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TitleThe Sounds of Early Cinema
ISBN 139780253108708
CategoryArts - Film
File Size5.7 MB
Total Pages344
Table of Contents
Part One: A Context of Intermediality
	1 Early Phonograph Culture and Moving Pictures
	2 Doing for the Eye What the Phonograph Does for the Ear
	3 Remarks on Writing and Technologies of Sound in Early Cinema
	4 “Next Slide Please” : The Lantern Lecture in Britain, 1890 –1910
	5 The Voices of Silence
	6 The Event and the Series: The Decline of Cafés-Concerts, the Failure of Gaumont’s Chronophone, and the Birth of Cinema as A
Part Two: Sound Practices in Production
	7 Dialogues in Early Silent Sound Screenplays: What Actors Really Said
	8 The First Transi-Sounds of Parallel Editing
	9 Sound, the Jump Cut, and “Trickality” in Early Danish Comedies
	10 Setting the Pace of a Heartbeat: The Use of Sound Elements in European Melodramas before 1915
	11 Talking Movie or Silent Theater? Creative Experiments by Vasily Goncharov
Part Three: Sound Practices in Exhibition
	12 Sleighbells and Moving Pictures: On the Trail of D.W.Robertson
	13 The Story of Percy Peashaker: Debates about Sound Effects in the Early Cinema
	14 That Most American of Attractions, the Illustrated Song
	15 “The Sensational Acme of Realism": “Talker” Pictures as Early Cinema Sound Practice
	16 “Bells and Whistles”: The Sound of Meaning in Train Travel Film Rides
Part Four: Spectators and Politics
	17 The Noises of Spectators, or the Spectator as Additive to the Spectacle
	18 Early Cinematographic Spectacles: The Role of Sound Accompaniment in the Reception of Moving Images
	19 Sounding Canadian: Early Sound Practices and Nationalism in Toronto-Based Exhibition
	20 The Double Silence of the “War to End All Wars”
Part Five: Film Music
	21 Domitor Witnesses the First Complete Public Presentation of the [Dickson Experimental Sound Film] in the Twentieth Century
	22 A “Secondar Action” or Musical Highlight? Melodic Interludes in Early Film Melodrama Reconsidered
	23 The Living Nickelodeon
	24 Music for Kalem Films: The Special Scores, with Notes on Walter C.Simon
	25 The Orchestration of Affect: The Motif of Barbarism in Breil’s The Birth of a Nation Score
Appendixes: Original French Texts
	Appendix A: Les Voies du silence
	Appendix B: L'Événement et la série: le déclin du café-concert, l’échec du Chronophone Gaumont et la naissance de l’art cin
	Appendix C: Les transi-sons du cinéma des premiers temps
	Appendix D: Les bruits des spectateurs ou: le spectateur comme adjuvant du spectacle
	Appendix E: Le spectacle cinématographique des premiers temps: fonctions des accompagnements sonores dans la réception des im
	Appendix F: Le double silence de la “dernière” guerre
Document Text Contents
Page 2

The Sounds of Early Cinema

Page 172

(University of Amsterdam) made the provocative point that, at this time and even later,
the German tonbilder may have had a function similar to that of the American illustrated
songs: these short sync-sound representations of German performers singing German
songs also fostered a sense of national identity in cinemas and other venues where French
(usually from Pathé) and Italian ¤lms tended to dominate.

That Most American of Attractions, the Illustrated Song 155

Page 173

15 “The Sensational Acme of
Realism”: “Talker” Pictures as
Early Cinema Sound Practice
Jeffrey Klenotic

The following item appeared in a February 1908 issue of Moving Picture World:


Burlington, N.J., February 13—Reaching into the sheet-iron cage that covered a
moving-picture machine with which he was giving an exhibition, John Riker
seized a bare electric wire instead of the switch. He was held fast while a current of
1,000 volts went through his body.

He shrieked for help. His cries, coming through the narrow aperture of the
booth, sounded to the audience like a phonographic accompaniment to the blood
and thunder drama that was being portrayed in the moving pictures. The audi-
ence, not suspecting the dangerous plight of the man, applauded.

Andrew Harris, the piano player, saw that something was wrong and broke into
the cage. He shut off the current. Riker’s hand still gripped the wire and had to be
pried off. His hand was almost roasted by the strength of the current.1

In a bracketed comment appended to the end of the story, the World’s editor
admonished movie operators for their stubborn ignorance (asking, “When will
operators learn?”), and spelled out the obvious lesson to be drawn from John
Riker’s shocking tale: never use uninsulated electrical wire. For their part, movie
exhibitors—though no doubt sensitive to the dangers of projection and more
or less sympathetic to the plight of the nearly roasted Riker—may have dis-
cerned three quite different truths in this incident: ¤rst, sensational vocal effects
make for a crowd-pleasing show; second, when hidden from view, a human
“talker” can be taken by the audience as phonographic accompaniment, thereby
providing a lower-cost substitute for mechanized talking pictures; and third,
never underestimate the value of a good piano player to the success of any last-
minute rescue.

Ninety years later, the account of this event remains instructive, especially
for its suggestiveness concerning the complexities involved in the American
movie-going experience of 1908, a year of proliferation in the use of mecha-
nized and non-mechanized synchronized sound systems. In particular, the story
prompts questions about the function of sound in constructing a separated but
overlapping relationship between ¤lm space and theater space. On one hand,
the story implies the audience was cued to locate the shrieks in a source outside

Page 343

senses, the: separation of, xiv, 14–22, 27–29,
33, 35, 74; at Hale’s Tours, 167–178

Serena, Gustavo, 107
“She Waits by the Deep Blue Sea” [song]

(1906), 145, 145
sheet music, 147, 148, 200, 237
Sightseeing in the Principal Cities, Auto Tours

of the World and, 171, 172
silence, as accompaniment mode, 137, 235–

236; anonymity of, 37; between sound
effects, 137; and ¤lms d’art, 48–54, 62; in
institutional cinema, 184; in second-
period cinema, 187; Walter Benjamin
on, 210, 211

Silver, Louis, 229
Silvio, Alex, 208
Simmel, Georg, 37
Simon, Walter C., xv, 241–250, 244
Singer, Ben, 108n14
Sinn, Clarence, 138, 238–239, 246
Slave’s Love, A (1907), 147, 150, 151
slides. See magic lantern
Smily, Owen, 201–203
son-et-lumière, xii, xiv–xv, 114
Song about Merchant Kalashnikov, A

(1909), 115
Sørensen, Axel, 88
sound effects, 49, 129–140, 131, 134, 137,

195, 235, 236–237; in action melodramas,
95–107; at circus, 89–90; debates about,
129–140; and Hale’s Tours, 167–178; in
Stenka Razin, 112; and “talker pictures,”

Southern, Eileen, 255n18
spectators, xiii, 192–197; bodily awareness

of, 167–168, 177–178; at cafés-concerts,
64n10; at chautauquas, 124; deaf, 71–75;
at magic lantern shows, 43, 44; noises of,
183–190; and silence, 52, 54, 105; travelers
as, 176

Stenka Razin [painting] (1903–1910), 112
Stenka Razin [Brigands from the Lower

Reaches] (1908), 110, 112–113
stereoscopy, 28
Stern, Seymour, 261, 262–263, 266nn13,19
Stockholm Opera, 32, 37
Stoker, Bram, 22
Story of the Kelly Gang, The (1906), 131
Strindberg, August, 32–38
subjectivity, 21, 29, 87, 96
Surikov, Vasily, 111, 115, 116n5
Symbolism, 7–9, 14–16
sync-sound cinema, 139. See also Camera-

phone; Chronophone; [Dickson Experimen-

tal Sound Film]; The Jazz Singer; “talker pic-

Talbot, Frederick, 135
“talker pictures,” 157–163, 164n5
“talking pictures,” 157, 235, 237
Tännforsen (1909), 32
Taussig, Michael, 27
Taves, Brian, xvin9
telegraph, 220
telephone, 25, 84
Telephone, The (1910), 234
Thanhauser, Edwin, 228
Three Musketeers, The (1911), 132
Trip through the Black Hills (1907), 176
Trainer’s Daughter, The; or, A Race for Love

(1907), 83–84
“traps,” 129, 135, 139, 235. See also sound

trick ¤lms, 158–159, 164n4, 189
“trickality,” 88–94
Trotter, William Monroe, 263
Tryllekunstneren [The Conjurer] (1909), 87–

88, 88, 89, 91
Tryllesækken [The Magic Sack] (1907), 88, 89–

90, 90
Tselos, George, 217
Tsivian, Yuri, 106
Turim, Maureen, 96

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1903), 220–221, 223
University of Iowa Sound Study Group, xv
Uricchio, William, 189

Valet’s Vindication, The (1910), 238
Vardac, Nicholas, 95, 221
vaudeville, 143, 158–159, 229, 233, 237
Venetian Tragedy, A (1907), 146
Verne, Jules, 7–8, 22–27
Véronneau, Pierre, 165n11
Veyne, Paul, 57, 58
Victoria, Vesta, 237
“views,” 233
Villiers, Frederic, 44, 200
Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, Auguste, comte de, 6–

8, 13, 16, 19–24, 27
Violin Maker of Cremona, The (1910), xii
voice, human: displacement of onto gesture,

93; replaced by music, 50; separation from
body, 19, 21; and “talker pictures,” 164

von Tilzer, Harry, 145, 147

Waiting at the Church (1907), 237
Waller, Gregory A., 203n10

326 Index

Page 344

’Way Down East (1920), xv, 221, 229
Western Romance, A (1910), 238
What Happened in the Tunnel (1903), 168
Wheeler, DeWitt C., 145, 236
White & Langever’s Steamboat Tours of the

World, 171, 173
Wieland or the Transformation [novel]

(Brown), 23
Williams, Linda, 265

World and the Woman (1915), 228
World War I, 139, 201–202, 205–210

Yermak Timofeevich—Conquerer of Siberia
[play] (1910), 113–115

York and Son of London, 44–45

Zerner, Henri, 11n23

Index 327

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