Vitaphone was created by Warner Brothers in the mid 1920s as a one of the first systems in history to add sound to motion pictures. The process synchronized sound from a phonograph to that to the live action in the film. It had taken more than a quarter century to introduce commercial sound since the old kinetoscope parlors of 1900.
The phonograph was physically connected by belts and gears to the projector of the film. The Warners were among the first to introduce a 16 inch diameter record which was recorded at a 33 1/3 RPM rate. The first Vitaphone movie was Don Juan in 1926 Starring John Barrymore. The film did not feature dialog from the actors. It only included included a musical score and sound effects.
In 1927, Vitaphone was used in The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson. This film had actual dialog and music that was sung by the performer. Although it is not an all sound movie, the jazz the jazz singer was a breakthrough and ensured that future movie making would move quickly to talkies.
At first Vitaphone had a sound quality advantage over its rivals Movietone and Photophone. Within five years, that advantage had disappeared.
By the mid 1930s,Vitaphone had been been largely replaced by newer technology where soundtrack was printed directly onto the film. While the name still appeared in the credits of many Warner Brothers productions – especially cartoons – the actual sound process had changed by then.
Here are some reasons for its decline:
The Vitaphone system was a relatively expensive system.
It was not always reliable.
The sound was not as clear as it would be with a sound-on-film system.
The Vitaphone system required a special projector and a special phonograph.
Overall, the Vitaphone system was a major breakthrough in the development of sound films. It allowed filmmakers to add synchronized sound to their films, which opened up a whole new world of possibilities. However, the Vitaphone system was not without its limitations. It was a relatively expensive system, and it was not always reliable. As a result, it was eventually replaced by sound-on-film systems, such as Movietone.
Here are some of the major Vitaphone films made prior to 1935:
Don Juan (1926) was the first feature-length film to use the Vitaphone system.
The Jazz Singer (1927) is considered to be the first feature-length “talkie” film.
The Lights of New York (1928) was the first feature-length film to use synchronized sound throughout the entire film.
The Singing Fool (1928) was the first feature-length film to have a soundtrack that was recorded on a Vitaphone disc.
The Broadway Melody (1929) was the first feature-length film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) was a critically acclaimed film that won an Academy Award for Best Picture.
The Public Enemy (1931) was a gangster film that was a box office success.
Duck Soup (1933) was a political satire that was directed by the Marx Brothers.
42nd Street (1933) is a musical film that is considered to be one of the greatest musicals of all time.
- Year Started: 1925
- Year Ended: 1935
- Origin Of Name: translates to “Living Sound”
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Warner Brothers
- Owner While In Use: Warner Brothers
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: digital sound in movies
- Naics Code: 333310
- Location Headquarters: Los Angeles, California USA