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Telling The Story of Sound Motion Pictures
Through Contemporary Writings

The Transition From Silent To Sound

Warner Bros' Noah's Ark (1929) was essentially a silent film with a few brief segments that included dialog in the "modern" parts. The 135 minute film was cut to 75 minutes and re-released in 1957. Oddly this re-release was based only on the silent portions of the film featuring the story of the ark and totally did away with the dominant modern story. Fox's Movietone premiered in a feature film in their 1927 production of Sunrise but the film contained no sync dialog, only accompanying music score. Not enough to cause the rush to sound that would come following Warner's The Jazz Singer.

1930 saw sound quickly becoming standardized throughout the U.S. but silent productions were still being made in small numbers. Universal produced both sound and silent versions of its timeless All Quiet on the Western Front. Howard Hughes halted production on his epic Hell's Angels to change it from a silent to a sound feature, and took advantage of the break to increase the role of screen newcomer Jean Harlow. While he was at it, Hughes shot many of Harlow's scenes in two-color Technicolor. M-G-M, the last major studio to adopt sound had to fill the demand for product by adding music scores to old blockbuster silents such as their 1925 production of Ben-Hur.

Selected posters courtesy of the Setnik Collection

Index of Sound Documents

Vitaphone System Diagram circa 1927
Examples of Optical Soundtracks
1928 Western Electric Operating Manual
1930 RCA Photophone - Handbook for Projectionists
1940 Stereophonic Sound Demonstration
1940 Bell Labs Technical Article on Stereophonic Sound
1941 SMPE Article on Fantasound
1942 SMPE Paper on the Future of Fantasound
1942 SMPE Paper on the Roadshowing Fantasound
1954 AWSM collection of Perspectasound articles
1978 SMPTE Paper on Colortek/Quintaphonic optical stereophonic sound
WIDESCREEN WING Reference section on Sound and Projection, includes more articles on sound

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