NYU CINE-GT 1800 - Technological History of Fox Movietone News (11 pages)

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Technological History of Fox Movietone News



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Technological History of Fox Movietone News

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Pages:
11
School:
New York University
Course:
Cine-Gt 1800 - Intro to Miap
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Irene E Taylor Introduction to MIAP Technological History of Fox Movietone News From Edison s attempts to incorporate the technologies of moving pictures and the phonograph to the synchronized sound in Don Juan 1926 and of course The Jazz Singer 1927 the history of the development of sound in the cinema has been well documented 1 The purpose here then is not to restate the history of sound but rather to better illustrate the involvement of Theodore Case and E I Sponable and their sound on film invention lead to the formation of the Fox Case Corporation in 1926 The reason this development is so significant in film history is because it allowed for the testing of sound on film The reason this arrangement is so important for this paper is because the testing and practice was done largely through the newsreel In three 1947 issues of the Journal of the Motion Picture Engineers Earl Sponable not surprisingly plays up the magnitude Theodore Case had on the history of sound in cinema 2 Relying heavily on Case s own correspondence Sponable gives a year by year account of the development of sound films up to and including the success of Movietone News Case began in 1911 to experiment on sound recording while still a student at Yale University He and Sponable met and began to work together in 1916 Figure 1a 3 Theirs was not the only collaboration At times Case and Sponable were involved with Dr Lee de Forest engineers at the Bell and Howell Company as well as the Western Electric Company The 1 See for example Harry M Geduld The Birth of the Talkies From Edison to Jolson Bloomington Indiana UP 1975 Evan Willaim Cameron ed Sound and the Cinma The Coming of Sound to American Film Pleasantville Redgrave 1980 and Edward W Kellogg s multiple installments History of Sound Motion Pictures Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers 64 1955 291 302 356 74 and 422 37 2 E I Sponable Development of Sound Films in Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers 48 1947 275 303 and 407 22 3 Sponable 284 1 involvement with de Forest concerned the perfection of a photoelectric cell that could be used to capture sound without using up too much heat or power This ultimately lead to what was termed the Aeo light which operated at between 200 and 400 v olts 4 Sponable on the other hand designed and had built by Bell and Howell a new sound camera Figure 2 in February 1923 which was tested with good results 5 The collaboration with Western Electric Company was in regards to the use of amplifiers and was solidified in early December 1925 It was not until the fall of 1925 after the working arrangements between Case and de Forest were as Kellogg diplomatically phrases it terminated that the Case laboratory efforts were directed largely to recording principles and apparatus 6 The results of these efforts were in the design and building of a projector attachment that would work with existing silent projectors It was during this time that the decision was made to place the soundhead under the projector and the offset of 20 frames or 14 in between picture and sound was established 7 After undergoing numerous extensive tests of what was termed the Case system Case and the Fox Film Corporation entered into an agreement on July 23 1926 and thus formed the Fox Case Corporation 8 This date is noteworthy because 4 Kellogg 295 Sponable 289 6 Kellogg 295 Film historians have made much of the fact that de Forest never received full compensation for all that he did in the development of sound motion pictures Sponable himself mentions that de Forest sued both Fox and Case in August 1926 for patent infringement However it never went to trial In his article Sponable does not defend himself or Case but rather points out throughout that it was a mutual collaboration Sponable 407 7 Kellogg 295 De Forest s design had placed the attachment above the projection head Sponable 295 8 Raymond Fielding The Technological Antecedents of the Coming of Sound An Introduction in Sound and the Cinema The Coming of Sound to American Film ed Evan William Cameron Pleasantville Redgrave 1980 17 Sponable relates that in this agreement Case turned over all patents and rights in his system of talking picture to the new company agree ing to continue his laboratory for the purpose of making recording lights photoelectric cells and for general development purposes Sponable 302 Interestingly on another matter at least one film historian has cited William Fox s somewhat apathetic feelings toward the development of sound on film Geduld 146 However Sponable gives the impression was one of distrust rather than apathy when he recalls that 5 2 one of the first demonstrations of the Case system was done in May of that year four months before the Don Juan premiere 9 In August 1926 Sponable moved to New York to take part in commercializing the Case system 10 Courtland Smith11 was made general manager and Movietone was chosen as the commercialized name for the system A few months later on January 21 1927 the first public showing of Fox Case Movietone subjects Racquel Meller and Harry Lauder both popular singers was given at the Sam Harris Theater in connection with the premiere of What Price Glory though not advertised 12 This early public demonstration proved that not only was sound on film a viable probability for the future of film but its future success was solidified in June when Charles Lindbergh s welcome to Washington after his transatlantic flight was recorded by the Fox Case system While news subjects such as Lindbergh s welcoming along with a speech given by Mussolini and several musical numbers had been shown it was not until October 28 1927 that the first Movietone News was exhibited Not only did this first showing establish Movietone News as what would become a commonplace feature at first run theaters but it also cemented the procedure of showing several short and frequently unrelated subjects together 13 The popularity and success of Movietone cannot be overstated Not only did the release of Movietone News increase from one to three issues per week in a little when shown the process at his home Mr Fox was at first suspicious of the process however a closeup of a canary bird singing while perched on the top of its cage seemed to convince him that the sound was not a matter of trickery 302 9 Geduld 155 10 Sponable 407 11 Sponable gives considerable credit to Smith who he states was instrumental in starting and developing


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