6 October 1927: Premiere of The Jazz Singer

On this day in 1927, cinema-goers descended on the premiere of The Jazz Singer to see “the world's greatest entertainer” Al Jolson in one of the first “talkies”.

On this day in 1927, New York movie-goers were treated to the premiere of Warner Brothers' film The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson. It is widely accepted as the film that swept the silent movie era aside, and, with Jolson's famous line “Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You ain't heard nothin' yet!”, it ushered in a fantastic new world of “talkies”.

Jolson, born Asa Yoelson in what is now Lithuania, was a massive star at the time – Elvis and The Beatles massive. He was known as “The World's Greatest Entertainer”, and was the biggest star on Broadway by a long way. The effect of his performance in The Jazz Singer was such that, by the end of the premiere, the audience was a teeming mob, shouting Jolson's name, and crowding for autographs. Police had to be brought in to restore order.

While The Jazz Singer is revered as one of the most influential films of all time, it wasn't the first talkie. In, fact, it wasn't the first of much. As well as not being the first talkie, it wasn't the first musical. It wasn't the first to have synchronised music. And, despite what some corners of the internet might want you to believe, it wasn't the first film to have a soundtrack imprinted onto the actual film, rather than on a separate disc that had been pioneered by Lee De Forest in the early 1920s.

But The Jazz Singer can claim to be the first feature-length film with synchronised sound, which included talking as part of the action. The film used Warner Brothers' “Vitaphone” sound system – essentially, the soundtrack was recorded on a 16-inch phonograph record, which had to be played on a turntable while the film was playing. The projectionist had to manually synchronise the sound with the screen. Given the 89-minute film was made up of 15 reels, this wasn't a trivial task.

More than anything else, The Jazz Singer was by far the most successful of the new-fangled talking pictures, and was the one that captured the public's imagination. It made a profit of some $3.5m, and saw Warner Brothers catapulted into the top ranks of Hollywood studios.

Recommended

24 February 1981: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announce their engagement
This day in history

24 February 1981: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announce their engagement

On this day in 1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer made their engagement official in front of the world's press at Buckingham Palace.
24 Feb 2021
24 February 1809: Drury Lane theatre burns down
This day in history

24 February 1809: Drury Lane theatre burns down

On this day in 1809, celebrated playwright Richard Sheridan was effectively ruined when the Drury Lane theatre went up in smoke.
24 Feb 2021
23 February 1963: The case of the electrified Land Rover
This day in history

23 February 1963: The case of the electrified Land Rover

On this day in 1963, an unsuspecting bobby gets a shock when he stumbles upon an electrified Land Rover.
23 Feb 2021
23 February 1820: the Cato Street Conspiracy unravels
This day in history

23 February 1820: the Cato Street Conspiracy unravels

The Bow Street Runners burst in on the Cato Street conspirators, frustrating their plans to massacre the entire Cabinet, on this day in 1820.
23 Feb 2021

Most Popular

Which assets do best when inflation is rising?
Inflation

Which assets do best when inflation is rising?

As markets look forward to a post-pandemic bounce, they’re also starting to worry about higher inflation. John Stepek looks at the best way to divers…
22 Feb 2021
The days when you could get 7% from your bank are long gone – so what do you do?
Bitcoin

The days when you could get 7% from your bank are long gone – so what do you do?

With interest rates at rock bottom for so long, we’ve been forced to move from saving to speculating to earn any sort of return. Dominic Frisby asks w…
24 Feb 2021
Why you should still put money into a cash Isa
Cash ISAs

Why you should still put money into a cash Isa

Interest rates may be lousy, but tax-free saving into a cash Isa is still a good idea.
23 Feb 2021