6 October 1927: the first "talkie" movie of history

6 October 1927: the first "talkie" movie of history

October 6, 1927: a date that probably doesn’t tell anything to you but 90 years ago today an audience at New York's Warners' Theatre watched, and most important heard, The Jazz Singer, a motion picture that holds a significant place in film history for being the first "talkie” ever shot before. 
Being a rarity among silent movies of the time, The Jazz Singer operated a revolution in the movie industry. Starring Al Jolson, It tells the story of Jakie Rabinowitz (played by Al Jolson), the son of a Jewish cantor, who declines to follow in his father's footsteps. Instead, he dissembles his Jewish identity while trying to make it in the world of popular music. Just as Jakie is about to hit the big time, his father falls ill, forcing Jakie to choose between his family and his show-biz dreams. Mostly silent, the movie comprises 281 uttered words among which one of the most famous American movie lines: “Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain't heard nothin' yet!"
 

“… the pioneer outstanding talking picture which has revolutionized the industry.”
— First Academy Awards ceremony thoughts on movie The Jazz Singer, 1929
Poster for The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

Poster for The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

Poster of The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

Poster of The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

Experiments in sound film had been occurring almost since the birth of silent pictures, but Warner Bros. - until then considered a second-string studio - took the initiative in creating sound feature films after setting up its own radio station in 1927. Using its newly developed Vitaphone process, the studio added a score and sound effects to Don Juan (1926), a John Barrymore silent already in production. The success of this film, plus a series of musical shorts, inspired the creation of the first real "talkie" feature, The Jazz Singer.

The film was nominated for best adapted screenplay and best special effects at Academy Awards in 1929. It was generally considered as a good movie by the Academy jury, thought their reviews were understandably focused more on the movie's technical innovations than on its story or production.
 

Al Jolson and May McAvoy in The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

Al Jolson and May McAvoy in The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

May McAvoy and Al Jolson in a scene of The Jazz Singer , 1927

May McAvoy and Al Jolson in a scene of The Jazz Singer , 1927

Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer , 1927

Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer , 1927

Otto Lederer and Al Jolson in a scene of The Jazz Singer , 1927

Otto Lederer and Al Jolson in a scene of The Jazz Singer , 1927

Eugenie Besserer and Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer , 1927

Eugenie Besserer and Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer , 1927

Eugenie Besserer and Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer,  advertising poster, 1927

Eugenie Besserer and Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer,  advertising poster, 1927

Eugenie Besserer and Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

Eugenie Besserer and Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

Al Jolson in a scene of The Jazz Singer , 1927

Al Jolson in a scene of The Jazz Singer , 1927

The premiere was set for October 6, 1927, at Warner Bros.' flagship theater in New York City and it was a great success. 
According to Doris Warner, who attended the premiere representing Warner Bros., Jolson's "Wait a minute" line had prompted a loud, positive response from the audience. Applause followed each of his songs. Excitement built when the first dialogue scene took place, "the audience became hysterical." said Doris Warner. After the show, the audience turned into a "milling, battling, mob", in one journalist's description, chanting "Jolson, Jolson, Jolson!"
Among those who reviewed the film, the critic who foresaw most clearly what it presaged for the future of cinema was Life magazine's Robert E. Sherwood. He described the spoken dialogue scene between Jolson and Besserer as "fraught with tremendous significance.... I for one suddenly realized that the end of the silent drama is in sight". 
 

Premiere of The Jazz Singer at Warner Bros.' flagship theater in New York City, October 6, 1927

Premiere of The Jazz Singer at Warner Bros.' flagship theater in New York City, October 6, 1927

the jazz singer premiere advertising.jpg
Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 16 October 1927,

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 16 October 1927,

1928 film newspaper advert for Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer

1928 film newspaper advert for Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer

The jazz singer 1927 newspaper.jpg
the jazz singer critics.jpg
The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

Al Jolson and May McAvoy in The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

Al Jolson and May McAvoy in The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

May McAvoy for The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927  

May McAvoy for The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927
 

Al Jolson and May McAvoy, The Jazz Singer , 1927

Al Jolson and May McAvoy, The Jazz Singer , 1927

Al Jolson, May McAvoy, Otto Lederer and Eugenie Besserer in The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

Al Jolson, May McAvoy, Otto Lederer and Eugenie Besserer in The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

Richard Tucker, May McAvoy, Al Jolson, Otto Lederer and Eugenie Besserer in a scene of The Jazz Singer , 1927

Richard Tucker, May McAvoy, Al Jolson, Otto Lederer and Eugenie Besserer in a scene of The Jazz Singer , 1927

Eugenie Besserer, Al Jolson and Warner Oland in The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

Eugenie Besserer, Al Jolson and Warner Oland in The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crowland, 1927

Myrna Loy, Audrey Ferris, May McAvoy and Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer , 1927

Myrna Loy, Audrey Ferris, May McAvoy and Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer , 1927

The Jazz Singer, Photoplay Edition Book, 1927

The Jazz Singer, Photoplay Edition Book, 1927

The film developed into a major hit, demonstrating the profit potential of feature-length "talkies", though one of the keys to the film's success was an innovative marketing scheme conceived by Sam Morris, Warner Bros.' sales manager: Theaters had to book The Jazz Singer for full rather than split weeks. Instead of the traditional flat rental fee, Warners took a percentage of the gate. A sliding scale meant that the exhibitor's take increased the longer the film was held over. The signing of this contract by the greater New York Fox Theatres circuit was regarded as a headline-making precedent.

The Jazz Singer is consider the first “talkie” movie. However, it only had a few minutes of dialogue. The first ever made feature-length film that was all talking was Lights of New York, released in 1928 by Warner Brothers and considered as the first motion picture in history to rely entirely on audible dialogue to tell its story. It was the demise of the silent films era.

In 1996, The Jazz Singer was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" motion pictures. In 1998, the film was chosen in voting conducted by the American Film Institute as one of the best American films of all time, ranking at number ninety.
 

When the private becomes public ...

When the private becomes public ...