Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for The Jazz Singer

Dr. Bob Prescribes The Jazz Singer

The First “Talking Picture”? For as long as I’ve been aware of the movie The Jazz Singer, its title has always been preceded or followed by the phrase, “the first talking picture,” meaning the first major, full-length commercial film to contain spoken dialogue.  This is true but only just; in truth, the movie contains a total of two minutes’ worth of spoken dialogue, all of it improvised.  The dialogue for the remainder of the movie is presented through the standard, silent movie use of “caption cards” (or what were called “intertitles”).   We’d also note that all sorts of talking short films had been produced in the two years prior to the release of The Jazz Singer, films that used a variety of competing technologies for recording, reproducing, and synchronizingsound to visual imagery. (This issue of “synchronicity” was a huge, early challenge for the sound technologies employed during the “Early Sound Era.” We’ll talk more about synchronicity when we discuss the technology used to create The Jazz Singer, the Vitaphone process.) Nevertheless, it is that two minutes of spoken dialogue – along with its eleven musical numbers, six of them sung by its star, Al Jolson – that made The […]

Continue Reading