What are the key films of the early talkie era?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Stan Rozenfeld, May 25, 2005.

  1. Stan Rozenfeld

    Stan Rozenfeld Stunt Coordinator

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    My understanding of film history is that around 1927 or so, silent films reached their artistic peak. During that same period the sound films were introduced with The Jazz Singer.

    For quite a while, the quality of sound films, to put it mildly, was bad. I've tried to watch some of the films of that era, and... it's difficult.

    However, eventually the sound films improved significantly to the point that real masterpieces were being made. I have very little familiarity with that era. I always think of All Quiet On the Western Front, Fritz Lang's M, and King Kong as being among the early masterpieces and also trailblazers in their own way.

    I would love to see someone knowledgeable on this period in history come up with a more comprehensive list of films available on DVD that represent key developments in transforming sound films into a true art form.

    Also, if someone can recommend a book on the topic, or a website, that would be great.

    Thanks,
    Stan
     
  2. Drew Salzan

    Drew Salzan Second Unit

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    APPLAUSE. Mamoulian did not let sound interfere with the fluidity of the camera. I beleieve he got around the problems of early sound recording by filming much of it silently and then adding sound in later. If you see it, you will be surprised that it was released in 1929.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0019644/
     
  3. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Well there's a difference between films that are "key developments" and one's that are good. But a few suggestions beyond what you already listed:

    Blackmail (1929) - Hitchock's first talkie, that itself transforms from a silent film into a talkie. And a damned good film.

    Broadway Melody of 1929 (1929) - I think this is the first musical. Certainly one of the first, and almost certainly the first popular, important one.

    Animal Crackers (1930) - Not as good as Duck Soup (1933), but the earliest example I can think of, of a comedy with dialogue that could never have remotely worked in a silent film with intertitles.

    Cimarron (1931) - The first really bad movie to win an undeserved best picture oscar. There would, unfortunately, be many, many more in the years to come. This may not actually be on dvd yet.

    Dracula (1931)
    Frankenstein (1931) - among the first really good talking horror films.

    Little Caeser (1931)
    Public Enemy (1931) - the first really good talking gangster films.

    Trouble in Paradise (1932) - the first really good Ernest Lubitsch talking comedy

    Twentieth Century (1934) - the first screwball comedy (leaving aside the general screwiness of the earlier Marx Brothers films, which aren't typically classified as screwball comedies).

    Modern Times (1936) - deep into the sound era, one of the greatest silent films of all time.
     
  4. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I think the year 1927, was a very important year for the film industry even moreso than either 1926 or 1925. It was the year that the film industry really reached new heights in both, storytelling and technology advances in making a better film.






    Crawdaddy
     
  5. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Well Robert we'll just have to disagree on this one (surprise, surprise).

    For example, 1925 had:

    The Gold Rush (the single greatest silent film IMO)
    The Big Parade
    Potemkin

    and many, many others, depending how deep you want to dig.
     
  6. Brook K

    Brook K Lead Actor

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    Early Sound Suggestions:

    The Blue Angel (Josef Von Sternberg directs Marlene Dietrich in one of the great films of any era. Make sure you watch the original German version rather than the thickly accented English one)

    Love Me Tonight (Many of the best early sound films are musicals, making imaginative use of sound melded to image, as Rouben Mamoulian does here)

    Le Million (Ditto but Rene Clair directs)
    A Nous La Liberte
    Under The Roofs Of Paris (Two more Rene Clair films, he was truly an innovator in the use of sound)

    42nd Street (The film that "saved" the musical in Hollywood, and provided the template for a zillion backstage films. Also the first taste of Busby Berkeley's incredible dance staging.)

    The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (Lang film less well known than M, but almost as good. A tutorial on the use of sound right from the opening scene.)
     
  7. Tory

    Tory -The Snappy Sneezer- -Red Huck-

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    I love Love Me Tonight, it is quite brilliant and revolutionary, Kino's release is beautiful, sounds great and there are lots of camera movement.

    Jazz Singer was not the first talkie, try inkwellimagesink First Sound of Movies to see some shorts of Dr. Lee deForest, here are some great Vaudeville and music acts of the 20's, stiff shots but fun stuff.
     
  8. Jeffrey Nelson

    Jeffrey Nelson Screenwriter

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    My only beef with LOVE ME TONIGHT is Jeanette MacDonald. I absolutely cannot stand her singing. Maurice Chevalier, however, is the COOLEST. "Mimi...you lovely little good-for-nothing Mimi, am I the guy?"
     
  9. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    From a historical use of sound pov, Love Me Tonight is kind of a mixed bag. Quoting myself from another thread [​IMG]
     
  10. Brook K

    Brook K Lead Actor

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    Shocking I know, but we disagree. Chevalier's accent is tough and takes some getting used to at first, but after 10 or 15 minutes I had no trouble understanding him. I've experienced much tougher accents in British films from the past 5 years than Chevalier's.

    Love Me is plenty funny and extremely charming. Maybe not as funny as an all time comedy classic like Trouble In Paradise but then Meet Me In St. Louis isn't as funny as Sullivan's Travels and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers isn't as funny as Some Like It Hot. All of them have different positive attributes, are outstanding films, and are well worth seeing.
     
  11. BarryR

    BarryR Supporting Actor

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    To me BROADWAY MELODY is a poor example of the early musical, and it's unfortunate it's available on DVD first while so many far better ones languish at the moment--much more interesting would be FOLLOW THRU (1930), SUNNY SIDE UP (1929), WHOOPEE! (1930), and KING OF JAZZ (1930. These are all musicals. Though a silent movie, SHOW PEOPLE (1928) has an "enhanced" soundtrack from that era, with sound effects and original music score. It still sparkles as a hilarious satire of early Hollywood, with a brilliant comic performance by the perpetually underrated Marion Davies. Not sure if it's available on DVD, but it sure deserves to.
     
  12. Bradley-E

    Bradley-E Screenwriter

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    "THE BIG TRAIL" a very early John Wayne feature. It has a spectacular sequence with the Stagecoaches being slowly inched down over a cliff in order for the caravan to continue on. Very cool stuff.
     
  13. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Sunrise was made in 1927

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Drew Salzan

    Drew Salzan Second Unit

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    I absolutely agree. THE BROADWAY MELODY is as creaky as early talkies come. How it won Best Picture that year is an enigma to me. FOLLOW THRU fares much better; the song "I Wanna' Be Bad" is a riot. The film is also notable in that is was tied up in some kind of estate red tape for many years and was rarely seen. Because of this, the original 2 color Technicolor negative was perfectly preserved. It may be one of the few instances whereby a 2 color negative still exists in such a state. I hope Paramount, who I believe owns the rights, someday releases a DVD. The others mentioned, with the exception of SUNNY SIDE UP, were also photographed in early 2 color Technicolor and are quite enjoyable also.
     
  15. Alan_H

    Alan_H Stunt Coordinator

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    Right on. When you hear the 'rythmic pounding' in the opening scenes, the film will have your undivided attention. If not, you need to check your wrist to see if you still have a pulse.
     
  16. BarryR

    BarryR Supporting Actor

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    It's possible FOLLOW THRU belongs to Universal, if FOLLOW THRU is contractually part of the pre-1948 Paramount library that Universal owns. Who knows. I've e-mailed Turner Classics to look into airing it, but no response so far. I'll keep trying.

    [​IMG]
     

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