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

Malcolm Cook

in The Sounds of the Silents in Britain

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199797615
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979738 | DOI:
Animating the Audience: Singalong Films in Britain in the 1920s

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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

Chapter.  8033 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Popular Music

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