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- Publié sur Amazon.com
This book goes above and beyond the call of duty in writing about, primarily, the very turbulent years of 1926-30 in the American film industry, during the transitional period between silence and sound. It covers everything--the technology behind these new innovations and the technology of silent film-making, the business and financial aspects, the artistic angles, and the human aspects. Most people who aren't familiar with this era in cinema tend to believe a lot of myths and clichés about it, all of which Mr. Eyman destroys in his quest for the truth about this era. For example, while a lot of people seem to believe that talking pictures didn't exist until 1927, the truth is that there had been experiments ever since the 1890s, though none of them caught on, and most of them had very crude and impractical technology. Many people also seem to believe that after 'The Jazz Singer' (which is actually about 75% silent, with most of the sound being songs instead of dialogues), the entire industry turned to sound overnight. Such a massive sea change did not and could not have happened overnight. Most people believed it was just a novelty and that before long films would go back to being silent, or perhaps would only use sound selectively, as in the transitional period of the late Twenties, or there would be films that were both sound and silent instead of all one or the other. This new technology developed by William Fox (Movietone) and the Warner Brothers (Vitaphone) happened to come about at just the right time for it to finally not only be a lot more practical than the various systems invented previously, but also at just the right time for the public to be ready for it. Other stories include both famous ones, such as the one about how poor Jack Gilbert did NOT have a high-pitched voice and was NOT laughed offscreen after his first talkie, and lesser-known ones, such as how there were still a fair number of theatres not wired for sound by 1930, the stories behind the creation of some famous early talkies and late silents, the slow progress on improving the primitive sound recording technology, how most silent stars actually had hugely successful talkie debuts, if only because their fans wanted to hear their voices, how film-making took a big step backwards in time when sound came in and took awhile to recover (and as many people who were there felt, the romance of making films came to a crashing halt when these sterile foreboding sound stages came in, together with how movies became less subtle and artistic in ways), and how silent actors were saying actual lines in an actual script and usually had good voices, contrary to the modern-day myth of how they just said any silly thing that came to mind because the audience couldn't hear them, and how they all had these horrible voices.
Mr. Eyman really knows his subject, and pays respect to the silent era instead of treating it like some silly embarrassing clunky inferior relic of a distant past, as well as treating the early sound era in a balanced way, pointing out all of its shortcomings as well as the good things about it, how sound did make possible films that could have never been as good in the silent era. He almost puts one in the mindset of someone who was there when it happened, when all of these amazing changes, not all for the better, were taking place seemingly overnight, and when all of these historic films, such as 'Don Juan,' 'The Jazz Singer,' 'The Crowd,' 'Sunrise,' and 'The Lights of New York' came out, seeing the art of silent film-making at its greatest heights and then replaced by transitional hybrids that encorporated sound at certain points, and finally all of these crude clunky early talkies that nevertheless thrilled the audiences because they'd never heard and seen movies at the same time before. My only complaints about the book are that it kind of perpetuates the decades-old rumor about Marion Davies only having her career survive because of her association with William Randolph Hearst (not mentioning how she probably would have had an even more successful career if she hadn't been his consort, since non-Hearst owned papers also gave her great reviews, and it was actually due to his mismanagement of her career that she wasn't as successful as she could have been, since he insisted on putting her in serious costume pictures and dramas instead of recognising her proven forte of light comedy), and that, as other reviewers have noted, it does give a surprisingly short schrift to comedy, barely even mentioning people like Harold Lloyd or Charlie Chaplin, and not even mentioning a lot of other hugely popular comedians, like Lloyd Hamilton or Charley Chase, at all.