Neil Diamond made his ‘acting’ debut as cantor’s son Yussel Rabinovitch who just wants to sing.
Although outwardly following in the footsteps of his father, Cantor Rabinovitch (Laurence Olivier), Yussel longs to explore the secular side of music. After one too many arguments with his rigid father, Yussel leaves New York – and his wife, Rivka (Catlin Adams) – to become a wandering troubadour.
Lots of brooding ensues, as does a romance between Jess Robin (the new name that Yussel adopts) and Los Angeles shiksa Molly Bell (Lucie Arnaz).
Wanderlust eventually drives a wedge between Jess and Molly, so he hits the road once more, leading to the odd spectacle of a bearded Diamond wearing a cowboy hat and singing You Are My Sunshine in a redneck bar.
While Diamond had been one of the best pop singers of the 60s, he sank to a self-aggrandising low in yet another remake of the historic first talkie movie ever (but the scene with him in Afro wig and blackface still must be seen to be believed).
Unfortunately, despite the presence of that fine thespian Olivier, this one was (and is) strictly for Neil Diamond fans only.
Three of Diamond’s biggest hits (America, Hello Again, Love on the Rocks) emerged from the film’s soundtrack, which enjoyed much more success than the film itself.
Jess Robin/Yussel Rabinovitch