Did they ever "talky-ize" silent movies?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Dennis Nicholls, Dec 23, 2005.

  1. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    Some people have had the urge to "update" older films using modern technology. [​IMG] For example, there has been a great deal of "colorizing" older black and white films. Similarly, there has been a lot of remixing of the audio of older monaural films to surround sound.

    Was there ever a time when people "talky-ized" silent films? This could be accomplished by having actors speak out the actual or implied script, perhaps with music or foley effects. I don't remember ever seeing it but am curious if this was ever attempted. I do know that many classic silent films (e.g. Birth of a Nation) are generally presented on DVD with musical accompanyments.
     
  2. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Chaplin added narration to THE GOLD RUSH in 1942 I believe. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA was also re-released as a sound film but Lon Chaney wouldn't have anything to do with it.

    On the other hand, Universal's DRACULA with Bela Lugosi is of course a sound film but since some theaters back then couldn't play sound films, a silent version of this was released but sadly no prints of this are known to be out there. [​IMG]
     
  3. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    There's also films that changed from silent to talking during production, such as Hitchcock's Blackmail.
     
  4. Terry St

    Terry St Second Unit

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    It was also not terribly uncommon for footage from silent films to be used in later "talkies". For example, the wonderful "Captain Blood" staring Errol Flynn uses shots from the silent film "The Sea Hawk" (1924). (Not to be confused with the 1940 film by the same name starring, once again, Errol Flynn)

    That being said, for most of the last century films were treated as disposable entertainment that was functionally worthless once it had completed it's theatrical run. As such, there probably wasn't much interest in talky'izing old silent films except in rare cases, such as Chaplin, who had a special interest in his own films. Not until home video came along anyways, which is about when colorization showed up.

    Given that colorized films are aimed at people who would get bored and flip channels away from a black and white film, what would be the point of talky'izing silent films to appeal to that audience? While colorization can be carried out with little more than some software and a couple geeks, to talky'ize a film you'd need a script, voice actors, extensive editting for lip-synch, etc.. On top of that, if you're trying to appeal to the slobbering joe six pack crowd that won't watch B&W films you'd definately have to colorize the flick after you talky'ize it! It would probably be cheaper and easier just to film a remake with some scantily clad women and explosions a la Roger Corman!
     
  5. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    Cool! I'm waiting for the Roger Corman remake of Birth of a Nation! [​IMG]
     
  6. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    Actually my question is intended to address the issue of whether this was done in the late 1930's or early 1940's.
     
  7. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    A lot of the early sound films were just remakes of silents. Chaney's only sound film was a remake of his 1925 film THE UNHOLY THREE. Others also did this including Laurel and Hardy who remade several of their silent films. As someone else said, I think the studios realized it would be cheaper to just remake them. I'm not sure when actual dubbing even came into play. Universal made a Spanish DRACULA at the same time as the American version and even L&H remade their own films into different languages.
     
  8. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Yes, to a degree. As noted above, scenes from Phantom of the Opera were re-shot with the actors speaking dialogue. These - and other scenes with synchronized music and sound effects - were edited into the silent footage for re-releases in 1929 & 1930. Similarly, many silent films from the late period (1925-1929) were re-released in the early 30s with synchronized music and sound effects, such as Ben-Hur and The Big Parade. Howard Hughes' "Hell's Angels" actually had some silent scenes dubbed with voices after he changed the production to a "talkie" - watch the scenes on the German dirigible and you can see they're speaking English, but he dubbed them with German (to hide the fact that the silent scenes weren't 24 frames per second and dubbing in English would have highlighted it) and then added English subtitles (title cards).
     
  9. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Actually that sounds like alot of fun...... Find me that guy who re-voiced all those G.I.Joe public service announcements! "Body Massage" [​IMG]
     
  10. Larry Sutliff

    Larry Sutliff Cinematographer

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    The 1925 PHANTOM OF THE OPERA was re-released in 1929 with a music track, and some dialogue added to the love scenes(they were better with no dialogue). Most prints of PHANTOM available today are silent prints of that rerelease, thus making the film seem even more choppy and antiquated than it originally was.
     
  11. Stan Rozenfeld

    Stan Rozenfeld Stunt Coordinator

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    I remember watching a documentary on Abel Gance and his Napoleon, and they showed scenes of his rereleased film (probably in the 30s) with actors dubbing over their silent movie roles.
     

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