First Talking Newsreel; Fox's 1927 film of Commander Byrd

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Ken Viewer2

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First Talking Newsreel; Fox's 1927 film of Commander Byrd

PostSun Feb 26, 2017 7:32 pm

For decades, I've considered the Fox Film Corporation as having first used the Movietone synchronized-sound-on-film process for "talking pictures" -- speech -- in a Fox newsreel in 1927. Can't swear it wasn't earlier, but it's the earliest I can document.

Most "history of newsreels balony" reference materials of half-a-century-ago-or-so usually list the first Fox sound-newsreel as having been filmed and shown in 1928.

I never cared because I'm not a films historian and had seen re-released film of one of the 1927 Fox sound-newsreels as a youngster some 60 years ago.

(There is sound-on-film footage of President Calvin Coolidge filmed in 1924 -- not by Fox -- and preserved. Whether it ever played in any movie theaters is a question. The audio portion -- Coolidge reading a speech -- was purportedly broadcast on radio.)

The Lindbergh takeoff was filmed, processed and actually shown that very night -- May, 20, 1927, at the huge Fox Roxy Theatre in Manhattan; supposedly at that time the world's largest -- which was fully Movietone-equipped by then.

(The use of the gigantic, 5,900-seat Roxy proved Fox had overcome the crippling problem of adequately amplifying the sound to fill a huge theater.)

However, Fox News's Movietone Production units filmed a newsreel in synchronized-sound one day earlier and the University of South Carolina has now restored and made available portions of that newsreel, which shows the to-be-Admiral Richard Byrd, and others, actually talking in preparation for his attempt at the prize.

It was a repeat attempt to accomplish what his 1926 flight, which crashed on takeoff and seriously injured several crew members, including Byrd, failed to do.

So, here is some of the UofSC restored footage, which they have kindly made available online, and begins with an interview of then-Commander Byrd. He was an Old South Virginian who spoke the way his ancestors -- colonists in Virginia before the Revolutionary War -- spoke.

Alas, Byrd's 1927 expedition was a day-late-and-a-dollar-short, although it did make it to the waters off of France when it had to ditch because the Paris and other airports were socked in by fog, or so it's claimed.

Unlike Lindbergh's solo flight, it used a crew of four flyers in a three-engine large Fokker plane.

The film was apparently rarely shown, if at all, outside of Manhattan, and we briefly see, and hear, one of, if not the first on-film mention of the "Movietone" news trademark. There were very few theaters equipped for talking pictures in May of 1927. Fox News itself called the reel a "Movietone Production." Later in the year, the Fox Movietone News name was used.

Various questions remain for other/future newsreels historians, such as whether and why Lindbergh's takeoff was shown in the Roxy Theatre perhaps before he had landed in France...

Sidenote: There have been and are significant buffering issues with this UofSC footage, but you still can see it by clicking below and having patience:

Reconstructed footage copyright 2016 by the University of South Carolina.

A second mention -- there are buffering problems with this footage; patience will get you through to the full reconstruction, and it's worth the extra time.

http://mirc.sc.edu/islandora/object/usc%3A39210

Right now, I can't find original Movietone-process talking-pictures of Lindbergh's preparation for takeoff (there is part of a re-re-release of the takeoff itself with sound and people talking and yelling uploaded on a reseller's site) but below is something equally interesting.

It's a Fox News's outtake-footage mish-mash of Commander Byrd before his crew's failed May, 19, 1927 flight, and it cuts to Washington, D.C., but a speech by Lindbergh has been cut out of it since I first posted this. The Wanamaker referred to was the kingpin of the Wanamaker department store in New York, who put up the $25,000 prize as a publicity stunt.

The Washington, D.C. Fox Newsreel that these outtakes are taken from also played in 1927 at the Roxy Theatre.

This Fox News footage courtesy of the University of South Carolina. No buffering problems with the file:

http://mirc.sc.edu/islandora/object/usc%3A41928

Ken Viewer2 (Used to be just plain Ken Viewer but lost my password and the email account associated with it is no more.)
Last edited by Ken Viewer2 on Fri Mar 10, 2017 1:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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sepiatone

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Re: First Talking Newsreel? Fox's 1927 film of Commander By

PostMon Mar 06, 2017 3:01 pm

I had to look twice to affirm it wasn't the University of Southern California. But University of South Carolina. The Wanamaker is of Wanamaker Dept. store Wanamaker's also put up prize money for a 1914 Glenn Curtiss flying boat amphibian attempt at a transatlantic flight. Problems with horsepower, fuel consumption and the start of WW1 ditched plans for the 1914 attempt. Raymond Orteig sponsored the attempts after 1919.

The Roxy didn't start out as a Fox Theatre, Gloria Swanson's "The Love of Sunya" a United Artists picture premiered there in March 1927. A controlling interest by one of the financiers was sold to William Fox.

thanks for your efforts uploading the restored footage. Hearing those Wright Whirlwinds on the "America" is a joy. One was also(still is) on Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis". I tried pausing out the video for a few minutes to see if that cured the slow buffer.
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Re: First Talking Newsreel? Fox's 1927 film of Commander By

PostMon Mar 06, 2017 3:27 pm

Since Wanamaker's name comes up as sponsor, this meant Byrd was competing for a double prize that of an individual prize from the Dept. store ($25,000) and the Orteig prize (also $25,000). I don't know about all the facts concerning the finer details of the rules concerning these prizes but Wanamaker's original 1914 offering must have still been on. It's been said Lindbergh's successful crossing was null-and-void of the prize money because he made the flight too soon. When filing entrant papers for the Orteig prize a time lapse window of several weeks has to pass. This more than likely was rescinded after Lindbergh's successful journey as several flyers had already been killed,the public claimed Lindbergh as a hero and patrons would have walked out of Orteig's hotel/s if the money wasn't given. Great footage!!
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sepiatone

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Re: First Talking Newsreel? Fox's 1927 film of Commander By

PostMon Mar 06, 2017 7:29 pm

Here's some Youtube video of a reproduction of the 1914 Curtiss Flying Boat "America" that Wanamaker sponsored.
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_ ... ss+america
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Ken Viewer2

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Re: First Talking Newsreel? Fox's 1927 film of Commander By

PostWed Mar 08, 2017 7:42 pm

NEW LINK. Buffering problems remain. View it while it's still online.

http://mirc.sc.edu/islandora/object/usc%3A39210

Ken
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Re: First Talking Newsreel? Fox's 1927 film of Commander By

PostWed Mar 08, 2017 8:10 pm

60th anniversary of Byrd's death is only a few days away, on March 11. Just learned that next year it'll be 100 years ago that he was stationed here in Halifax at the Naval Air Station (now Shearwater AFB) during the First World War, only 15 minutes away. I wonder if there's much local history on his stay here...

Edit: There is!
Twinkletoes wrote:Oh, ya big blister!
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Ken Viewer2

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Re: First Talking Newsreel; Fox's 1927 film of Commander By

PostFri Mar 10, 2017 1:42 am

Sepiatone,

Fox Film Corporation's theatre-chains' division purchased a controlling interest in the Roxy prior to May 20, 1927. If it pleased them, they'd call it a Fox theatre. It was not part of the Fox Metropolitan Playhouses division, however.

Byrd became a Rear Admiral the following year by act of Congress or some-such.

Ken
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Re: First Talking Newsreel; Fox's 1927 film of Commander By

PostSat Mar 11, 2017 7:37 pm

thanks for that info Ken.

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