History Of The First Talking Movie

Find out what it took to make The Jazz Singer the first talkie, talking movie.

History was made in New York on October 6th, 1927 when the very first spoken voice in a feature film was heard. The voice belonged to Al Jolson and the ground breaking movie - The Jazz Singer. The reaction by the theatre audience was immediate - they rose to their feet, applauding ecstatically. The moment came in the middle of the film when, during a nightclub scene, Jolson suddenly spoke. The first words ever spoken in a movie were, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain't heard nothin' yet!" The words were truly prophetic in light of the massive advances taken in the realms of movie sound since that time.

From the breakthrough point of the film when Jolson first spoke, the film made liberal use of the new medium. In one scene Jolson sits at the piano and exchanges lines with his mother between verses of Blue Skies. Al Jolson also ad-libbed various lines during the musical sequences of the film and these were left in.

The Jazz Singer was the story of a young Jewish man who was from a long line of cantors. Yet, he decides to break with the family tradition and become a Jazz singer. The movie is full of songs that have since become famous, such as "˜Mammy', "˜Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye,' and "˜Blue Skies.' The movie also contains scenes of the Jewish Yom Kippur ceremony. The film is a mixture of silent and talkie. The film appears dated by today's standards with Jolson's mannerisms and some Jewish stereotypes which would not be politically correct by today's standards. Al Jolson was a minstrel singer for much of his career. He was a white man who put on a black face for his final performance in the movie. This has led many people to believe that Jolson was a black man.

The use of synchronised music in movies had been in use for over a year as a result of the Vitaphone system introduced by Warner Brothers. The first film to use Vitaphone was Don Juan starring John Barrymore. The Jazz Singer, however, was a major step up from there, with realistic spontaneous speech. Warner Brothers thus threw down the gauntlet to other Production houses to play catch up. Fox Studios were quickly into production with a rival system called Movietone, designed for use with short films and news clips. The first broadcasts in Movietone were news clips of a reception for Aviation hero Charles Lindbergh given by President Calvin Coolidge and a speech by Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini. These proved so popular that the Fox Studios set up Movietone News to make regular sound newsreels.

The entire movie industry now faced a major revamp as massive reinvestment was required to keep up with the public's insatiable demand for "˜talkies'. Many so called experts within the movie industry, however, were of the firm opinion that the new craze for talkies would soon die out. Silent comedy veteran Charlie Chaplin was one who did not give the new breakthrough medium any credence. History, however, was about to prove how wrong he was.

© High Speed Ventures 2011