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You Don't Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story (film)

DVD cover. Courtesy of Jeff Adachi and Alex Yeung
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

Feature-length documentary film on singer and actor Jack Soo . Based on interviews with friends and colleagues along with many clips from his film and television appearances, You Don't Know Jack also covers his time at Tanforan and Topaz during World War II.

Born in 1917 to Issei parents on a ship between the United States and Japan (and thus not an American citizen by birth), his birth name was Goro Suzuki. Childhood friends and Soo/Suzuki's daughter Jayne Soo Carelly describe his sports exploits in high school and his talent as a singer, first as an amateur, then as a professional after graduating from high school. His fledgling career was interrupted by the war. Friends describe his role as a musical performer, MC, and organizer of shows at Tanforan and Topaz.

Leaving Topaz for Cleveland, he worked as a nightclub singer and comedian, taking the name "Jack Soo" because of wartime prejudices against Japanese Americans. Fellow performers—most notably Etta Benjamin, who with her husband LeRoy had a popular marionette act known as "The LeRoy Brothers"—describe the ups and downs of the nightclub years, including his courtship of his future wife Jan Zdelar, a Croatian American former model. The film goes on to cover his big break in landing a role on Broadway in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song and in the subsequent Hollywood movie through recollections by co-stars Alvin Ing and Nancy Kwan and Flower Drum Song author C. Y. Lee. Producer Hal Kanter and co-star Janet Waldo recall his pioneering role in the 1964–65 television series Valentine's Day , while former cast members Max Gail and Steve Landesberg recall his role in the popular 1970s TV show Barney Miller . Figures such as actor George Takei and critic Lewis Beale reflect on Soo's significance and influence as an actor. Many clips from the Flower Drum Song movie, Valentine's Day , Barney Miller , and other movie and TV roles are also featured.

Jeff Adachi wrote, co-produced, and directed You Don't Know Jack . It premiered in March 2009 at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. The DVD of the film includes a 26-minute version of the film, a short interview with Adachi, and five recordings of Soo as a singer.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho
Media Details
Release Date 2009
Runtime 69 minutes
Director Jeff Adachi
Producer Jeff Adachi
Writer Jeff Adachi
Starring Jayne Soo Carelly (interviewee), Sachi Kajiwara (interviewee), Yae Wada (interviewee), Steve Landesberg (interviewee), Bob Utsumi (interviewee), Amy Eto (interviewee), Hayato Orikuchi (interviewee), Mike Morizono (interviewee), George Takei (interviewee), Etta Benjamin (interviewee), Marge Coleman (interviewee), Alvin Ing (interviewee), C. Y. Lee (interviewee), Nancy Kwan (interviewee), Irene Tsu (interviewee), Hal Kanter (interviewee), Lewis Beale (interviewee), Janet Waldo (interviewee), Al Abrams (interviewee), Max Gail (interviewee), Gary Austin (interviewee)
Music Michael Becker
Cinematography Josiah Hooper
Editing Alex Yeung