Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Author: Russell L Johnson

Journal of Social History cover

Curing (silent) movies of deafness?

Conventional wisdom holds that many of the favorite silent movie actors who failed to survive the transition to sound films—or talkies—in the late-1920s/early-1930s were done in by voices in some way unsuited to the new medium. Talkies are thought to have ruined the career of John Gilbert, for instance, because his “squeaky” voice did not match his on-screen persona as a leading male sex symbol. Audiences reportedly laughed the first time they heard Gilbert’s voice on screen.

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