Year 1926


On 5 August Warner Brothers debuted the first Vitaphone movie, Don Juan (the third highest grossing film of the year). The Vitaphone system used multiple 33 1⁄3 rpm gramophone records to play back music and sound effects synchronized with film.

📸 The premiere of Don Juan in New York City

Theodore W. Case and E.I. Sponable introduced their sound-on-film experiments to William Fox of the Fox Film Corporation. This resulted in the formation of The Fox-Case Corp, also known as Movietone. Impressed with the sound-on-film system, Fox launched his long-running newsreels, Movietone News.

Highest Grossing Movies of 1926

#3 Don Juan 

A romantic adventure based on Lord Byron’s 1821 epic poem, Don Juan starred John Barrymore as the ‘hand-kissing womaniser’. 

Don Juan was the first feature-length film to utilize Vitaphone’s sound-on-disc system with a synchronized musical score and sound effects. However, the movie did not include any dialogue. 

The cast included a number of notable names including  Hedda Hopper as Marchesia Rinaldo, Myrna Loy as Mai, Lady in Waiting, Mary Astor as Adriana della Varnese and Phyllis Haver as Imperia (uncredited).

#2 Beau Geste

A silent drama based on P.C. Wren’s novel, Beau Geste starred Ronald Colman as the title character. Beau Geste won the Photoplay Medal of Honour for Best Picture, presented by Photoplay magazine. The Photoplay Medal of Honour was the industry’s leading award until the Academy Awards came along in 1927.

Production was scheduled for Algeria, but the Rif War meant that the movie was filmed in California and Arizona.

#1 What Price Glory?

A comedy-drama, What Price Glory? was directed by Raoul Walsh. A silent movie, in January 1927, Fox re-released What Price Glory? with synchronized sound-effects and music, utilising the Movietone system.

What Price Glory? achieved notoriety when lip-readers noticed that the main characters were uttering profanities, which were not reflected in the intertitles. The Fox studio was inundated with telephone calls and letters from enraged Americans who considered the language offensive.

Notable Debuts 

John Wayne in Brown of Harvard 

Born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907, John Wayne appeared in 179 film and television productions. For his screen name, movie director Raoul Walsh suggested “Anthony Wayne”, after the Revolutionary War General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. However, Fox Studios chief Winfield Sheehan rejected the name because it sounded “too Italian”. Walsh then suggested “John Wayne”. Sheehan agreed, and Marion had a new name. He was not even present at the discussion.

Charles “Buddy” Rogers in Fascinating Youth

Buddy Rogers is mostly remembered for his performance in Wings, 1927, a movie about the First World War, which also starred Clara Bow. Wings won an Academy Award, the first film to receive the honour. An accomplished musician, Rogers also made a number of records with his swing band.

On June 24, 1937, Rogers became the third husband of actress and movie businesswoman Mary Pickford. The couple began their relationship in 1927, when they co-starred in My Best Girl. However, Mary Pickford was married at the time, to Douglas Fairbanks, so they kept their affair a secret until Mary’s separation and divorce from Fairbanks in 1936. Buddy Rogers and Mary remained married for 42 years, until her death in 1979.

1920s – 1960s