The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution, 1926-1930

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9780801861925: The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution, 1926-1930
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Although motion pictures had existed since the turn of the century, it was D. W. Griffith's controversial but wildly successful The Birth of the Nation, released in 1915, that transformed what had been a flickering novelty into an art form. In the following years, such masters of the silent film as F. W. Murnau, King Vidor, and Erich von Stroheim built on Griffith's legacy to create sumptuous visual feasts that remain unmatched in the history of film. And then, in 1926, came sound. For many, it marked the end of the cinema's most creative era. Certainly sound marked the end of movie-making as its creators had envisioned it. The careers of some of the silent era's biggest stars and most respected craftspeople were ruined by the new technology. Still others readily adapted to the new conditions and prospered. It was a turbulent, colorful, and altogether remarkable period -- four years during which Hollywood reinvented itself.

In The Speed of Sound, Scott Eyman chronicles for the first time the epic story of the transition from silent films to talkies. Debunking the myth that Hollywood was transformed overnight in the wake of the popularity of The Jazz Singer in 1927, Eyman shows how the industry at first resisted and then only reluctantly accepted the arrival of sound. For a long time after The Jazz Singer, in fact, there were still some directors, actors, and even filmgoers who refused to embrace the new technology. But the sense of wonder which sound inspired in audiences, causing them to abandon the visual dynamism of silent film in favor of the crudely recorded and stiffly filmed movies of sound's first wave, meant that change was irrevocable. At once scholarly and vastly entertaining, The Speed of Sound explores the technology and politics behind the introduction of sound, how this innovation affected Hollywood creatively and economically, and how the talkie revolution led inexorably to the modern movie industry.

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Nowadays the "talkie" seems, like some other technological breakthroughs, to have obliterated its less-advanced predecessor, the silent movie, in one fell swoop. The reality, of course, is more complex. As Scott Eyman writes in his prologue to The Speed of Sound, "To examine this period of unparalleled industrial change, it is necessary to reverse the perspective, to give a fair, detailed idea of what silents were like to the people who made and watched them, and how talkies permanently changed the creative and personal equations." Eyman's eye-opening book fulfills this mission. He focuses on just five years--1926 through 1930--but tells the story on many levels. We learn about the technology, the details of actors' and technicians' lives, the elaborate business machinations associated with the rise of sound, and the resulting transformation of not just the movies but Hollywood itself. The Speed of Sound fills a gap in any film buff's library.

About the Author:

Scott Eyman is the books editor for the Palm Beach Post. He is the author of Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise and Mary Pickford: America's Sweetheart, among other books.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9781501103834: The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930

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ISBN 10:  1501103830 ISBN 13:  9781501103834
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2015
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9780684811628: The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930

Simon ..., 1997
Hardcover

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