Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Talking Pictures

The following summary article appeared in the Times the next day. It is shorter and much more general, adding little new information. What it does illustrate, however, is the extent to which Edison could drive the news coverage. Cameraphone, a company that had made a big splash with talking pictures a couple of years past, had gone bankrupt the previous year and been dissolved in the spring. For Edison to be speaking so optimistically of the talking picture now when the major talking picture firm in the U.S. had just failed seems a bit surprising. For the press not to have hinted at the previous failures seems very remarkable indeed.

The Talking Pictures

Mr. Edison, having solved the problem of congestion in cities and cheap but wholesome living for the poor, by inventing a new kind of dwelling house, which can be poured in liquid form out of a pitcher wherever there happens to be a vacant space for it to occupy, has lately turned his attention to the combination of the phonograph and the moving picture. Thus far, his kinetophone is in an experimental stage, but the experiment, according to good judges who have seen and heard it, works well. The voice of the moving figure on the screen is heard at the right instant. Phonograph and picture work in unison, in control of electrical appliances invented by Edison. The records for the eye and the ear are made simultaneously.

By means of this machine Mr. Edison intends to make the personality and voice of Col. Rossevelt, John Drew, and the great opera singers familiar in the remoter parts of the earth. Probably he will not neglect Mr. Pinchot, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Marie Dressler. “Broadway productions” are to be made accessible in the deserts and frontier towns. The educational possibilities of the new invention or undeniable. Already the moving picture has measurably helped in the development of human intelligence, and the singing and talking machines have done much for the increase of musical knowledge and taste. But with all the improvements Mr. Edison’s inventive genius can supply, moving and talking pictures will never supplant opera and drama in its natural form. They may greatly increase the demand for musical and dramatic art by cultivating the taste of the multitude. That is something worth doing.

Source: “The Talking Pictures,” New York Times 28 August 1910, 8.