Al Jolson dubbed for German TV

Germany is the leading country when it comes to the quantity and quality of dubbed films and TV shows. In the 1970s, the few scenes with spoken words in THE JAZZ SINGER were synchronized for German TV. Jolson's voice was spoken by WOLFGANG ZIFFER, a famous German dubbing artist who lent his voice to many leading characters of American TV series of the 1980s. Ziffer also provided his voice for "C-3PO" in STAR WARS.


Al Jolson's "second talkie" in Germany

After the big success of THE SINGING FOOL which premiered in Berlin on June 3rd, 1929, THE JAZZ SINGER celebrated its premiere in Berlin on November 26th, 1929. In 2007, Jens and I were looking for the original newspaper ads for THE JAZZ SINGER for screenings at movie theaters in our hometown Kiel in Northern Germany (in 1930).


Every day non-stop screenings from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m.
May 7, 1930: Debut performance!

Al Jolson sings and talks
in "The Jazz Singer"

Al Jolson, the "Singing Fool", in his new talkie
together with May Mc Avoy


Al Jolson sings and talks in the successful talkie
"The Jazz Singer"
with May Mc Avoy

Börsen-Kurier Berlin:
This time Al Jolson's elocution

leaves an even stronger impression than it does
in "The Singing Fool". His charm, his temper,
his personal performance abilities, seem to be so intuitively,
and its sound reproduction so vividly,
as if he were incarnately standing in front of us.

Every day non-stop screenings from 11 a.m.
until 11 p.m. Sunday starting at 4 p.m.


Al Jolson's early talkies during the Weimar Republic in Germany

In Germany, not THE JAZZ SINGER (1927) but THE SINGING FOOL (1928) was the first shown Jolson film and advertised as such. The success of THE SINGING FOOL led to German movie theaters to show THE JAZZ SINGER a few months later.

Above you see a picture of Al Jolson's film debut in Germany: THE SINGING FOOL at Ufa movie palace in Berlin. It premiered on June 3rd, 1929. You can also see Fritz Lang's FRAU IM MOND (WOMAN ON THE MOON), his last silent film and one of the very last German silent films.

Original newspaper ads:

In 2007, Jens and I were able to find the original newspaper ads for screenings of THE SINGING FOOL in our hometown Kiel in Northern Germany.


above: Kieler Neueste Nachrichten, Thursday, January 30, 1930 (!)
left: The world's greatest sound and talking picture

right: Adolescents are admitted


If you want to see and hear an artist with international reputation, then visit the sound and talking film theatre

Al Jolson achieves a "smash hit" every day
with his "Sonny Boy"
in "The Singing Fool" - "Der singende Narr"


There are only a few days left
to see and hear the
world's greatest talking picture.
Every evening

Al Jolson
raises unprecedented cheers
in cinemas in Kiel
with his heartrending rendition of
"Sonny Boy".


If you don't want to miss
a great experience of seeing and hearing an artist with international reputation like
Al Jolson,
then you must hurry.
The successful talking picture "The Singing Fool" - Der singende Narr

"Sonny Boy"
only runs
today, tomorrow and Thursday

Al Jolson telegram

Telegram sent to Ida Hesselson

Here you can see a telegram sent by Al Jolson to his cousin Ida Hesselson on February 28th, 1909. Ida had invited him to her wedding. Though Jolson does not mention her by name, he also sends regards from his first wife Henrietta.


Jolson's films and music were seen and heard all over the world. Ever wondered if some iconic Jolson tunes were covered in different languages? Here is one of them.

The German version of SONNY BOY, THE SINGING FOOL'S (1928) theme song, was sung by German bariton singer HEINZ MARIA LINS in the 1950s. Lins famously sang for many German movies in the 1950s; he sang at American night clubs as a young student and later signed a contract for DECCA Records. Many thanks to the saxophonist and organist Markus Emanuel Zaja who found Lins' version of SONNY BOY and forwarded it to us.

Here's a translated excerpt from the description as it appears on the LP cover:

Sonny Boy
sung by: Heinz Maria Lins
Orchestra: Wilfried Krüger

"One of the first American talkies that were seen around the world was 'The Singing Fool', produced in 1928, which elated the German audience under the title 'Der singende Narr'. Al Jolson played the starring role. Everybody had tears in their eyes when the singer sang his favorite song to his terminally ill son. There were only a few people who didn't see this heartrending film back in the day! More than 300,000 people had watched it only in Berlin. Not to mention the huge success in record selling - it was almost 12 million records that landed upon turntables in a little while."

The meaning of the German lyrics differ slightly from the original English lyrics. Here is the English translation of the German lyrics:

Sleep and have sweet dreams, Sonny Boy!
Close your eyes, Sonny Boy!
Put your hands silently in mine
Sleep and have sweet dreams, Sonny Boy!

Bright stars are gleaming in the distance
Gleaming for you, Sonny Boy!
Bells are ringing, thousand birds are singing
Singing for you, Sonny Boy!

But only one heart will always beat for you
And that is my heart
Who loves you as much as I do?
Oh, believe me!
More than my life I want to give you
You are my happiness, Sonny Boy!

But only one heart will always beat for you
And that is my heart
Who loves you as much as I do?
Oh, believe me!
More than my life I want to give you
You are my happiness, Sonny Boy!

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Welcome to our AJ-Images Magazine blog!

Who are we? We are a little filmmaking team of three based in Northern Germany. There is Andrea, the director and editor, Jens, the producer and coordinator, and Wyman, our American PR guy. Andrea and Wyman are married, and Andrea and Jens have been a film team for over a decade now. Together we are working on a feature-length documentary about the Jewish American entertainer Al Jolson, mostly known for his starring role in the first talking picture "The Jazz Singer".

We have collected lots of material over the past decade; only a fraction can be used for our documentary projects. Here you find additional information, entertaining material and fascinating behind-the-scenes stories which cannot end up in any of our films. Looking forward to seeing you here!