October 29th, 2013
The West Virginia and Regional History Center recently acquired glass lantern advertising slides that were once projected in the local theater of the small Calhoun County town of Grantsville. Dating from the early 20th century, they announced upcoming movies to be screened at the Kanawha Theater to captive local audiences seeking entertainment and distraction. These slides, nearly a century old, document the transition from silent cinema to the modern sound film.
The earliest of the group announces a silent film dating from 1927, A Gentleman of Paris:
Silent films were rarely “silent”, since they were often accompanied by orchestras when screened in the theaters of large cities. In small towns like Grantsville, however, a solo pianist would usually provide the supporting music.
A year later, the Kanawha Theater projected this advertising slide for the first feature length film of Paramount Studios that included sound (called “talking pictures” or “talkies”), although dialogue on the soundtrack was limited:
Beggars of Life starred Louise Brooks, who became a cinema legend.
Other slides announce The Big Pond (1930) and Oil for the Lamps of China (1935), the latter featuring the Vitaphone sound system:
Although digital technology is revolutionizing today’s motion pictures, the advent of sound nearly a century ago is perhaps the greatest technological innovation the medium has ever seen, reverberating to the small towns of America, like Grantsville.
Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch.