Moving Picture Exhibitors' Association.

Photoplay (Volume 36 – 37 (Jul. - Dec. 1929)) online

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boss and father confessor.

The last shot was fired. "Alibi," hot or
cold, was finished, and a quaking young actor
nerved himself for the preview.

"Alibi" was run off at Grauman's Chinese

There weren't many in the death watch.
Among them were Chester Morris and the
little woman. They held hands in the dark-

As the picture unrolled, Morris' jaw fell
until it rested on his wishbone. .\t last he
could stand the ordeal no longer. Chester
Morris found Chester Morris hard to take.

"Come on, darling," he whispered to j\Irs.
Morris. "Let's blow!" They blew.

So the little pair went back to the apartment.
Once safe at home, a drop of some harmless
restorative calmed the boy, and he tried his
best not to t\\itch and frighten the girl wife.

The phone rang. It was Roland West.

No, this isn't Dolores Costello. It
is Barbara Worth, who plays op-
posite Norman Kerry in "The
King of Hearts." Miss Worth will
further compHcate matters by
appearing in a story written by
Helene Costello and CHff Wheeler,
tentatively titled "Anastasia"


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"Well, kid," asked the director "how are

Chester came back mth the theater's classic
gag — the one that every actor is supposed to
use when he hears the managerial fist pounding
on his dressing room door.

"I'm packing."

"Don't be silly," said the boss. "Stick

So Morris stuck around.

\\'ords that bleated over the phone failed to
buck him up much. Everybody seemed to be
praising him with faint damns.

"Oh, you were all right."

"Don't worry — you seemed to be O. K. to

All that kindly, patronizing stuff worried
Morris more. He felt the folks were letting him

"We're going East," he said to the Httle

And so, as the rattler rumbled toward New
Vork, Morris sat in his PuUman pew and
fretted. He was certain that he had laid an
enormous egg in the talkies. His trip was al-
most a retreat from Moscow. He Wanted to
Get Away From It All.

Then "Alibi" opened on Broadway, and
that event is alreadj' in the history books.

The thundering at the picture's end was for
King Leer, the kid who played Chick Williams.
He was a riot — he was a panic — he was a hit
in all the 159 dialects of Times Square.

When the dawn came, it found Chester a
little dazed. He still is. It isn't easy, this play-
ing the role of a talkie miracle.

His screen lessons were no cinch, either.

There were the chalk marks on the floor that
his feet must faithfully follow. There was this
matter of registering before speaking. He
learned with a shock that in the talkies an
actor must really concentrate on his character
before walking into the eye of the camera. An
actor with fifteen years' experience had to learn

Well, he did. .

Chester Morris has arrived — on both feet
and in a very big way. He is one of the best
talkie bets yet offered, and our screens xriU see
and hear a lot of him.

One of these strange, almost casual miracles
of talking pictures happened to Chester Morris.
Perhaps it doesn't mean much in the wide
scheme of things, but to Morris and the little
helpmate it has been a colossal experience — the
turning point in an earnest, hard-fought career.

So, go home and practice leering, young man.
Chester Morris can't make faces forever!

The Truth About Voice Doubling


for Paul Lukas. Mr. Lukas, an exceptionally
fine actor, is handicapped for American pic-
tures by a foreign accent. For that reason,
therefore, it is necessary for someone else to
speak his Unes. And Davidson is said to re-
ceive five hundred dollars a week for this

Many indi\-iduals in Hollywood are wonder-
ing why Davidson has seen fit to submerge his
own personality for this sort of work, for he is
regarded as fully as gifted an actor in his own
right as Paul Lukas. He is listed in all casting
ofiiccs as a five-hundrcd-dollar-a-week man.
It may be, of course, that he has an arrange-
ment to appear in other pictures, too.

There are a number of ways of doubling the
voice on the screen. Usually it is done through
a method known as "dubbing." This means

that it is done after the picture is shot. "Dub-
bing" is a term handed down to the movies by
the makers of phonograph records. When
portions were taken off several phonograph
records to make one record, the process was
referred to as "dubbing." So "dubbing" it is
these days in pictures.

Most of the doubling that Margaret Living-
ston did for Louise Brooks in "The Canary
Murder Case" was accomplished by "dubbing."
Miss Li\ingston took up a position before the
"mike" and watched the picture being run on
the screen. If Miss Brooks came in a door and
said, "Hello, everybody, how are you this
evening?" Miss Livingston watched her lips
and spoke Miss Brooks' words into the micro-

Thus a sound-track was made and inserted

You thought Irma Harrison sang as the cabaret darling of "Alibi,"

didn't you ? She didn't. The voice you heard belonged to Virginia

Flohri, a well-known radio singer

Every advertisement In PHOTOPLAY M.iGAZINB Is guaranteed.

Photoplay Magazine-

And that operation is called

-Advertising Section


in the film

All synchronizations are dubbed in after the
picture is finished. The production is edited
and cut to exact running length, then the
orchestra is assembled in the monitor room (a
room usually the size of the average theater)
and the score is played as the picture is run.
The sound-track thus obtained is "dubbed"
into the sound film or on to the record, depend-
ing upon which system is used.

If foreign sounds stray into the film, such as
scratches and pin-pricks, they are "bloped"
out. Some call it "blooping." This means
that they are eliminated with a paintbrush and
India ink. The method is not unhke that
applied to the retouching of photographic

Voice doubHng is sometimes forced upon the
producers as an emergency measure. Such was
the case with Paramount in connection with
"The Canary Murder Case."

THEY called Miss Livingston to the studio
one day and said, "Miss Livingston, we are
up against it and we think you can help us out.
We want to turn 'The Canary Murder Case'
into a talkie and Miss Brooks is not available.
We think you can double for her. Will you

She thought it over. Well, why not? It
meant e.xperience in the talkies, and doiihlc
her usual salary. So she wore clothes that
dupHcaled Miss Brooks', "dubbed" some of
the stuff and played some of it straight, her
profile always to the camera.

A few times she missed the timing, and as a
result her words did not come out even with
Miss Brooks' lip movements.

After it was all over a very amusing incident
occurred. Miss Livingston was sitting in a
restaurant in New York and the friend with
whom she was having dinner remarked, "So
you have been talking for Louise Brooks, have

From a nearby table came a strange voice.
''Yes," quoth the voice, "and it had better be
good !"

They looked around in astonishment and
there sat Louise Brooks!

Of course, they all laughed and immediately
went into a huddle about Hollywood.

A surprisingly large number of players in the
film capital are now training their voices, in
diction as well as singing, for the express pur-
pose of avoiding the necessity of voice dou-
bling. Vilma Banky, for instance, spends two
hours a day perfecting her English. And
James Burroughs, Bessie Love, Carmel Myers,
Billie Dove, Gwen Lee, Jacqueline Logan,
Frances Lee, Leatrice Joy, Armand Kaliz and
innumerable others are all taking vocal lessons.
Most of these have sung professionally at some
time in their career.

In that worthy picture, "Alibi," Virginia
Flohri, a widely-known radio singer, doubled
for Irma Harrison who, you remember, sang
a song in the cafe as Toots.the chorus girl. Miss
Harrison simulated singing while Miss Flohri
actually sang into the microphone off stage.
In this instance their timing was not perfect.

MISS FLOHRI also sang for Jeanne Morgan
in the Romeo and Juliet vaudeville num-
ber, if you remember it, and Edward Jordan
sang for Robert Cauterio.

Obtaining suitable voice doubles is often a
difiicult task. The voice must not only fit the
player, it must suit the characterization as well.
And good singing voices are not always easily
found. One reason for this is that persons of
marked vocal accomplishments are frequently
reluctant to double. They are afraid their
voices will be recognized, that it will cheapen
them. A notable case in point was that of
Marion Harris, the vaudeville headliner, who
turned down an offer of $10,000 from Universal,
according to one of her representatives, to sub-
stitute her voice for a film player, presumably
in " Broadway."

No end of problems develop, of course, in
connection with registering the voice. When


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I lO

Photoplay Magazine — Advertising Section

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48G5 Easton Ave., St. Louis, Mo., Dept. 4-G

Douglas Fairbanks did his bit of talking for
"The Iron Mask" his stentorian tones all but
wrecked the recording apparatus.

"D EFORE beginning, he was cautioned by the
•'-'sound engineers to speak softly. However,
for Doug this was impossible. He could not get
dramatic effect with his conversation tlius
cramped. As a result the first uproarious
line of his speech brought the sound men pour-
ing out of the mixing chamber like a swarm
of mad hornets. Much argument ensued.
Finally Earle Browne, director of dialogue, hit
upon the bright idea of moving the microphone
thirty feet away and turning it so that it faced
away from Fairbanks.

Laura La Plante's problem in "Show Boat"
was quite the opposite of Doug's. The most
difficult thing she had to learn in working with
a double was, not to sing silently, but to finger
a banjo perfectly. She realized, naturally, that
the eyes of countless trained musicians would
be upon her in audiences the world over. In
consequence, she could not fake. She had to be
convincing. So she spent several weeks learn-
ing the correct fingering of a banjo.

Some of the stars, of course, actually play
musical instruments, though few have done so
professionally. There's Bessie Love and her
ukulele, and a few others. In " Mother Knows
Best," Barry Norton actually played the piann
while Sherry Hall sang his song. Sherry stood
before the "mike" just outside the camera
lines and Barry played his accompaniment and
at the same time spoke the words of the song
inaudibly. putting into them the proper timing,
a thing possible to him because of hisknowledge
of music.

Of course, every effort is made on the part
of producers to guard the secret of doubling.
Picture-makers feel that it spoils the illusion,
that it hurts a production's box office appeal.
In this respect, however, they are wrong. I
know this from my own personal experience in
exploitation work. In nearly twelve yeajs of
steering the box office destinies of photoplays —
especially film roadshows, some of the largest
(if which I ha\-e handled personally — I ha\'e
yet to encounter a single set-back or loss be-
cause the public had knowledge of a double's
work. On the other hand, I found that it
often stimulated business to let the pubUc in
on a secret or two.

Eva Olivotti, one of Holly\vood's most prom-
ising voices, assured a friend that, if it became
known that she doubled for Laura La Plante
in the singing numbers of "Show Boat," she
would never be able to obtain another job.
That is an example of the fear instilled into
the hearts of the doubles by the companies for
wliich they work. They are afraid even to
breathe the nature of their employment.

T'^HE fact remains, however, that Miss Oli-
■'■ votti did sing Miss La Plante's songs, and
sang them \'ery well, indeed.

Songs for "The Divine Lady" were "dubbed"
in after Miss Griffith completed the picture.
.\n odd complication developed when it came
to doubling the harp. It had been arranged for
Zhay Clark to play this instrument for Miss
Griffith, but when that portion of the picture
was viewed it was discovered that Miss Grif-
fith's fingernails were longer than Miss Clark's,
and that her hands, therefore, could not sub-
stitute effectively for Miss Griffith's.

So Miss Clark spent two days teaching Miss
Griffith the fingering of the harp, and how to
come in with the orchestra. Then the star did
the scene herself. The music and songs, ac-
cording to those acquainted with the facts,
were "dubbed" in the East — a feat easily
accomplished merely by watching the picture
on the screen and getting from doubles a
sound-track that would fit properly.

Voice doubhng is often done in the monitor
room after the production is complete, the
double playing the designated instrument or
reading the hps of the player and timing his
words to fit these lip movements.

But voice doubling seems to be on the wane.
As time goes on, there will be less need for it.

In rare instances, of course, it will be don?,
where stars can't sing or play the instruments
called for in the script. But stars are rapidly
learning to sing and play. It won't be long
now until a majority of players can boast of
these accomplishments.

Then, too, microphone miracles are becom-
ing more pre\'alent every day. This is due
primarily to rapid improvement in equipment.
Josef Cherniavsky, the musical director for
one company, says: " Give me a person who is
not tone deaf and I will make him ninety-five
percent perfect in talking pictures." Perhaps
Mr. Cherniavsky is a wee bit enthusiastic, but
at least his outlook indicates the present
Hollywood trend.

Bearing out his statement, it is interesting
to note that if a voice has tone quality, but
lacks volume, the fault can be easily corrected
by the amplifier. Take Alice White. Alice
sang her own songs ( unless I have been terribly
fooled, and I suspect I have!) in "Broadway
Babies." sang them sweetly, but in a piping
little voice that couldn't be heard off the set.
Yet when the "play-back" gave evidence of
surprising volume in her tones, loud cheers
went up from company officials. The "play-
back," by the way, is a device \s'hich plays back
the voices of the cast from a wax record shortly
after the scene is filmed. It's an invaluable

The problem of the foreign player is, of
course, difficult to solve. At first it was re-
garded as an insurmountable obstacle. It is
being discovered by producers, however, that
what they thought a hopeless liability in the
beginning has actually become an asset.
In the case of feminine players in particular,
accent is a decided charm. Such foreign play-
ers as Baclanova, Goudal, ct al, are gi\'ing up
the thought of perfecting their English. Nils
Asther is studying English religiously. Care
will always ha\'e to be exercised, nevertheless,
in casting these players.

Another instance of piano doubling occurred
in "Speakeasy," that splendid underworld
picture about the prize-fighter and the girl
reporter. Fred Warren, an exceptionally
capable pianist, doubled at the piano for
Henry B. Walthall. This was accomplished by
tying down the keyboard of the real piano at
which Walthall sat, so that when he struck the
keys, nothing happened. You will remember,
of course, that he sat facing the audience in
such a position as to conceal his hands. Warren
sat off stage at a real piano, about fifteen or
twenty feet away, in a spot where he and
Walthall could see each other. The recording
"mike" was near Warren. As he played,
Walthall imitated his motions. They had re-
hearsed the thing to perfection.

Although voice doubUng is to the public the
most interesting phase of sound work — because
it is hidden from public view, no doubt — it is
one of the comparatively simple things which
confront producers. Problems much more
subtle really vex them. For instance: New
caste has grown up with the advent of con-
versing pictures; sound engineers are compet-
ing with directors for prestige and dominance;
there is often open warfare between directors
and morutor men; the new terminology of the
business — "dubbing," "bloping," the inven-
tion of "spht sets"; the mere fact that light
travels faster than sound — a circumstance
frequently baffling to engineers, and one that
gives them grey hairs.

Just recently sound engineers found out
that perfect synchronization in a big theater
is virtually impossible — all because light
travels faster than sound. If you are sitting
comparatively close to the screen, all is well.
If you are sitting in the back of the house, or
in the balcony, it's another matter. Sound
Ndbrations reach you after you have seen the
image speak. The speed with which hght
vibrations exceed sound vibrations will depend
of course upon where you sit. And this is a
problem that sound engineers are trying to

So you see producers have other trouble?,
than doubles!

Every advertisement In PHOTOPL,AT MAGAZINE Is piarsnteed.

Photoplay Magazine — Advertising Section

1 1 1

Brickbats and


I really believe the objectors have had some
Sround for their stand as some of the talkies
have been quite terrible. But in spite of all
this, there has been very pronounced improve-
ment in all directions since their introduction
about a year ago, and this would indicate that
still further advances will be made all around.


Gentlemen, Make a Bow!

Honolulu, T. H.
Let's hand the newsreel camera man a nice
big bouquet for his patience and courage.
Stars come and go, but the newsreel goes on

Gloria M. Wall.

A Flower for Bill Powell

Jamestown, X. D.
I heard my first talking picture a few days
ago. It was "The Canary Murder Case." I
thought it was great! William Powell had
always been ti.xed in my mind as a villain of
the screen until then. He will never seem the
same to me again and I am glad of it, because
I like him so much better this way. He has a
really remarkable voice. It is so easily under-
stood and contains such a soothing quahty.
Let's hear and see more of him!

Xancy Kimball.

And Now a New Problem

.\ few nights ago I went to see ni}- faxorite
actor, Wallace Beery, playing in "Chinatown
Nights." I had looked forward to seeing this
picture as Mr. Beery was taking a somewhat
different part than usual.

Imagine my disappointment; I didn't enjoy
the evening at all. To me it was a total
mystery, because it is a talkie. I am deaf and

Online LibraryMoving Picture Exhibitors' AssociationPhotoplay (Volume 36 – 37 (Jul. - Dec. 1929)) → online text (page 16 of 145)