Sound and Music
Warner Bros’ The Jazz Singer was a 90-minute film with a sound recording that used some synchronised songs, but also lines of dialogue recorded on set – the most famous being Al Jolson’s “You ain't heard nothing yet”. It was not the first film to use sound, Vitaphone disks synchronised sound effects and music with film, though were separate from the film itself. What distinguished The Jazz Singer was that it was the first to use dialogue and to be presented as “a talkie”. It had a major impact with the audience. Its profits were proof that sound was worth investing in.
In 1928, Warner Bros released the first all-talking feature film: Lights of New York. By 1929, Britain released Blackmail, the first British talkie. By 1931 the last silent feature film had been released. This was a nightmare for many of the silent screen stars who could not all transition to sound: some because of their thick accents or voices that did not match their glamorous image.
New Zealand’s first feature film with dialogue was Down on the Farm (Stewart Pitt and Lee Hill, 1935). The sound was created by Jack Welsh.
Sound meant the nature of filmmaking changed dramatically. Comedy no longer relied on slapstick but witty dialogue instead. The style of acting seemed too melodramatic once sound was added and actors began to strive more towards realism than pantomime.
At first sound restricted the movement on screen because actors had to direct the dialogue towards a hidden microphone. The invention of the blimp meant noisy cameras could be muffled and action was restored to the cinema.
There were problems initially keeping sound and image synchronised in the theatres, as they were still using sound on disk systems like the Vitaphone. Fox Films vastly improved the sound experience by discovering how sound could be directly transferred onto film. By 1931 it was the industry standard.
Who was Jack Foley? What does a Sound Editor do?
What was the first musical score to be written for film? Who is Max Steiner?
What is a recording mix? How do songs help tell stories?