Saturday, February 6, 2010

Faking Talking Pictures

This brief editorial comment from Moving Picture World indicates that actors speaking behind the screen were often billed as though they were part of the apparatus due to the growing fad of mechanically synchronized talking pictures such as the Cameraphone. This article also registers growing opposition to the practice of placing actors behind the sheet, which was deemed unnatural due to the use of improper dialects.
Many people in this city are being fooled into believing they are viewing the new invention of “talking pictures” when they are only listening to a very bad vocal operator hidden behind the screen. Our informant went into the Manhattan Theater, at Thirty-third street and Broadway, a few nights ago, to hear “talking pictures” and see the illustrations. What he heard convinced him that it was not an automatic machine that was doing the talking, but a man, and a poor talker at that. The pronunciation was incorrect and in the bad, slangy dialect of the ill[it]erate hanger-on about the theater stage. “Dis” and “dat” and “dem,” were the methods of pronunciation used. The enunciation was poor and the language jerky, as if the talker was afraid the picture would get away from him. Yet he believed that he had seen the wonderful talking pictures, but marveled greatly that such a sorry representation should be given with French subjects. Sunday he visited the Grand Opera House and saw the real cameraphone pictures and listened to the genuine vocalization of the instrument. He is now convinced that the talking at the Manhattan was the work of a stage hand and not of an automatic instrument. He says that if it was the work of a cameraphone he would advise the owners to remove the instrument or send someone there to operate it who will not make a burlesque of it.
“Editorial Notes and Comments,” Moving Picture World 30 May 1908, 473.