The Coming of Sound: A History

The Coming of Sound: A History

The Coming of Sound: A History

The Coming of Sound: A History

Synopsis

Sound transformed not only the Hollywood film industry, but all of world cinema. This text examines how the arrival of sound brought a boom to the industry and why its social impact deepened in complexity.

Excerpt

I argue that previous historians have misled us; the transition to sound films was rapid, but speed of change does not necessarily connote disorder, chaos, or confusion. The Hollywood monopolists cooperated to eliminate all-important problems, and insure maximum profits and growth for themselves. Consolidation and merger, not panic or anarchy, should be the labels we use to characterize the switch to sound by the U.S. motion picture industry.

Cooperation was the order of the day. Paramount and Loew's (and its production subsidiary MGM), the dominant companies, signed identical contracts-save for their inserted corporate titles-on the same day, May 11, 1928, in the same room, AT&T's New York offices, and at the same time (an hour before then end of the business day). After months of bargaining with AT&T's subsidiary, Western Electric's newly formed subsidiary, Electrical Research Products Incorporated (ERPI), all other companies-save pioneers Warner Bros., Fox, and RCA's Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO)-signed identical contracts. No chaos here.

If there is a date key to the coming of sound it is the May 11, 1928, cooperative signing-not the October 1927 premiere of The Jazz Singer. Once signed, the true coming of sound proceeded. Paramount and Loew's moved to create sound features first; soon after came newsreels and shorts. Warner Bros. and Fox had led the way-but only temporarily. Paramount, Loew's, and even RKO caught up within one year. Paramount's conversion was typical: it released its first feature with a musical score in August of 1928, its

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.