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October 2018, vol 14 no 3

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Mark Forrester


There is a common myth that when certain silent film stars first appeared in the new talkies, though they appeared in dramatic roles – as romantic leads – their first spoken words were met with gales of laughter from the theater audiences – high squeaky voices absurdly out of place.

In fact, with few exceptions, these actors had fine voices, resonant and articulate. Most had come, after all, to silent films from the live stage.

But silent films provided the audience with a cushioning distance from the action on the screen: during love scenes, filmgoers looked on from a discreet distance, too far removed to overhear the lovers, whose words were supplied by title cards or by the audience’s imaginations.

Now they were thrust uncomfortably close, sitting beside the two lovers as they loudly proclaimed their most personal, most passionate thoughts. And the audience, unaccustomed to this new technology and this new intimacy, responded with awkward laughter.

solar eclipse
the blue heron
averts his gaze