Okay for Sound? The reception of the Talkies in Britain 1928-1932

Date

2020-03

Advisors

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

ISSN

1743-4521

Volume Title

Publisher

Edinburgh University Press

Type

Article

Peer reviewed

Yes

Abstract

The arrival of the talkies in Britain evoked mixed responses. While popular audiences enthusiastically embraced Hollywood musicals like the Al Jolson hit The Singing Fool (1928), the literati were often scathing of ‘mechanical’ music and dialogue. Hollywood dictated the speed of change and economics and public demand soon forced the British film industry to convert to sound, but critics, intellectuals, educators, artists, literary figures and musicians were openly hostile to the new art form, opening a chasm between popular taste and intellectual response. The cacophony of dissenting voices was joined by various official reports from bodies like the Trades Union Congress and the Federation of British Industries who predicted the deleterious effect of the talkies on everything from British jobs in manufacturing to diminishing Britain’s influence across its colonies and dominions. This article will map these discourses and examine attitudes to the introduction of the talkies in Britain between 1929 and 1932 as the new technology gathered momentum across the UK and film criticism developed as a distinct discipline.

Description

Keywords

British silent cinema, Transition to sound, cinema criticism, 1920s and 1930s British cinema

Citation

Porter, L. (2019) Okay for Sound? The reception of the Talkies in Britain 1928-1932. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 17 (2), pp. 212-232

Rights

Research Institute

Cinema and Television History Institute (CATHI)