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The First Sound Movie Released (1927)

The First Sound Movie Released (1927)

In the early days of cinema, it was extremely difficult to record on-set sound with the clarity needed. This meant that many picture houses and cinemas would hire small orchestras or piano players to play along with the action on screen. This changed in 1927 when The Jazz Singer was released. Whilst The Jazz Singer is often seen as the ‘first’ sound film, there were instances of dialogue in movies prior to its release, however, these appeared exclusively in short films and were largely seen as a fad amongst film lovers. The Jazz Singer benefited from the new technology of Vitaphone, which was owned exclusively by Warner Bros at the time. Although most of the film is silent, there are sequences of synchronised sound, including musical numbers, and the film caused a sensation with audiences. There is actually only just over two minutes of sound in the film (with the rest of the dialogue shown in title cards). The plot follows Jakie Rabinowitz, a young Jewish performer who defies his strict parents to become a popular jazz performer. The first spoken words heard by most movie audiences were “wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet” from Al Jolson, the star of the film. The rudimentary nature of sound technology at the time meant that The Jazz Singer required 15 separate reels of film and sound to be projected properly!

Learn more about film and film technology with our activities!

Activity Ideas:

  • Print off and enjoy our special edition digest all about early cinema – here 
  • Challenge yourself with our Classic Film Quiz – here 
  • Organise a film night with our film flash cards – here, here and here
  • Get crafty with our paper film strip activity – coming soon!