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  1. Jean Harlow
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In some cases, the plots of the two versions differed with either alternative takes, reversed sequences, or changed endings.

Jean Harlow

One major example was All Quiet on the Western Front , which had a 'silent' version with music and effects and a 'sound' version. At the same time, film studios were confronted with many problems related to the coming of sound, including restricted markets for English-language talkies. Technically, camera movements were restricted, and noisy, bulky movie cameras had to be housed in clumsy, huge sound-insulated booths with blimps sound-proof covers , to avoid picking up camera noise on the soundtrack.

Artistically, acting suffered as studios attempted to record live dialogue, because stationary or hidden microphones in either their costumes or other stage props impeded the movement of actors. Some of the earliest talkies were primitive, self-conscious, crudely-made productions with an immobile microphone - designed to capitalize on the novelty of sound. Silent film studios became obsolescent, and new investments had to be made for expensive new equipment, technological innovations, and sound-proofed stages.

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Cameras were mounted on moveable, squeak-proofed dollies, and microphones were hung from booms that could be held above the action outside of the camera's view. Lubitsch's first sound film The Love Parade with Jeanette MacDonald's debut appearance , exhibited the director's creative adaptation to the requirements of sound film, and was one of the first backstage musicals with musical numbers that were integral to the plot. Smoothly directed, Lubitsch avoided making it stage-bound and over-acted like many of the early talkies.

Old Hollywood in Color 3: When Silent Stars Spoke

And Rouben Mamoulian's first film Applause did creative and revolutionary things with recorded sound, such as overlapping soundtracks, and using sounds as cues or signals. Films that began production as silents were quickly transformed into sound films.

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All of the studios were forced to follow suit. By , the silent movie had practically disappeared, and by the mid s, film industry studios had become sound-film factories. Many stars of the silent era with heavy accents and disagreeable voices saw their careers shattered e.

Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film.

Other silent stars, such as Mary Pickford, failed to make the transition to talkies and retired in the 30s. Many new film stars and directors that had to be imported from Broadway, would become familiar Hollywood names in the s. Another technological advance, in addition to sound, was the use of color. Another process called Kinemacolor used a movie camera and projector that both exposed and projected black and white film through alternating red and green filters. The company's first color process was a two color red and green additive system that used two color negatives pasted or printed together.

The first two-color Technicolor production was The Gulf Between , and the first commercial, two-color Technicolor feature film made was the six-reel The Toll of the Sea , also noted as the first to use a subtractive two-color process. The first feature-length blockbuster color picture using this same innovative process was The Black Pirate with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

Old Hollywood in Color 3: When Silent Stars Spoke

By , what began as a two-color system in the mid- and late s and s evolved into a much richer and vibrant three-color process by Technicolor. The first three-strip, regular exposure Technicolor film was RKO's and Rouben Mamoulian's Becky Sharp - the first feature-length, three-strip Technicolor production. Other film studios rushed into production their own musicals to compete for box-office returns.

The first all-color sound musical production in two-strip Technicolor was Warners' and director Alan Crosland's backstage musical On With the Show!


It was a remake of the silent, non-musical comedy film about chorus girls, The Gold Diggers - and it was followed by Mervyn LeRoy's musical remake The Gold Diggers of The first major, feature-length Hollywood sound film with an all-black cast was King Vidor's first talkie - MGM's Hallelujah , but it was initially shot as a silent. I have always been a big fan of Edward G. Robinson, Conrad Veidt, and Warner Oland so the temptation to devote entire chapters to these talented individuals proved irresistible. But who publishes a book with just three chapters?

So I began thinking of other stars who defied the odds in that tumultuous era when talkies replaced silent films.

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And especially those stars where Time has pigeoned-holed their versatility to one role or one movie. But almost two decades earlier, Joan Crawford was a silent film star, and then she reinvented herself for sound films. Who knew? By now you catch my drift. You don't need to be a movie buff to have heard of Jean Harlow or Clara Bow.

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  4. But start asking about their big hit films and the conversation can come to a stop. Even an original talent like W.