Year 1928

In 1928, Warner Bros. released Lights of New York, a crime drama acknowledged as the first all-talking full-length film (57 minutes). Lights of New York utilised the Vitaphone sound-on-disc system. Although panned by the critics for its poor plot, acting and directing, the audiences loved it. The movie’s B-Picture budget of $23,000 returned over $1,000,000. Money talks, and thereafter everyone in motion pictures talked as the Silents were sent into oblivion.

On November 10, 1928 at the beginning of White Shadows in the South Seas, the MGM lion roared for the first time. The current lion, number eleven in the series and introduced in 1957, is called Leo. The original lion, pictured, was called Jackie.

On December 25, 1928 Fox Films released In Old Arizona, the first sound-on-film feature-length talkie. The movie utilised the Movietone system, which was more reliable than the Vitaphone system. The first Western talkie, In Old Arizona was the first sound film primarily shot outdoors. Also, it contributed to the development of the singing cowboy genre. 

Humphrey Bogart was a chess player who hustled for dimes and quarters in New York. In 1955, he achieved a draw in a simultaneous exhibition given by Grandmaster Samuel Reshevsky. Furthermore, Bogart was a United States Chess Federation tournament director, and he appeared on the cover of the June-July 1945 issue of Chess Review

When not involved in chess, Humphrey Bogart did a bit of acting, making his debut in The Dancing Town, in 1928. 

Incidentally, the chess scenes in Casablanca were added at Bogart’s insistence. A position from one of his correspondence games appears in the movie, although the image is blurred.

Other Notable Debuts

Madeleine Carroll in The Guns of Loos, a British silent war film. (My 2 x great grandfather Albert Charles Bick died at the Battle of Loos when the British generals gassed their own men).

Madeleine was very popular in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1938, she was the highest paid actress in the world. The 1935 version of The 39 Steps is regarded as her most notable film.

Madeleine is also remembered for largely abandoning her acting career after the death of her sister Marguerite during the London Blitz. Instead of acting, she devoted herself to helping servicemen and children wounded or displaced by the war. 

Madeleine was awarded the Legion of Honour and Medal of Freedom for her work with the Red Cross, and for liaising between the American forces and the French Resistance.

Jean Harlow in Honor Bound and Moran of the Marines

During the first two years of her career, Jean Harlow appeared uncredited in sixteen films, including productions developed for Laurel and Hardy. Her first speaking role was a bit part in The Saturday Night Kid, a 1929 romantic comedy that starred Clara Bow and Jean Arthur. 

Highest Grossing Movies, 1928

#3 Lilac Time

An aviation film set during World War One, Lilac Time followed in the slipstream of Wings, which won the first Academy Award for Best Movie in 1927. Lilac Time starred Colleen Moore and Gary Cooper with stunts by Dick Grace. Grace sustained a serious neck injury on Wings, but completed his stunts for Lilac Time.

#2 Street Angel

Street Angel, a silent drama, starred Janet Gaynor, who won the Best Actress Academy Award for her performance. The movie was directed by the prolific, and award-winning, Frank Borzage. An early transitional sound film, Street Angel did not include recorded dialogue. Instead, the movie used intertitles along with recorded sound effects and musical selections.

#1 The Singing Fool

A part-talkie musical melodrama, The Singing Fool starred Al Jolson. Following hot on the heels of The Jazz Singer, this movie established Jolson as a leading entertainer. The Singing Fool was more popular than The Jazz Singer mainly because many movie theatres were not equipped to show talkies when The Jazz Singer was released in 1927.

Although heavily reliant on its musical interludes, The Singing Fool was released as a silent movie, alongside the sound version. The film ran for 102 minutes with 66 minutes devoted to dialogue and singing.

1920s – 1960s