Coffee Dan's, Los Angeles 1930s
SLIDE into the happiest crowd in town, suggests this menu from Coffee Dan’s, Los Angeles.
The San Francisco outlet of Coffee Dan’s featured in the 1927 Warner Bros’ film The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson. The film depicted the fictional story of Jakie Rabinowitz, a devout Jewish boy who runs away from home to build a career as an entertainer. In the movie, Jolson’s character nervously performs for Coffee Dan’s patrons who determine the fate of performers by beating small wooden mallets – depicted on the front of this menu – on their tables. If the patrons make loud noise, the act is deemed a success. During this vocal performance, Jolson improvised and uttered the now famous phrase:” “Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothing yet!” There was another sound sequence in which Jakie "talks" to his mother. The Jazz Singer created motion picture history because it was the first feature -length film with synchronized dialogue, marking the ascendancy of “talkies” and the end of the silent film era. The rest was history and nearly two years later, some 8,000 theaters had been wired for sound.
The Jazz Singer was not the first movie to feature Coffee Dan’s. The restaurant was the backdrop for the 1916 silent film The Heiress at Coffee Dan’s, about a rich young woman (Bessie Love) falling for a poor composer (Frank Bennett)
Coffee Dan’s served American and Chinese food. It flourished in Los Angeles – we have another menu dated 1961 with a very different cover – and closed in the 1970s. The San Francisco Coffee Dan's closed in the 1950s.
The poem on the front cover of the menu is by Edward Robert Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, an aristocratic Englishman and poet who died in 1891.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each print is accompanied by a copy of the interior menu or cover.