Class 4: The Coming of Sound

In today’s class, we surveyed the challenges faced by early film pioneers in making true sound motion pictures, namely synchronization and amplification. We covered the solutions proposed by two inventors, Case and DeForest, and by two companies, namely Western Electric and Case Sponable.

This research interested two studios, Warner Brothers and Fox, which both adopted two different approaches to synchronized motion pictures, Vitaphone and Movietone, which were based on different technologies, sound-on-disc and sound-on-film.

Our screening was Sunrise, which was William Fox’s attempt to gain attention for his studio’s sound system by hiring the biggest international name in the cinema. This was in contrast to what Warner Brothers did by filming The Jazz Singer, a film starring one of the biggest stars of vaudeville and based on a Broadway hit. It worked for one, but not the other, although the less successful one has become one of the most celebrated films of all time.

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