Adapted from a play by Samson Raphaelson, the son of a cantor chooses to become a jazz singer even though he must break with his father to do so.
Sara Rabinowitz (Eugenie Besserer) tells Cantor Rabinowitz (Warner Oland) that maybe their son does not want to be a cantor. Moisha Yudelson (Otto Lederer) tells the Cantor that he saw young Jakie Rabinowitz (Robert Gordon) singing ragtime songs. Rabinowitz goes and gets Jakie, who says if he whips him again, he will run away. Sara laments that her son is gone. The Cantor sings the service without Jakie.
Years later Jack Robin (Al Jolson) is a jazz singer and sings "Dirty Hands, Dirty Faces" and "Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye." Mary Dale (May McAvoy) offers to help Jack. Sara gets a letter from Jack that he is making $250 a week in Chicago. The Cantor says they have no son. Mary shows Jack her offer from New York. Jack attends a concert by a cantor. Jack loses his booking but then learns it was so that he can be in a Broadway revue.
Jack goes home and is welcomed by his mother. He sings "Blue Skies" jazzy. His father makes him stop, and they argue about what Jack should sing. Jack gives him a birthday present, another prayer shawl. The Cantor tells Jack to leave the house.
At the follies rehearsal Jack sees Mary and learns she is dancing in the show. The Cantor is ill, and Moisha tells Sara of Jack's opening. Moisha goes to Jack and tells him his father is sick. They want him to sing on the Day of Atonement, but Jack has his opening. The Cantor hopes that Jack will sing for him.
At the dress rehearsal Mary watches Jack put on black makeup, and he says the songs of Israel are calling him. Moisha and Sara come to see Jack, and she pleads with her son. On stage Jack sings "Mother, I Still Have You." Mary tells Jack that his mother left.
Jack goes home to see his father, who tells Jack that he loves him. Moisha asks Jack to sing in the synagogue. Mary and the producer come in and expect Jack to sing in the theater. The Broadway performance is cancelled, and Jack sings "Kol Nidre." The Cantor is happy and dies. Time passes, and Jack sings "My Mammy."
This historic film broke the sound barrier and portrays
the conflict between traditional religion and modern music. Transcending
these is the unconditional love of the mother.