silent versions of sound films.

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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Harlett O'Dowd
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silent versions of sound films.

Unread post by Harlett O'Dowd » Fri May 30, 2008 2:56 pm

does anyone know of any available silent film version of films that were initially shot in sound?

I'm not talking about your Blackmail or Welcome Danger - cases where a film was shot silent then hastily (partially) reshot and post-dubbed to create a sound version. I'm thinking in reverse, of a sound film (in the case of my area of interest, Mamoulian's 1929 Applause) which was shot first (or simultaneously) in sound but then titled and released as a silent for theatres not yet wired for sound. Silent versions of American sound films may have also been shipped overseas silent as a means of making the foreign transition a mite easier.

Specifically, I'm trying to get a feeling if these films were in fact simultaneously shot silent and sound or (which I fear more likely) were sound films simply edited, titled and sent out the door.

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silentfilm
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Unread post by silentfilm » Fri May 30, 2008 3:42 pm

Image
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) was released in a silent version, which still exists. It has had some retrospective showings like this one http://www.bristolsilents.org.uk/previo ... tern-Front.

Laurel & Hardy's Unacustomed As We Are (1929), their first sound shourt, was released in a silent version. For years that was the only version available until the sound discs were rediscovered in the 1970s. The old Lost Films of Laurel & Hardy DVD series has both versions. The titles really slow down the silent version.

I'm pretty sure that almost all of these versions were simply mute versions with intertitles.

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Ed Hulse
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Unread post by Ed Hulse » Fri May 30, 2008 4:00 pm

Universal seems to have done quite a bit along these lines. Its first all-talkie serial, THE INDIANS ARE COMING (1930), was shot in sound but released in both silent and talkie versions. The same was true of the studio's Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson Westerns produced for the 1929-30 season, and I believe some isolated features -- including, if memory serves, CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD -- were also done this way. Silent versions of the above titles exist because they were printed in 16mm for non-theatrical distribution via the Show-at-Home Library.

Since Universal catered to smaller independent chains and isolated neighborhood houses, it's easy to believe that their clients were among the last to get their theaters wired for sound.

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Unread post by Penfold » Fri May 30, 2008 4:31 pm

silentfilm wrote:Image
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) was released in a silent version, which still exists. It has had some retrospective showings like this one http://www.bristolsilents.org.uk/previo ... tern-Front.

I'm pretty sure that almost all of these versions were simply mute versions with intertitles.
From what I recall of the Bristol screening, that is true of AQOTWF.....it's a mute copy with intertitles and a music-and-effects track...which is rather puzzling, as I can't see the point of it, unless it was originally intended as a non-Anglophone export print, to which English intertitles have been added later :?: ...can anyone answer that one?? Beautiful print though, better condition than the sound print one normally sees...
I could use some digital restoration myself...

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Harold Aherne
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Unread post by Harold Aherne » Fri May 30, 2008 4:40 pm

There are also silent versions of "Hell's Heroes" (1929, Universal) and "Ladies of Leisure" (1930, Columbia) which were discussed on AMS.

There's a very large number of 1929-30 titles that the AFI catalogue denotes as "Sd, also si". In fact, here's the list from their website, sorted by date. Most of those 1921-27 titles are surely included in error, due to mislabeling or some other problem. I suppose that could call into question the accuracy of their later listings, particularly since the 1921-30 volume was published in 1971 and seriously needs an update to reflect later research (which the AFI has tried to do on their website to some degree).

In many cases, some of the titles on the list are probably what we would consider "silent" no matter what: "Our Dancing Daughters" and "The Flying Fleet" (et al.) were undoubtedly sent to some theatres lacking their Movietone tracks but without any changes to their pictorial content. Part-talkies like "Weary River" would have required more alterations, of course, perhaps enough to be considered a separate version. This field definitely needs some further investigation.

-Harold

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Unread post by radiotelefonia » Fri May 30, 2008 5:41 pm

Warner Bros. films in Argentina were mostly released as silents in Argentina until around the end of 1930. Their first talkie was SALLY, in Technicolor.

Marion Davies's MARIANNE was neither released in its sound or its silent version. Instead, MGM prepared a third version with Movietone soundtrack based in the silent film but lifting all the songs from the talkie.

John Gilbert's HIS WEDDING NIGHT was released as a silent (MGM later released a Spanish language remake with a different cast). The later WAY FOR A SAILOR was also released as a silent. And GENTLEMAN'S FATE was his first film to be released as a talkie.

There is a silent version of THE BIG TRAIL, released in Spain in 1930 before its Spanish language remake (LA GRAN JORNADA) that was released the following year.

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Unread post by Mike Gebert » Fri May 30, 2008 6:49 pm

I'm not sure all these examples are what people think they are. Welcome Danger was finished, or nearly finished, as a silent; then partly reshot as a talkie; then a silent was created out of the talkie, presumably including some of the original silent footage. So who knows how you should classify it.

Hell's Heroes is regarded as a silent and a talkie made at the same time. I'm almost certain that this is not the case, and that in fact the silent was completed, and then-- very cleverly-- talking sequences were shot and inserted into it, much like Blackmail or Lonesome. When Bickford first comes into the bar early in the picture, for instance, it's a silent sequence, pretty well overdubbed with bar noise. Then it cuts to a sync sound sequence-- but I think if you look at him carefully, he looks subtly different, maybe slightly heavier, the hair not quite the same length. I think it was filmed a few months later, but matched extremely well to the silent footage.
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Ed Hulse
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Unread post by Ed Hulse » Fri May 30, 2008 6:58 pm

Mike, I believe you're right about HELL'S HEROES. By contrast, INDIANS ARE COMING was scheduled as a talkie from the start and promoted in the trade papers as such. The silent version was definitely edited from the sound, although many of the action sequences were shot M.O.S.

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Unread post by greta de groat » Fri May 30, 2008 8:53 pm

I saw a video of an Alice White silent which really looked like a talkie. Looking on the list Mike just posted, i think it was Sweethearts on Parade (1930). It was extremely tedious. I'm not sure whether it is still available.

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Unread post by gjohnson » Fri May 30, 2008 11:08 pm

I have read that the majority of films being made from 1927, at the beginning of the sound era, up to about the next 3 years, still had silent versions of them being made for the areas that Ed Hulse mentioned, the smaller rural areas that hadn't yet converted to sound. Considering that the country was about 80% rural at that time that's a lot of different versions. These versions rapidly became obsolete to the film industry within a few short years as everyone converted to sound and the authors surmised that these versions were quickly extinquished by the studios in the same forthwith manner that we found them when dealing with their silent treasures.

They just didn't give a damn!

I don't thing anyone will be finding too many examples of those films around today unless they were converted to home movies at the time. I think it's best to concentrate on films that we have NO examples of their existence in any form!

Gary J.

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Unread post by radiotelefonia » Sat May 31, 2008 12:05 pm

greta de groat wrote:I saw a video of an Alice White silent which really looked like a talkie. Looking on the list Mike just posted, i think it was Sweethearts on Parade (1930). It was extremely tedious. I'm not sure whether it is still available.

greta
SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE is not tedious, but is weak because the story is not really good and the editing from a talkie to a silent version left probably left important details of the plot out the film. It also have songs, but no trace of them remain in the print.

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Unread post by quietone » Sun Jun 01, 2008 2:30 pm

It seems to me that the currently available version of Lone Star Ranger (1930) with George O'Brien might fall into this category. There is sound, but it is mostly either music or the sound of horses etc. Every once in a while you hear someone speak, but the main dialog is all handled with titles. I don't own it, but I saw it once. And it was supposed to be a talking picture.

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Unread post by Chris Snowden » Sun Jun 01, 2008 3:31 pm

radiotelefonia wrote:
greta de groat wrote:I saw a video of an Alice White silent which really looked like a talkie. Looking on the list Mike just posted, i think it was Sweethearts on Parade (1930). It was extremely tedious.

greta
SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE is not tedious, but is weak because the story is not really good and the editing from a talkie to a silent version left probably left important details of the plot out the film.

Hmmm, I don't know, I remember it the way Greta does.

Grapevine used to have a double feature of Hoot Gibson's THE MOUNTED STRANGER (1930), both the silent and talkie versions, and those were interesting to see. I thought the silent played better (then again I'm prejudiced toward silents), but the talkie had its advantages too. It wasn't hard to imagine 1930 audiences preferring the talkie version, given a choice.
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Unread post by George O'Brien » Tue Jun 03, 2008 9:29 am

John Ford's "Men Without Women"(1930) only exists in its silent version, much like "The LoneStar Ranger"(1930) previously mentioned. Both were filmed as full fledged talkies, and you can see it in the preponderance of medium shots.

Each appears to be a sound film with titles grafted in. Fox used movietone so music is heard through out, and occasionally a voice, but of course patrons in a theater not yet wired for sound would not have heard any of it.

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Unread post by radiotelefonia » Tue Jun 03, 2008 10:39 pm

What happened with MEN WITHOUT WOMEN also happened with other films produced by the Fox Film Corporation.

This studio could started the sound film revolution around the world in 1927. But it seems that the people that run the company were quite incompetent in taking an edge on this at the time. The very first film with a soundtrack that they released in Argentina was FOUR DEVILS... But they did it a few months after MGM (through Max Glücksmann) presented THE BROADWAY MELODY in its sound version and with Spanish language subtitles.

until they released EL PRECIO DE UN BESO, during 1930, starring a Mexican actor (José Mojica), a Spanish actor (Antonio Moreno) and and Argentine actress (Mona Maris), all of their films were either released as silents or in hybrid versions like the John Ford film mentioned above. (That film was also filmed in English, as ONE MAD KISS).

Contemporary reviews complained that the music played too loud that prevented the dialogs to be actually heard. Films that were shown in this way include THE COCKED-EYED WORLD and THE SEA WOLF. Considering that the latter was Milton Sills final films, contemporary reviewers were very frustrated for not being allowed to hear his voice.

And remember that THE BIG TRAIL was shown in Spain in a silent version, before the release of LA GRAN JORNADA, its Spanish language remake.

And where are the silent version of John Gilbert's HIS GLORIOUS NIGHT (and OLYMPIA, its Spanish language remake), REDEMPTION and WAY FOR A SAILOR.... ?

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Unread post by greta de groat » Tue Jun 03, 2008 11:02 pm

Wasn't there a serial with Boris Karloff in it that was a silent talkie? Hmm, i cataloged this, i'll look it up. Ok, looks like it was The King of the Kongo (1929). I have a note saying that the film originally was released as a part-talkie but the original soundtrack has been lost and intertitles have not been supplied for the missing dialogue in those sequences. So i remember several scenes were people were standing there talking to each other for several minutes at a time with no dialog and no intertitles either! Made following it really hard even if you did manage to sit through long boring sequences of watching people silently flap their gums.

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Rodney
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Re: silent versions of sound films.

Unread post by Rodney » Fri Jun 06, 2008 6:18 pm

Harlett O'Dowd wrote:does anyone know of any available silent film version of films that were initially shot in sound?
Well, there are those opera sequences of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA that were added for the talkie 1929 re-release, though they didn't get titles added when the discs were lost, so they were never intended to be silent in 1929.

Both BEGGARS OF LIFE and THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES were filmed with "talkie" sequences -- in both, almost the entire film was shot as a silent, but a short song was added with sync sound (in the former, as Wallace Beery arrives at the hobo camp he's singing a song, in the latter, Phyllis Haver sings the song at the piano along with Jean Herscholt.)

And in both cases, the sound discs are lost.

In BATTLE, there are no song intertitles as such, but closeups of the sheet music on the piano show what was sung. In BEGGARS there are titles indicating that Beery is singing "Hark the Bells," which would not be needed in a talkie, so I suspect that this was a "silent" version of the "sound" sequence with title cards for theaters that didn't use the sync score.

Does that help?
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Unread post by FilmGauge » Sat Jun 07, 2008 8:35 pm

Universal's HELL'S HEROES is another example of a talkie released in both sound and silent versions in 1930. This film does exist in both versions, very possibly because MGM bought the rights to remake it (twice) as THREE GODFATHERS.

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Unread post by radiotelefonia » Sun Jun 08, 2008 8:12 pm

How about the 1930 version of LADIES OF LEISURE, first filmed by Columbia Pictures in 1926.

By the time the Frank Capra film was released in Argentina, studios were mostly releasing talkies.

However, in this case, Columbia distributed the silent version that according to the contemporary reviewers made a very incoherent film.

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Unread post by Henry Nicolella » Tue Jul 01, 2008 2:12 pm

Recently watched an interesting example that fits this category, "Sturme der Leidenshcaft" (1932) starring Emil Jannings as a paroled criminal who returns to his old ways and discovers his girlfriend (Anna Sten) is two timing him. A French version, "Tumultes" was shot at the same time (Robert Siodmak directed both) with Charles Boyer in the Jannings role. The French sound version survives but apparently the German one is extant only as a silent with Italian title cards. There's music, some sound effects, Anna Sten's singing and title cards cover the rest. It actually plays pretty well as a silent, perhaps because the story is very simple.
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Unread post by Cole Johnson » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:40 pm

Hello, everyone-----The surviving version of John Ford's MEN WITHOUT WOMEN (Fox 30), was never supposed to be seen as it is. This was the work print sent to non-English speaking countries for sound-equipped theatres. The English intertitles seen were templates set there for local translation. Musical numbers, and singing, were left alone , but for the most part, the dialogue in the film is replaced by a rather repititous score which seemed like a record. The scores would usually be a lot more ambitious than this. Sometimes in foreign territories, the original soundtrack would be untampered with, but the film would be an endless traffic jam of intertitles, translating the fast-flying dialogue as well as it could! Extant versions of MAMMY, THE ROGUE SONG, and A CONNECTICUT YANKEE show how irritating this can be. --------------------Sometimes silent versions can be different than their talkie doppelgangers. In the silent version of Marianne Davies' MARIANNE, the cast is different--Mack Swain is the gerneral, rather than Robert Edeson, Marion's boyfriend is Oscar Shaw, rather than Robert Ames, etc. In THRU DIFFERENT EYES (Fox 29), the talkie had Stu Erwin with a significant role, whereas in the extant silent version, he is to be seen only in a seconds-long shot as a one of a group of reporters. -----Cole Johnson.

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Unread post by BenModel » Wed Jul 02, 2008 8:47 pm

The silent version of ALL QUIET is on the schedule for The Fall Cinesation.
http://www.cinephiles.org/The_Fall_Cinesation.html
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Unread post by radiotelefonia » Thu Jul 03, 2008 5:13 pm

Cole Johnson wrote:Hello, everyone-----The surviving version of John Ford's MEN WITHOUT WOMEN (Fox 30), was never supposed to be seen as it is. This was the work print sent to non-English speaking countries for sound-equipped theatres. The English intertitles seen were templates set there for local translation. Musical numbers, and singing, were left alone , but for the most part, the dialogue in the film is replaced by a rather repititous score which seemed like a record. The scores would usually be a lot more ambitious than this. Sometimes in foreign territories, the original soundtrack would be untampered with, but the film would be an endless traffic jam of intertitles, translating the fast-flying dialogue as well as it could! Extant versions of MAMMY, THE ROGUE SONG, and A CONNECTICUT YANKEE show how irritating this can be. --------------------Sometimes silent versions can be different than their talkie doppelgangers. In the silent version of Marianne Davies' MARIANNE, the cast is different--Mack Swain is the gerneral, rather than Robert Edeson, Marion's boyfriend is Oscar Shaw, rather than Robert Ames, etc. In THRU DIFFERENT EYES (Fox 29), the talkie had Stu Erwin with a significant role, whereas in the extant silent version, he is to be seen only in a seconds-long shot as a one of a group of reporters. -----Cole Johnson.
Did you read what you wrote?

How can you say that the surviving print of MEN WITHOUT WOMEN was never intended to be seen as it is? That was exactly the way the Fox Film Corporation distributed their earliest sound films in Latin America.

There is a third version of MARIANNE, which is probably the one MGM exhibited in Latin America (it was shown in Argentina). It is a combination of the silent version plus all of the musical scenes and the songs lifted from the talkie.

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Unread post by Cole Johnson » Thu Jul 03, 2008 6:40 pm

Hello, Radiotelefonia-------What I meant was, this surviving version of MEN WITHOUT WOMEN was never meant to be seen as is, that is, with English intertitles. The titles in this version were designed to be replaced in the local language. I'm sure this is just how you would see and hear this film in Argentina, but with Spanish intertitles replacing the ones you see here. Notice also the completely artless beginning credits, very simple white letters on black. There was no need to make a polished, artistic beginning, since nobody but the translators would see it. It's simply a bare-bones way of conveying what the beginning should say. Hollywood did this at least up to 1932, as I've seen a similar version of MR. ROBINSON CRUSOE.-------------------Cole Johnson.

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Unread post by radiotelefonia » Thu Jul 03, 2008 10:46 pm

Cole Johnson wrote:Hello, Radiotelefonia-------What I meant was, this surviving version of MEN WITHOUT WOMEN was never meant to be seen as is, that is, with English intertitles. The titles in this version were designed to be replaced in the local language. I'm sure this is just how you would see and hear this film in Argentina, but with Spanish intertitles replacing the ones you see here. Notice also the completely artless beginning credits, very simple white letters on black. There was no need to make a polished, artistic beginning, since nobody but the translators would see it. It's simply a bare-bones way of conveying what the beginning should say. Hollywood did this at least up to 1932, as I've seen a similar version of MR. ROBINSON CRUSOE.-------------------Cole Johnson.
Since the Fox Film Corporation distributed their films by themselves, I supposed that they would have released a film with already replaced intertitles, but essentially the same film that survived.

Remember that cotemporary reviewers complained that THE SEA WOLF was released in the same way. It was even worse, being Milton Sills final film they were frustrated for not being allow to hear his voice.

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