‘Shadows are going to make noises’: how Australian newspapers reported the birth of the Talkies

The understanding of how the silent film industry faded away, and the speed at which it eroded is tantalisingly revealed via the digitising of Australian newspapers over the last two years.  What has now surfaced are previously hidden stories, observations, opinions and concerns expressed through the media of the day.
Below is an assemblage of the hopes, fears, highlights and failures of the transition from silence to sound in Australia.


The Talkies are coming! They will be here tonight at the Burlington Picture Theatre.
Many of us never dreamed we would live to hear the pictures talk.
The new invention ‘Photofon’ will provide twenty minutes of speaking pictures tonight and three
will be presented in conjunction with the usual full programme
(National Advocate, Bathurst, NSW June 1926)

Although the news has not been officially announced, even in London, it is more
than probably that various Cabinet Ministers from Westminster, and perhaps  even
Mr Baldwin will be seen and heard in Australia in the not-to-far distant future.
(Evening News, NSW, August 1926)

The cinematograph will never attain its full measure of popularity as a form of
entertainment until the coming of of the ‘talking film’
(Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, October 1926)

A blind man would have imagined himself at an ordinary talking machine entertainment
and a deaf man would have seen only a picture show, but those with both sight and
hearing were at a performance which suggested to the imagination wonderful possibilities
(The Sydney Morning Herald, November 1926)


Is the talking film going to supersede all other kinds of moving pictures?
Some people think it is , and there can be no doubt that it is worth watching closely.
We certainly cannot afford to pooh-pooh these new inventions. Twenty five years ago people laughed at ‘animated pictures’ as they were called. To-day the picture business is the fourth largest industrial concern in America.
We are going to hear more of talking pictures.
(The Warwick Daily News, Queensland, January 1927)

Speaking and Talking Movies.
A special novelty attraction at the Rink on Friday night is the new amazing invention of speaking and talking pictures – ‘Photofon’.
This is an attraction that will please both young and old.  It is perfect in synchronism and a decided novelty.
Don’t fail to see and hear this wonderful invention , and modernise your methods and brighten your mind by seeing the latest marvels of science.
(The Richmond River Express and Casino Kyogle Advertiser, New South Wales, January, 1927)

The old tramway sheds at Rushcutter’s Bay are to be transformed into a modern motion
picture studio.  The studio will have every modern convenience , and it will mean that in
starting a new industry , we shall open another channel of employment
(The Sydney Morning Herald, March 1927)

A new Industry which has remarkable possibilities has been launched in Australia. The industry is for the production and development of films which talk and it is being undertaken by the De Forest Phonofilms (Australia) Ltd.
(The Telegraph, Queensland, March 1927)

Movies that really talk – not by a gramophone but by photographed sound rays – are the De Forest phonofilms , modern motion picture studios for the production which are now in course of construction at Rushcutter’s Bay, Sydney
(Truth, Queensland, March 1927)

The most outstanding development in motion picture production – the synchronised speaking film – is to be introduced to picture theatre patrons to-day.   A unique demonstration of this remarkable invention was given at the Majestic Theatre yesterday, when 600 invited guests heard music on the silver sheet.   Portrayed before them was a renowned band playing in the rotunda at Taronga Park, Sydney, while perfectly synchronised , was heard the music the band was playing.   Then followed burlesque features, dance items,  and a film depicting a trip to Long Island, the sounds associated with it being  naturally reproduced.   From the  speech amplifiers came the noise of the railway train, the barking of dogs, the call of the wildfowl, and the shrieks of children.
(The Age,Victoria, July 1927)


Hollywood is in a turmoil and it looks as though some of the present stars
who can’t even talk good American, will be cut out of a job
The trouble with many of the present stars is that they are of foreign or Jewish extraction
and are hopeless for recording clear, intelligible English
(The Daily News, Western Australia, September 1928)

Deaf folk at any rate will be very disconsolate if the talking film entirely supersedes
the ordinary variety.
(Border Watch, South Australia, November 1928)

For the first time on earth, shadows are going to make noises.
Thy are going to squeal , grunt, shout, whine, and hiss.
They are going to batter and bruise the delicate art of speech , and vent themselves
in a veritable riot of cacophony
(The Australian Worker, November 1928)

I can no longer look upon them as an experiment and I have arranged
for their installation in all the principle Union Theatres in Australia.
-Stuart.F Doyle
(Morning Bulletin, Queensland, November 1928)

Many American movies heroines would cease to be heroines if their
admirers heard them speak.
(The Mail, South Australia, November 1928)

It will cost Hoyts Theatre Ltd 90,000 pounds to 100,000 pounds to install talking pictures
in Australia.
(The Daily News, Western Australia, November 1928)

The Jazz Singer is only partly talkie.
There was at times a succession of blurred notes , particularly in the orchestral effects.
On the other hand a resonance of tone that was truly remarkable was achieved in the synagogue scene.
The effect was amazing.
It was clear from last night’s performance that Talkies are yet in their infancy.
(The Sydney Morning Herald, December , 1928)

Australian censors have been confronted with the problem of the censorship of talking pictures.
A transcript of the dialogue must be submitted to the censors by the importing companies.
(The Advertiser, South Australia, December , 1928)


Miss Ada Reeves,the well-known vaudeville artist,who arrived yesterday by the Ventura , declared that the ‘talkies’ had achieved wonderful successful in the United States and that the silent film would soon have vanished altogether from the screen
(The Sydney Morning Herald, January, 1929)

At a time when the talking-film has mowed down half of Hollywood’s famous stars and the other half
are rapidly sinking into obscurity, it is distinctly encouraging to find the two Australians – Dorothy Cummings,
and Mae Busch – have not only survived the mad stampede unscathed, but can actually be seen and heard in the very
front rank of the new ‘talking ghosts’.
(Sydney Mail, July, 1929)

By the s.s Sierra, on August 8, arrived Mr S. S Crick, managing director for  Australasia of Fox Movietone Ltd.
Mr Crick has brought back with him the first complete sound recording machine to arrive here.
It is fitted to a fast truck, and will make an extensive tour of Australia , taking sound pictures, which will be given worldwide
circulation.   The truck will commence its tour almost immediately and will be fuelled and lubricated throughout
by Plume Appotenic motor spirit and Gargoyle Motoroil.
(Referee, NSW, August 1929)

Hear the voice of Fairbanks speak to you in a special dialogue sequence.
Douglas Fairbanks in his first Cinesound Presentation ‘The Iron Mask’
With full Vitaphone supporting entertainment
(Advertisement in The Daily News, Western Australia, August 1929)

All This Week.
A 100 per cent. Talkie.
Supporting Silent Picture
“The Grain of Dust”
(Advertisement in Table Talk, Victoria, September 1929)


From ‘Deaf’-
Could you enlighten me as to whether the picture theatres will give an occasional silent picture show here after
they have all installed the ‘Talkies’?  I think this should be seen to at once , as there are quite a number of deaf
people in the city who have gone regularly to picture shows and will now be ‘downed’ as a far as silent pictures go,
if there is to be none at all in the future.
Mr P McLeod , of Lenard’s , said that it is an utter impossibility to get a good silent show now, as the producers are concentrating on ‘talkies’
(Barrier Miner, NSW, May 1930)

Sir- the last few months I have noticed with interest the controversy raging between the Talkies and the ‘Legitimate’ Theatres.  When the talkies were first introduced into New South Wales about 18 months ago their rivals of the stage and orchestra pit both predicted a short future for the talkies and were confident that the public ‘would soon realise they were listening to canned music and tire of it’.
Usually an 18 months trial is long enough for anything and now that time has elapsed and the talkies still seem to be holding their own.  Although I am not altogether for the talkies ,I candidly think that they are here to stay, although it does seem a shame that the legitimate theatre is apparently doomed
(The Maitland Daily Mercury, NSW, May 1930)

-sourced/collated by Rhett Bartlett  @dialmformovies

Peculiar opening credit text

Sometimes the opening credits of a film include a peculiar reference, that the film maker feels they must tell the audience.
Here is a collection of such occurrences.

Directed by James Whale, whose film Frankenstein, a year earlier, had starred Boris Karloff.


Directed by Alexander Mackendrick.  An Ealing comedy based on a real life 1941 shipwreck.

FARGO (1996)
Directed by the Coen Brothers.  The film is fictional, but apparently sourced from several events of murder cases.

Directed by John Sturges.   See, it pays to go to College.

Directed by H. C. Potter,  Edward F. Cline.   Setting the bar low I see.

RAIN (1932)

Directed by Lewis Milestone.  For United Artists, by way of MGM, Miss Joan Crawford everybody.

Directed by George Fitzmaurice. How very kind of Agnes Ayres.

Directed by Robert Aldrich.  Scrolling down.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 8.07.06 PM

Directed by Basil Dearden. Rosay had been in films since 1911.


CACHE (2005)
Directed by Michael Haneke.  Titles are typed out on screen from let to right, top to bottom.


In the opening credit, the film is dedicated to …. clothing coupons and ration cards

Tollbooths in Film: a rhettrospective

Often situated at the mouth of a freeway or a bridge,  the cinematic equivalent pops up in the most peculiar places.
With the most peculiar consequences.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Richard Dreyfuss chases the mysterious sky lights on a blacked-out night.
They rush through a tollbooth, thereby restoring its power.
The scene even appeared on a 1977 Wonder Bread collector card series.


Blazing Saddles (1974)
The absurdity of it all.   A single tollbooth in the middle of the desert, that Lamarr’s posse can simply go around.
But no.  “Has anyone got a dime?” , followed by “Somebody’s gotta go back and get a shit-load of dimes”

The Godfather (1972)
Sonny’s demise takes place at the tollbooth of the Long Beach Causeway.   He’s on his way to confront Carlo, who has beaten up Connie (Sonny’s sister).  The attendant drops the change, the tollbooth door closes, Sonny looks to his right. A hail of bullets.   James Caan (Sonny) later appeared in a film called Henry’s Crime, where he plays the cellmate of a disgruntled tollbooth attendant.

The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)
A boy comes home one day to find a tollbooth in his room, and drives his toy car through it to emerge into another world. A live action / animated film , directed by Chuck Jones, Abe Levitow and Dave Monahan.

Hudson Hawk (1991)

Hudson himself managed to make his way through a tollbooth, whilst on an ambulance gurney, by throwing exact change at it as he flashes by.

Big Daddy (1999)
Adam Sandler works one day a week in a tollbooth, despite having a degree in law.  The $200,000 compensation he was awarded from a vehicle accident is a main reason for his lack of motivation.

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
The fireball in the finale, destroys everything in its path, including the tollbooth that Samuel L Jackson and co barely make it through.

In Men in Black (1997), Will smith and Tommy Lee Jones drive through the tunnel, upside-down, and through the tollbooth, where they even have exact change! ($1).
…and yes we acknowledge there are a few films out there actually called Toll Booth (1994, 2004)

Film Winks: A Rhettrospective

A look back at the winks in film history.   The mischief, the affectionate and the down right creepy.
I’ve tried to avoid spoilers.
(by Rhett Bartlett – DialMForMovies)

CLEOPATRA (1963)Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 8.19.06 PM
A bow and the crowd erupt and then Cleopatra winks at Ceasar. A wink that only those in front of her can witness.
A strange directorial decision, considering Taylor’s previous scenes are stilted.  Her wink snaps us out from the spectacle. It feels out of place, looks out of place.  Had a historical film before ever done such a thing?

FAMILY PLOT (1976)09911
Hitchcock’s 53 film career ended, not with a horror film (as brilliant as Frenzy was late in his career), but with the subdued heist Family Plot.
The last image from his last ever film is a Barbara Harris wink.  A breach of the fourth wall by the film’s protagonist.

FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (1986)Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 8.33.46 PM
Cheeky Ferris puts the wheels in motion for the greatest pretend sick day in history, with an over-the-top wink to his sister Jenny, behind his parents back, at the start of the film.

FIELD OF DREAMS (1989)Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 8.16.36 PM
Under the spotlit baseball diamond, built on the instinct from a voice, young Archie Graham moves up to bat.  In his professional yearshe never made it onto the diamond to bat, only as a fielder.  1 baseball game.  Now, a chance at the redemption.  He had said earlier in the film that if he got his chance before a pitcher he would ‘stare him down and then just as he goes into the windup – wink! Make him wonder if I know something he doesn’t’  And so he does.

STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE (1977)Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 8.29.12 PM
And so the end of the fourth chapter (or is that the start of the second trilogy) has Hans Solo’s wink towards Princess Leia at the medal ceremony.
Leia shoots back a smirk, and all is good in the universe.

FUNNY GAMES (1997)wink
The creepy Michael Haneke film (the original) gets creepier with the wink from Arno Frisch, one of the two young boys on the verge of terrorising a family.
The film was remade in 2007, by the same director, in a shot for shot remake (a future list I suspect ‘Directors who remade their own films)

MOULIN ROUGE (2001)Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 8.41.33 PM
Kidman’s best role, with a wink during her stunning, energetic performance near the film’s beginning.

The entire sequence is a joy to experience; dazzling camerawork and editing, glorious sets and costume, and Kidman (top hat and all) the star seductress breaking the fourth wall.
Blink and you’ll miss it.

METROPOLIS (1927)winkmetropolis
The robot Maria’s fourth wall creepy wink, one of the earliest captured on film, and one of the most memorable.
Is there an earlier wink in film that breaks the fourth wall?
Fritz Lang was a genius.

But wait, there’s more….

One of the most ridiculous and disgusting winks in film history.
Jon Voight’s regurgitated wink to Jennifer Lopez.

FREDDY vs JASON (2003)
Speaking of ridiculous, coming a close second is the head of Freddy winking at the camera, as it is pulled out of the water by Jason.  Don’t forget the evil laugh on soundtrack.

In his last performance as the fictional character Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller disguises himself in the large regal dress of the island god, and shoots a secret wink to captive Brenda Joyce

DOGMA (1999)
The icon Buddy Christ, showing a smiling Jesus , giving the thumbs up, and winking at onlookers.  Created by the Church to replace the crucifixion image of Jesus.

Schwarzenegger’s wink at the end of the film, to Danny, somewhere out there watching him from the cinema.

Bond had to make an appearance on this and there he is, at the end of the movie, bedding a beauty.  Connery’s wink happens in the second ‘0’ of a very large 007 onscreen graphic.

Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe both shoot a wink to the audience as they sing ‘I was young and determined, to be wined and dined and ermined, and I worked at it all around the clock’ in the opening number of the film.
Russell also throws a wink during a later musical number as she sits beside her brother.

If have some more ‘winks’ to suggest, feel free to post them below or tweet me @dialmformovies