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Is it true William Demarest "hated" Al Jolson? I'd never heard such until a Facebook friend just posted (on Facebook) this revelation. I asked the guy for his source, and he said, "Demarest." By the way, the guy has credibility of having written a dozen or so books on Hollywood actors and comedians. I asked him for more specifics about his terse reply, but he has yet to answer. Maybe he interviewed Demarest?
I think ‘hated’ is a bit over the top. From what I’ve heard Demarest didn’t particularly like Jolson but hate, well I’ve never heard that before and doubt that it’s true. Demarest was of course the person who said that Harry Jolson had a better voice than Al Jolson! He plainly didn’t like Jolson but I doubt it went as far as hate.
Can I ask who the journalist is that told you this?
Sure, and now I have more more specifics about his comment. First of all, James L. Neibaur is not a journalist, but an author of several showbiz books. (See Amazon.) It turns out he got the "hated Jolson" comment from another source, a friend of his who once talked to William Demarest .
Here is Neibaur's first quote from Facebook: "Demarest hated Jolson." After I asked him for details, he replied: "Friend approached him (Demarest) for an autograph at (as I recall) a golf thing. Told me the two people he crabbed about were Jolson and Sturges. I don’t specifically remember all the adjectives but they were generic “that gd sob” type comments, pretty obviously indicating a continued dislike of both guys. Personally I thought the reaction was hilarious."
I don't see any quote from Demarest saying he "hated" Jolson, but that's how Neibaur interpreted it.
The truth is that so much time has passed that no one will ever know for sure.
Here's my own take: These quotes stem from a couple of off-hand comments that Demarest made late in life (one of them supposedly on the Tonight Show).
Demarest lived a long, long life (died in 1983 aged 88, I believe). Towards the end of his life he appears to have grown, for want of a better term, "crotchety".
We know that he had a small part in "The Jazz Singer" as Jakie Robin's "Friend" in the opening night club scene - sitting at the same table as Al. Jolson bragged that HE got Demarest the part of "Steve Martin" in "The Jolson Story" - he actually mentions it on a radio show from the late 1940s - not sure which program, but I've heard it myself more than once. Was this true? Who knows? Did Demarest resent it for some reason? Who knows?
So we have a recording of Jolson (perhaps self-servingly) bragging about getting Demarest the Jolson Story role (after Demarest presumably earned good reviews for it), and Demarest, very late in life, when he was demonstrably of a grumpy disposition, grumbling about Jolson.
I'll tell you one thing - whether he personally liked Jolson or not, the role Demarest played in TJS certainly didn't hurt his career! So at least on that level he should have been grateful to Jolie - and perhaps he was - until his autumn years. Who knows?
Thanks for supplying information of where this “hated” Jolson remark came from. So Neibaur it would seem heard some disparaging remarks from someone who said they had met Demarest. He then interpreted those remarks and enhanced them to the level of saying Demarest “hated” Jolson. That is typically how rumours start and then grow.
Notwithstanding all that, he really was great in the two biopics.
Never any doubts about that Donnie. He was wonderful as Steve Martin in the two biopics.
I never cared for William Demarest. He always came across as a disagreeable and cranky person. Couldn't abide him as "Uncle Charlie" on "My Three Sons."