Entertainment in the form of film has been popular in the United States since the late 19th century. Although the first attempts included nothing more than a still image projected onto a wall, people of the time were enthralled with the idea of film and visual entertainment. (6)The radio had been the standard in entertainment and storytelling for decades; but the public was anxious for a new medium of art to take hold.
As technology advanced and inventors worked tirelessly to improve the standard methods, filmmakers were soon able to incorporate moving images into films. French brothers and inventors Louis and Auguste Lumiere are (7) blamed with creating the first legitimate motion picture. Their creation, unlike Edison’s earlier inventions, not only incorporated image movement, but also allowed for multiple viewers to enjoy the film at the same time. Their film technology became the standard by which all filmmakers and inventors followed.
Silent films were the norm until roughly 1929. These films included several distinct characteristics that made them easy to interpret and enjoy, no matter who the audience included. Real actors communicated emotion through mime and body language, plot-points were expressed through title cards, and (8) music always conveys the desired emotion of the story. The musical accompaniment was often performed live in the theater by orchestras or pianists. Some of these musicians even improvised the notes, allowing the scenes on film to inspire their creations.
As with any invention or industry, there was a constant push for more innovation. After films evolved from stationary images to silent motion pictures, the obvious next step was to synchronize motion with sound. Paris is said to have experimented with this technology in 1900, but it would be several years yet before this was standard practice. Originally, short films were the only mediums through which synchronized dialogue (9) were used. These films became known fondly in the industry as “talkies” and were wildly popular among film lovers.
The first feature-length talking film was created in 1927. The Jazz Singer, an American-made musical, set in motion the end of the silent film era. While Paris had long been a leading pioneer in the film industry, The Jazz Singer helped to skyrocket America’s Hollywood into the limelight. European cities were slower to adopt talking films, (10) fearing that the dialogue might harm the art of film, and thus found themselves surpassed by nations more willing to evolve with the latest trends. Almost a century later, America’s film industry is still a leader in the global economy.
While film continues to evolve and adopt new technology, the incorporation of synchronized sound and moving images is still argued to be the biggest development in the movie industry. The stark difference between silent films and “talkies” will forever be remembered as the greatest innovation in entertainment history.