Radio Was the Flip Side of Silent Movies*

The visual came first–silent movies. Audio came next–radio. One was pictures and no sound; the other, sound and no pictures. When they mated in 1927, sparks flew. Talkies were born. The combination spelled disaster for studios, theaters, and actors alike. Few actors survived the transition to talkies. Aside from Greta Garbo, almost none of the stars of the 1930s had been stars of silent film. No theaters did–all had to undergo expensive renovation for sound. Studios did not survive either. Entire sets were destroyed, new filming techniques replaced ones that had been around for decades, many studios went under. 

Garbo made the transition to talkies

It’s understandable that when television was invented, people thought the same thing would happen, that is, that television would destroy movies just as talkies had destroyed silent pictures. It didn’t. Television damaged movies–people went to the movies less often–but it didn’t destroy them. 

*Observation courtesy of Eileen Whitfield in “Pickford” (2007).

Published in: on October 15, 2011 at 4:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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