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Phonofilm, The Promise

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Lee de Forest
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Abstract

The film going public was not really waiting for sound films. It could be argued that films had never really been “silent,” as there was almost always some musical accompaniment in the theater. The big city movies featured an orchestra or ensemble, maybe the “Mighty Wurlitzer” theater organ, while the small town houses may have had a piano player, but the film audiences of the “pre-sound” era always expected to hear music during the “silent” film experience. And by the 1920s, the major film releases often had music scores specifically written to accompany and enhance the visuals on the screen. The emotional cues that we expect from sound were always a part of the cinema experience as music, carefully selected to reinforce the story. This was the “sound track” for the cinema, pre-1926.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    De Forest diary, August 23, 1920, Perham de Forest papers. There is a very complete record of the 1920s in his diaries, in newspapers stories, and in the collected correspondence between de Forest and Theodore Case. There are three majors sources of primary research materials used in this chapter: The Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (may be abbreviated “Seaver Center”). The Case Research Laboratory Papers, Cayuga Museum of History (may be abbreviated “Case Papers”). The Perham de Forest papers, History San Jose, the major source of general de Forest papers, may be abbreviated “Perham de Forest papers.”

  2. 2.

    John Frayne, AES Journal, July/August 1976, Vol. 24, No. 8.

  3. 3.

    Ernst Ruhmer, Wireless Telephony, Crosby, Lockwood and Son, London, 1908, p. 6.

  4. 4.

    Scientific American, July 29, 1901.

  5. 5.

    Ernst Ruhmer, Wireless Telephony, Crosby, Lockwood and Son, London, 1908, p. 36.

  6. 6.

    Edison letter, reprinted in: F.H. Richardson, SMPE Transactions, September 1925.

  7. 7.

    Letter from WKL Dickson to Tom Theisen, SMPTE History Committee, 1932, WKL Dickson papers, Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

  8. 8.

    ibid.

  9. 9.

    ibid.

  10. 10.

    Booklet with DVD series, “More Treasures from the American Film Archives 1894–1931,” National Film Preservation Foundation, 2004, San Francisco.

  11. 11.

    Rick Altman, Silent Film Sound, Columbia University Press, NY, 2004, pp. 160–164, ads for these products.

  12. 12.

    ibid., p. 165.

  13. 13.

    William Adams Simonds, Edison, His Life, His Work, His Genius, Blue Ribbon Books, NY, 1932.

  14. 14.

    ibid., p. 291.

  15. 15.

    ibid., p. 292.

  16. 16.

    Redondo Beach newspaper dated 1912, papers of EH Amet, Seaver Center.

  17. 17.

    ibid.

  18. 18.

    Peter Talmachoff, “The Wizard of the West,” in the Amet papers, Seaver Center.

  19. 19.

    Amet patent, 1,124,580, Seaver Center.

  20. 20.

    Harry M. Geduld, The Birth of the Talkies: From Edison to Jolsen, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1975, p. 76.

  21. 21.

    Edward Kellogg, “History of Sound Motion Pictures, part 1,” SMPTE Journal, June 1955.

  22. 22.

    Harry M. Geduld, The Birth of the Talkies: From Edison to Jolsen, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, p. 78.

  23. 23.

    Edward Kellogg, “History of Sound Motion Pictures, part 1,” SMPTE Journal, June 1955.

  24. 24.

    FOR, p. 343.

  25. 25.

    FOR, p. 345.

  26. 26.

    De Forest 1897 notebook, Yale, Perham de Forest papers, History San Jose.

  27. 27.

    FOR, p. 403.

  28. 28.

    A de Forest scrap of paper, his 1918 notes on film sound, in the de Forest papers, History San Jose. Note also the secondary reference to the phonograph: de Forest in the beginning believed that by recording sound on a film, longer passages of music, complete works, could be recorded. The phonograph disc was limited to 4 min.

  29. 29.

    ibid.

  30. 30.

    Lee de Forest, patent 1,446,246, U.S. Patent Office, from the Perham de Forest papers.

  31. 31.

    ibid.

  32. 32.

    ibid.

  33. 33.

    ibid.

  34. 34.

    ibid.

  35. 35.

    Maurice H. Zouary, DeForest, Father of the Electronic Revolution, 1995, no publisher indicated, probably himself, p. 107.

  36. 36.

    De Forest diary, August 23, 1920, Perham de Forest papers.

  37. 37.

    De Forest diary, September 8, 1920, Perham de Forest papers. In this reference developed means chemicals used to process the film.

  38. 38.

    ibid.

  39. 39.

    De Forest diary, September 11, 1920, Perham de Forest papers.

  40. 40.

    De Forest diary, September 16, 1920, Perham de Forest papers.

  41. 41.

    Scientific American, July 1923.

  42. 42.

    De Forest diary, September 11, 1920, Perham de Forest papers.

  43. 43.

    De Forest diary, September 19, 1920, Perham de Forest papers.

  44. 44.

    De Forest diary, October 6, 1920, Perham de Forest papers.

  45. 45.

    De Forest diary, November 10, 1920, Perham de Forest papers.

  46. 46.

    De Forest diary, November 25, 1920, Perham de Forest papers.

  47. 47.

    De Forest diary, November 27, 1920, Perham de Forest papers.

  48. 48.

    Stephanie Przybylek, Breaking the Silence on Film, The Cayuga Museum of History, 1999, p. 8.

  49. 49.

    Theodore Case, 1917 monograph, Case Research Laboratory Papers, Cayuga Museum of History. To be abbreviated “Case papers.”

  50. 50.

    ibid.

  51. 51.

    Letter from Case to de Forest, January 26, 1920, Case Papers.

  52. 52.

    De Forest letter to Case, August 13, 1920, Case Papers.

  53. 53.

    De Forest letter to Case, August 18, 1920, Case Papers.

  54. 54.

    Case letter to de Forest, August 19, 1920, Case Papers.

  55. 55.

    De Forest letter to Case, August 26, 1920, Case Papers.

  56. 56.

    ibid.

  57. 57.

    De Forest letter to Case November 10, 1920, Case Papers.

  58. 58.

    De Forest letter to Case, December 8, 1920, Case Papers.

  59. 59.

    For the first few years of their correspondence de Forest used the letterhead “De Forest Radio Telephone and Telegraph Company,” but by 1921 or 1922 the purpose of the de Forest experiments was clear to Case and he understood that he was supplying pieces of the Phonofilm system. The “De Forest Phonofilm Corporation” letterhead did not appear until the formation of the company in 1923.

  60. 60.

    Case letter to de Forest, December 31, 1920, Case Papers.

  61. 61.

    De Forest letter to Case, January 5, 1921, Case Papers.

  62. 62.

    Case letter to de Forest, January 6, 1921, Case Papers.

  63. 63.

    FOR, p. 347.

  64. 64.

    De Forest diary, September 11, 1920, Perham de Forest papers.

  65. 65.

    De Forest diary, September 18, 1920, Perham de Forest papers.

  66. 66.

    De Forest diary, September 11, 1920, Perham de Forest papers.

  67. 67.

    De Forest diary, November 23, 1920, Perham de Forest papers.

  68. 68.

    De Forest diary, November 28, 1920, Perham de Forest papers.

  69. 69.

    De Forest diary, January 4, 1921, Perham de Forest papers.

  70. 70.

    De Forest diary, April 24, 1921, Perham de Forest papers.

  71. 71.

    De Forest diary, May 12, 1921, Perham de Forest papers.

  72. 72.

    De Forest diary, June 11, 1921, Perham de Forest papers.

  73. 73.

    De Forest diary, April 24, 1921, Perham de Forest papers.

  74. 74.

    De Forest diary, July 4, 1921, Perham de Forest papers.

  75. 75.

    ibid.

  76. 76.

    De Forest diary, July 9, 1921, Perham de Forest papers.

  77. 77.

    FOR, p. 362.

  78. 78.

    De Forest diary, April, 1922, Perham de Forest papers.

  79. 79.

    FOR, p. 365.

  80. 80.

    Los Angeles Times, August 19, 1922.

  81. 81.

    Detroit Free Press, October 29, 1922.

  82. 82.

    Lee de Forest, American Radio Journal, October 1, 1922, from the Perham de Forest papers.

  83. 83.

    NEA Journal, August 31, 1922.

  84. 84.

    ibid.

  85. 85.

    ibid.

  86. 86.

    ibid.

  87. 87.

    ibid.

  88. 88.

    A news editorial in a large de Forest scrapbook of 1922 Phonofilm stories filed after the Germany research trip, untitled scrap but late 1922, Perham de Forest papers.

  89. 89.

    ibid.

  90. 90.

    New York Times, September 10, 1922.

  91. 91.

    ibid.

  92. 92.

    ibid.

  93. 93.

    Case letter to de Forest, September 18, 1922, Case Papers.

  94. 94.

    De Forest letter to Case, September 22, 1922, Case Papers.

  95. 95.

    ibid.

  96. 96.

    De Forest letter to Case attorney E.A. Thompson, September 26, 1922, Case Papers.

  97. 97.

    ibid.

  98. 98.

    Case letter to de Forest, November 16, 1922, Case Papers.

  99. 99.

    De Forest letter to Case, November 22, 1922, Case Papers.

  100. 100.

    ibid.

  101. 101.

    ibid.

  102. 102.

    De Forest letter to Case, November 23, 1922, Case Papers.

  103. 103.

    ibid.

  104. 104.

    De Forest letter to Case, December 5, 1922, Case Papers.

  105. 105.

    ibid.

  106. 106.

    De Forest letter to Case, December 7, 1922, Case Papers.

  107. 107.

    ibid.

  108. 108.

    De Forest letter to Case, December 14, 1922, Case Papers.

  109. 109.

    De Forest letter to Case, December 19, 1922, Case Papers.

  110. 110.

    ibid.

  111. 111.

    Case letter to de Forest, December 21, 1922, Case Papers.

  112. 112.

    Case letter to de Forest, December 22, 1922, Case Papers.

  113. 113.

    ibid.

  114. 114.

    De Forest letter to Case, December 23, 1922, Case Papers.

  115. 115.

    ibid.

  116. 116.

    De Forest letter to Case, December 31, 1922, Case Papers. This letter is reproduced as a photo to show one of the few hand-written letters from de Forest to Case. De Forest admitted, once in the margin of his usual typed correspondence with Case, that he used a person who either transcribed his letters, typed and made carbons, or took dictation. This is a habit that de Forest employed from the beginning, and many of the entries in the de Forest papers collections are typed, the letters being carbon copies. In the Case papers, the de Forest letters are original and the Case letters are carbons.

  117. 117.

    ibid.

  118. 118.

    ibid.

  119. 119.

    ibid.

  120. 120.

    ibid.

  121. 121.

    New York World, September 24, 1922.

  122. 122.

    ibid.

  123. 123.

    Richard Koszarski, An Evening’s Entertainment, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1990, p. 9.

  124. 124.

    The film, “Orphans of the Storm,” 1921, TCM cable.

  125. 125.

    Kevin Brownlow, The Parade’s Gone By, Ballantine, NY, 1968, p. 97.

  126. 126.

    The film, Lost Souls, 1923, TCM cable.

  127. 127.

    The film, “Battleship Potemkin,” 1925, TCM, Silent Sundays.

  128. 128.

    Book with “More Treasures from the American Film Archives, 1894–1931,” DVD set, National Film Preservation Foundation.

  129. 129.

    “Hollywood, A Celebration of the American Silent Film, Part 2, End of an Era,” written by Kevin Brownlow, Thames Video/HBO, 1980.

  130. 130.

    Case letter to de Forest, January 13, 1923, Case Papers.

  131. 131.

    ibid.

  132. 132.

    Case letter to de Forest, January 29, 1923, Case Papers.

  133. 133.

    De Forest letter to Case, February 5, 1923, Case Papers.

  134. 134.

    Ibid.

  135. 135.

    ibid.

  136. 136.

    Gertrude Gordon, unnamed 1922 newspaper editorial clipping in the Perham de Forest papers.

  137. 137.

    ibid.

  138. 138.

    ibid.

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Adams, M. (2012). Phonofilm, The Promise. In: Lee de Forest. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-0418-7_6

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