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Eugénie Besserer Biography

  • Profession: Actor
  • Born: Jan 1, 1870
  • Died: May 10, 1934

Aged character actress Eugenie Besserer portrayed Al Jolson's mother with such quiet self-assurance in The Jazz Singer (1927) that many viewers have assumed she really was of Russian-Jewish descent. In truth, Ms. Besserer was born in France and educated in Canada. She began her stage career in the late 1880s, making her film debut in 1911's The Profligate. Most of her movie appearances were in roles requiring matriarchal self-sacrifice; she worked extensively with D. W. Griffith, whose fidelity to the concept of Mother Love was one of his trademarks. When cast in the pioneering part-talkie The Jazz Singer, Besserer assumed her role would be silent, but in the celebrated Vitaphone "Blue Skies" sequence, Jolson's incessant adlibbing all but forced the actress to speak up -- and in so doing, she became the second actor ever to be heard in a major-studio talking picture. Eugenie Besserer remained in films until a few months before her death; her last appearance was in the outdoor western To the Last Man (1933). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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