Wednesday, November 28, 2012
In 2006 I was part of a number of people filming for Warner Pictures in celebrating the 80th anniversary of talking pictures. It was all about the Warner Brothers Vitaphone talking picture called the Jazz Singer.
Each of us, after being made up and mic'ed, went to a sound stage and talked a bit about our area of expertise and how it affected talking pictures. These were all put into a film made by Warner's about when movies learned to talk.
It was released in 2007 called "The Jazz Singer" a 3 disc DVD set. I am proud to be a part of it and can always at my desire see it and hear it. It was a 80 year collection of the wonder of talking pictures. All of us spoke glowingly about attempts and the greatness of sound pictures.
Talking pictures came out officially in 1927. Although there had been many attempts, some successful, some not before that time. The Jazz Singer is the film we all generally agree was the first "official" talking picture.
But what I wish to say here is, was sound an improvement?
In many ways I can see it was not. First off, silent pictures were an art form unto themselves. It was pantomime and music together. It was a very advanced art form and for the first time there was an art that had no nationality. It was understood in India, in Germany, in Russia . Because the actors spoke in an international tongue. That was pantomime.
Remember that all of the great silents were accompanied by music. In NYC all the great silents were shown with a 100 piece orchestra. Many smaller theaters around the world used organs or lastly piano. But this was an art. You would watch the film from start to finish and never stop watching. Because it was a visual and musical experience. There was no popcorn, candy, sodas. You could not take your eyes off the screen. If you did you would miss something. The actors eyes told us so much. The silents were amazing pieces of art.
For many of you I am sure you are thinking of these early jerky films. In which the people are moving too fast and the film looks funny and jerky. That was not the style of the great silent movies starting in the early teens. Those early silent films from 1900 were primitive and the beginnings of an art form. To compare the early silents of 1900 to the amazing pieces of art in the teens and twenties, would be like comparing the Jazz Singer to Raiders of the Lost Ark. They have little in common. they are of different eras.
The filming in those great silents was as advanced as it would be 50 years later. In fact in many cases better.
Today you can go to a movie. get a soda and popcorn and candy bars etc. Cause you do not have to watch the screen so intently. Cause you hear it too. Actors today do not have to perform to the extent that those in the silents did. Today movies are very interesting. But they are not the high art of the silents. We also have to remember that many of our stars today are paled in comparison with their predecessors.
I am of the opinion that there is little in common between the silent picture and the talkie. The silent was an art form that was a world wide one. Talkies can be dubbed, but they never has the artistic quality of the original. One just needs to see a few Godzilla movies to see that.
Today the silent movies are forgotten. But they will always remain one of man's greatest artist achievements.
Losing them was a loss to art ....and the world.