The First Talkie?

         “The Jazz Singer” (1927) with Al Jolsen is usually credited as the first “talkie.” You can see a 2-minute clip of it here, starting at the 4 minute 54 second point.

            Actor John Barrymore made a film the year before with a synchronized musical score and sound effects using the Vitaphone system, so why isn’t that one considered the first? Probably because “The Jazz Singer” was the first film to use spoken dialogue, or maybe because it was the first full-length talking movie, or maybe because it was the first widely-seen, popular movie with words. Even then, most of “The Jazz Singer” was, like the Barrymore movie, vocal musical numbers. The first non-musical talkie came the next year in 1928: “Lights of New York.”

          Warner Brothers used the new Vitaphone system to make the movie. With this system, the soundtrack was not printed on the actual film as it would be later, but came separately on phonograph records that were played while the film was being projected.

Published in: on February 5, 2010 at 12:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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Color didn’t start with “The Wizard of Oz”

     Everyone knows the first “talkie” was Al Jolson’s 1927 “The Jazz Singer” (well . . . we’ll get to that in the next post), but the first color movie?  Not so simple. Turns out, it depends on your definition of “color” and of “movie,” and even then, there are disagreements.

      In 1908, a process called Kinemacolor was invented in England and an 8-minute film called “A Visit to the Seaside” is believed to have been the first film shown using that process. I couldn’t find a snippet of that film  but did come across this 1912 Kinemacolor movie of Venice that is worth watching, especially if you’ve ever been to Venice!

     But before 1908, black and white films were often tinted, either by hand or by being shot through colored filters, so the Kinemacolor films were not really the first. Check out this astonishing 1900 film of Joan of Arc, hand tinted, with a floating angel for special effects. It’s only 9 minutes but it must have knocked the socks off the audience of its day.

     The invention of Technicolor—a process that used two (1917), and later three (1928), separate colored film strips and blended them, made better, more realistic colors.  “The Wizard of Oz,” a Technicolor marvel released in 1939, was far from the first color movie, but it has that reputation, probably because it was the first color movie that many Depression-era children saw, and it made a huge impression on the entire generation.