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The Sounds of the Silents in Britain$
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Julie Brown and Annette Davison

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199797615

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199797615.001.0001

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Animating the Audience: Singalong Films in Britain in the 1920s

Animating the Audience: Singalong Films in Britain in the 1920s

(p.222) 12 Animating the Audience: Singalong Films in Britain in the 1920s
The Sounds of the Silents in Britain

Malcolm Cook

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the brief but vigorous popularity of singalong films in Britain in the mid-1920s. This alternate sonic practice utilized an animated “bouncing ball” or similar device to indicate the lyrics of a song with the intent of promoting a communal singalong. Communal singing was not in itself an innovation and the chapter examines a number of precedents, which provide an important context for these films. The films also coincided with the broader cultural trend of community singing, indicating a geographically and historically specific moment. Both the singalong films and the community-singing movement engaged with the new technologies of sound reproduction: gramophone, telephone, and especially radio. These technologies would play a central role in the arrival of synchronized sound in cinemas and the singalong films may be considered a reflection of the debates about what the emerging sound cinema would sound and look like.

Keywords:   Britain, cinema, 1920s, community singing, audience participation, animation, the coming of sound, sound technology

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