These Were The First Words Ever Spoken In A Feature Film

With CGI animation and top-of-the-line digital audio production now industry standards in Hollywood, it's difficult to comprehend just what an astounding development it was to sync sound effects and dialogue for 1920s audiences on previously silent pictures, according to Film Site. At that time, synced sound was the biggest advancement in film production since the moving picture itself, and it would stay that way until color movies took over a short time later. With these new sound movies (dubbed "talkies"), film and audio production technology in Hollywood only accelerated.

Looking back, the first words ever spoken in a feature film seem somewhat self-aware of that emerging mass media epoch we've described. As is often the case with technology though, the development of synced sound in movies was an ongoing process. The late '20s, in fact, was just the first time synced dialogue showed up in a widely-seen Hollywood feature film. Experiments with synced sound technology, however, were around long before that.

Synchronized music and synced dialogue in short films came first

As leading Hollywood casting agency Central Casting records on their website, there were several notable advancements in audio production which came about just a few years prior to 1927. Those films have now largely been lost to history. The first movie to feature a synced soundtrack and sound effects, as opposed to the scores of silent movies which were often performed live, was "Don Juan" in 1926, starring Douglas Fairbanks (via IMDb). That film utilized then groundbreaking technology called Vitaphone, as the library at the University of Florida website explains. 

Using Vitaphone, or sound recorded to disc, was a cumbersome process, though. Nonetheless, it set the industry standard for sound production in movies at the time, and although "Don Juan" itself had no synced dialogue, several short films produced with Vitaphone technology did. One such film short, at roughly four minutes long, is available to watch now on Youtube, and it features then-president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America and founder of Central Casting, Will Hays. In it, he announces the arrival of a groundbreaking new era in motion picture technology. Vitaphone fell by the wayside, but synced sound in movies were here to stay.

The first major film with synced dialogue was 'The Jazz Singer'

Earlier attempts to sync sound in film production notwithstanding, the first major motion picture to feature an actor talking was "The Jazz Singer" in 1927, and the first actor to have his voice widely heard by movie audiences was Al Jolson, performing in now controversial blackface. Using the same Vitaphone technology that synced up the music and sound effects in "Don Juan," the film took audiences by storm as they gathered to hear Jolson say the first lines of dialogue ever in a feature-length movie, according to The Guardian.

And incredibly, the words that Al Jolson said in that seminal moment in Hollywood moment were ad-libbed: "Wait a minute ... you ain't heard nothin' yet" (those words, too, are available to hear now on Youtube). Incredibly, though, there wasn't much more than that in the film in terms of dialogue, but with Jolson's mouth moving in time to the words that the audience heard, the silent era had ended and the reign of sound film had begun. The first feature film to have all its dialogue synchronized came one year later, another Warner Brothers Vitaphone film called "Lights of New York" (via Britannica).