The Classic Movie History Project: Cinema 1927
I recently did a feature called No Volume Needed November where I watched and reviewed the horror films of the 1920s. There were not a whole lot of horror films made through the decade but the thinnest year was 1927; according to IMDB there were only eight horror films made that year. I concluded the feature with my twenty favourite horror films from the decade and two of those films were 1927 entries; The Cat and the Canary and The Unknown.
I have not the faintest clue as to why the year 1927 is particularly thin on films from the horror genre. IMDB lists twenty genres for the year: this is how the films broke down:
Drama = 454
Comedies = 269
Romance = 177
Westerns = 151
Action = 67
Adventure = 57
Crime = 49
War = 27
Mystery = 21
Thrillers = 15
History = 12
Horror = 8
Sport = 7
Family = 6
Musicals = 6
Biographies = 4
Fantasy = 3
Animation = 2
Music = 1
Sci-Fi = 1
There were some historical film-related events that happened during 1927…
Alan Crosland’s Jazz Singer premieres; the first feature-length movie with synchronized dialogue sequences.
Fox Studios puts Movietone to use for F.W. Murnau’s film Sunrise. According to Wikipedia: The Movietone sound system is an optical sound-on-film method of recording sound for motion pictures that guarantees synchronization between sound and picture. It achieves this by recording the sound as a variable-density optical track on the same strip of film that records the pictures. Although sound films today use variable-area tracks, any modern motion picture theater (excluding those that have transitioned to digital cinema) can play a Movietone film without modification to the projector. Movietone was one of four motion picture sound systems under development in the U.S. during the 1920s, the others being DeForest Phonofilm, Warner Brothers’ Vitaphone, and RCA Photophone, though Phonofilm was primarily an early version of Movietone.
Fritz Lang’s visual extravaganza Metropolis premieres; the only science fiction film released in 1927. For more images from Metropolis click here.
Director Alfred Hitchcock releases his first film; The Pleasure Garden although made in 1925 the film was not released until 1927 in England.
Louis B Mayer forms The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Grauman’s Chinese Theater opens in Hollywood California. According to Wikipedia: TCL Chinese Theatre is a cinema on the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Originally Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and renamed Mann’s Chinese Theatre in 1973, the current name of the theatre became official on January 2013 after TCL Corporation purchased the naming rights. The original Chinese Theatre was commissioned following the success of the nearby Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, which opened in 1922. Built over 18 months, from January 1926 by a partnership headed by Sid Grauman, the theater opened May 18, 1927, with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s film The King of Kings. It has since been home to many premieres, including the 1977 launch of George Lucas’s Star Wars, as well as birthday parties, corporate junkets and three Academy Awards ceremonies. Among the theater’s most distinctive features are the concrete blocks set in the forecourt, which bear the signatures, footprints, and handprints of popular motion picture personalities from the 1920s to the present day.
William A. Wellman’s Wings premieres. Wings would be the only silent film to win an Oscar for best picture.
There is no debate that 1927 seen the single most significant film-related event of the decade. The addition of sound changed the face of motion pictures forever. It did not take long before silent films were phased out completely. According to the U.S. Library of Congress approximately 70% of American made films from the silent era have been lost with no possibility of recovery. Having experienced several silent horror films recently this saddens me deeply. So many of these films are unique and gorgeous visceral experiences unlike anything that came after them. As a film lover preservation is of the utmost importance. We certainly did not learn our lesson over the years. I am currently delving deep into sixties underground and exploitation cinema and the amount of lost films from this period is quite astounding.
According to Internet Movie Database these are the twenty-five most popular films from 1927…
Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang starring Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel and Gustav Fröhlich.
Wings directed by William A. Wellman starring Clara Bow, Charles Rogers and Richard Arlen.
Sunrise directed by F.W. Murnau starring George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor and Margaret Livingston.
The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crosland starring Al Jolson, May McAvoy and Warner Oland.
The King of Kings directed by Cecil B. DeMille starring H.B. Warner, Dorothy Cumming and Ernest Torrence.
The Lodger directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring starring June, Ivor Novello and Marie Ault.
London After Midnight directed by Tod Browning starring Lon Chaney, Marceline Day and Henry B. Walthall.
It directed by Clarence G. Badger starring Clara Bow, Antonio Moreno and William Austin.
The Ring directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring Carl Brisson, Lillian Hall-Davis and Ian Hunter.
7th Heaven directed by Frank Borzage starring Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell and Ben Bard.
Napoleon directed by Abel Gance starring Albert Dieudonné, Vladimir Roudenko and Edmond Van Daële.
Downhill directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring Ivor Novello, Ben Webster and Norman McKinnel.
The Unknown directed by Tod Browning starring Lon Chaney, Norman Kerry and Joan Crawford
The Cat and the Canary directed by Paul Leni starring Laura La Plante, Creighton Hale and Forrest Stanley.
Underworld directed by Josef von Sternberg starring George Bancroft, Clive Brook and Evelyn Brent.
West Point directed by Edward Sedgwick starring William Haines, Joan Crawford and William Bakewell.
The Kid Brother directed by Ted Wilde and J.A. Howe starring Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston and Walter James.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin directed by Harry A. Pollard starring Margarita Fischer, James B. Lowe and Arthur Edmund Carewe.
College directed by James W. Horne starring Buster Keaton, Anne Cornwall and Flora Bramley.
Love directed by Edmund Goulding starring John Gilbert, Greta Garbo and George Fawcett.
Chicago directed by Frank Urson starring Phyllis Haver, Victor Varconi and Virginia Bradford.
*No picture was available for The Arcadians that I was satisfied with.
The Arcadians directed by Victor Saville starring Ben Blue, Jeanne De Casalis and Vesta Sylva.
The Way of All Flesh directed by Victor Fleming starring Emil Jannings, Belle Bennett and Phyllis Haver.
The Drop Kick directed by Millard Webb starring Richard Barthelmess, Barbara Kent and Dorothy Revier.
My Best Girl directed by Sam Taylor starring Mary Pickford, Charles Rogers and Sunshine Hart.