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July 23, 2015

July 23, 1926: Fox buys Movietone

On this day in 1926, William Fox bought the Movietone “sound on film” system, which provided the first successful attempt to synchronize video with audio.

That 1927 endeavor was called Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, a silent film accompanied by recorded music on the same strip of tape. Directed by F.W. Murnau, many critics view Sunrise as one of the greatest films ever made.

Two weeks after Sunrise opened, Warner Bros. released The Jazz Singer, the first “talkie” – a film featuring synchronized dialogue. The Jazz Singer used the Vitaphone system, which recorded sound on a disc that had to be synchronized with the filmstrip, a more complicated system than Movietone.

Movietone was perhaps best known for Movietone News, which played a big role in covering the 1928 election.

Image: Movietone News reel circa 1928 via Cornell College (Iowa)

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