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    Franklin D. Roosevelt: Inscribed Photograph.
    -12" x 11.75". Harrison & Ewing, Washington, D.C. studio mark in blind at the lower left corner.

    A handsome sepia toned Harrison & Ewing photographic portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt in a distinguished pose, handsomely signed and inscribed on the white margin below the image: "To Al Cohn, from Franklin D. Roosevelt". Alfred A. Cohn (1880-1951), was a public servant and screenwriter, most notably known for his screenplay for The Jazz Singer (1927).

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    The extended description below was supplied by the consignor. We are making it available to our web bidders who are interested in more in-depth research and broader historical perspective. Please note that presentation (i.e. framing), lot divisions, and interpretations of condition and content may occasionally differ from our descriptions. Assertions of fact and subjective observations contained in this description represent the opinion of the consignor. These remarks have not been checked for accuracy by Heritage Auctions, and we assume no responsibility for their accuracy; they are offered purely to allow the bidder insight into the way the consignor has viewed the item(s) in question. No right of return or claim of lack of authenticity or provenance based upon this extended description will be granted.


    Fabulous 12 x 12" sepia toned Harrison & Ewing photographic portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt in a distinguished pose, handsomely signed and inscribed on the white margin below the image, "To Al Cohn, from Franklin D. Roosevelt." The photograph and FDR signature are both in superb condition. Alfred A. Cohn (1880-1951), was a public servant and screenwriter, born in Freeport, Illinois. Nothing is known of his parents or education. At the age of fifteen Cohn (known as Al Cohn) went to work for a Chicago newspaper, working his way up to the position of reporter. Eventually, he became a newspaper and magazine editor, a columnist, and a publicist. Cohn began his screenwriting career at the height of the silent film era in 1918. He is credited with working on more than 100 screenplays. For various pictures he wrote scenarios, stories, titles, or original screenplays. Some of his earliest assignments included writing the script and titles for Legend of Hollywood (1924) and the script and story for His People, which he co-wrote (1925), Flames (1926), The Cohens and the Kellys (1926), and Frisco Sally Levy (1927). Both The Cohens and the Kellys and Frisco Sally Levy featured Jewish characters and themes, as did His People, which is the story of a rabbi who disowns his too-worldly son. These projects supplied the perfect background for the screenwriting job that would be the high point of Cohn's Hollywood career, The Jazz Singer (1927). Despite the fact that there had been several novelty experiments with sound movies for a number of years, the Warner Brothers partial talkie The Jazz Singer, starring the legendary stage entertainer Al Jolson, made sound film commercially viable. Cohn, who began work on the movie on March 14, 1927, contributed the scenario to the film. This historic motion picture was based on Samson Raphaelson's hit 1925 play of the same name, which, in turn, was based on Raphaelson's 1922 short story, "The Day of Atonement." When George Jessel, the play's star, made exorbitant salary demands, Warner Brothers offered the role of Jakie Rabinowitz to Jolson, then the most popular American performer of stage and recordings. As the son of a poor Jewish cantor who upsets his family with plans of a singing career instead of following in his father's footsteps, Jolson found his defining role. Editor Robert Carringer writes in notes accompanying the published screenplay of The Jazz Singer that "Cohn's script for The Jazz Singer is a skillful job of converting the scene structure of a play into the more episodic sequence continuity needed for a film. He also added new opening sequences (scenes 1-138) showing Jakie Rabinowitz's boyhood on the Lower East Side and his early efforts to launch a career as Jack Robin." However, one of the movie's most memorable sequences, the final scene in which Jolson sings "My Mammy" on the stage of New York's Winter Garden, is not found in Cohn's scenario. Cohn's adaptation received an Academy Award nomination at the first awards ceremony in May 1929, but the award went to Benjamin Glazer for Seventh Heaven (1928), while The Jazz Singer received a special award as a pioneering effort in talking pictures. Few of Cohn's subsequent films in the era of the dawn of sound, including The Carnation Kid (1929), Divorce Made Easy (1929), and The Last Warning (1929), for which Cohn also supplied the story, are much remembered today. Although his script for The Cisco Kid (1931) provided the source for a popular and long-running serial on film, television, and radio, other films like Feet First (1930) and A Holy Terror (1931) had little public impact. A better effort was Me and My Gal (1932), low-budget Fox film on which Cohn was a contributing writer. It gave screen legend Spencer Tracy one of his best early roles in a broad comedy about the rocky romance of a cop and a wisecracking waitress, played by Joan Bennett. With the exception of 1939's The Return of the Cisco Kid, a follow-up to his 1931 movie, Cohn's last screen credits are for The Defense Rests, Ever Since Eve, Harold Teen, and Here Comes the Navy, all forgettable films released in 1934. Cohn also wrote several books, including Gun Notches. In collaboration with Joe Chisholm, Cohn wrote Take the Witness, a biography of Earl Rogers, a noted criminal lawyer of the era. During his screenwriting days, Cohn also wrote a column for the Los Angeles Examiner for a time. After 1934 Cohn turned his attention to a career in public service. In 1935 he was named Collector of Customs for the City of Los Angeles, a post he held for four years. Subsequently, he served as a member of the Board of Public Utilities and Transportation and as president of the Police Commission, introducing several reforms in police procedures. Cohn, who never married, died in Los Angeles. A terrific inscribed photograph from FDR to Al Cohn.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    7th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 11
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 523

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