October 6, 1927: The Jazz Singer, the first prominent “talkie”, is released.

You ain’t heard nothing yet” was a line spoken by Al Jolson in the first feature film with synchronized dialogue. In a way, his words were almost prophetic - the success of The Jazz Singer ushered in a new age of cinema. The movie smashed Warner Bros.’ previous box office record, demonstrating the profitability of the “talkie”. Prior to the release of this film, however, most studios and critics doubted talking film technology and dismissed it as a novelty; Harry Warner, whose company would pioneer talking films, famously scoffed “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" (although the full quote reveals that he believed recorded music would be a more decisive factor).

At the 1st Academy Awards (1929), The Jazz Singer was excluded from the top prizes because it was a talkie, but the Academy bestowed upon the film a Special Academy Award, recognizing it as “the pioneer outstanding talking picture, which has revolutionized the industry”. 2011’s The Artist was actually the first silent film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture since 1929, revealing how fas the silent film’s departure was. By the early 1930s, what had once been viewed as a fad was now standard procedure for most of the major studios. 

But the advent of the talkie was not beneficial for everyone in the industry. Some filmmakers continued to flourish despite the change, like Charlie Chaplin, who released some of his most popular films (City Lights, Modern Times, and The Great Dictator) after 1927; others, like, Douglas Fairbanks, who had once been called “the King of Hollywood”, could not adjust. Musicians who had provided live music for silent films also found themselves out of work, because prerecorded musical tracks rendered them obsolete. 

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