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Vocapedia > Arts > Movies > Silent era, Talkies


















silent era        UK / USA

















silent-era scriptwriter        USA










silent movie / film / feature        UK / USA




























story/story.php?storyId=127530994 - June 7, 2010








silent film classic        UK










silent slapstick        UK










silent-picture houses        USA










theater organist > USA > Rosa Rio    1902-2010


stage name of American concert pianist

Elizabeth Raub










Vitaphone > “The Jazz Singer”    Oct. 6, 1927        USA












Vitaphone        USA


Vitaphone was a sound film system used for feature films

and nearly 1,000 short subjects made by Warner Bros.

and its sister studio First National from 1926 to 1931.



was the last major analog sound-on-disc system

and the only one that was widely used

and commercially successful.


The soundtrack was not printed on the film itself,

but issued separately on phonograph records.


The discs, recorded at 33+1⁄3 rpm

(a speed first used for this system)

and typically 16 inches (41 cm) in diameter,

would be played on a turntable physically coupled

to the projector motor

while the film was being projected.


It had a frequency response of 4300 Hz.

Many early talkies,

such as The Jazz Singer (1927),

used the Vitaphone system.


Wikipedia, December 10, 2022










nitrate film        USA










The National Film Preservation Foundation

is the nonprofit organization

created by the U.S. Congress

to help save America's film heritage













Tiffany Productions > flapper comedies        USA

“That Model From Paris” (1926)

and “The First Night” (1927)

















talkies        UK












talkies        USA










early sound films        USA




















Edison's greatest marvel

The Vitascope

New York: Metropolitan Print Company, for Raff and Gorman,

ca. 1896.

Color lithograph.

Prints and Photographs Division

Library of Congress (155)




















Corpus of news articles


Arts > Movies > Silent movies




Frederica Sagor Maas,

Silent-Era Scriptwriter,

Dies at 111


January 14, 2012

The New York Times



She told of Hollywood moguls chasing naked would-be starlets, the women shrieking with laughter. She recounted how Joan Crawford, new to the movies, relied on her to pick clothes. Almost obsessively, she complained about how many of her story ideas and scripts were stolen and credited to others.

Frederica Sagor Maas told all — and maybe more — in interviews and in her memoirs, which she published in 1999 at the age of 99. Before dying on Jan. 5 in La Mesa, Calif., at 111, Mrs. Maas was one of the last living links to cinema’s silent era. She wrote dozens of stories, adaptations and scripts, sat with Greta Garbo at the famed long table in MGM’s commissary, and adapted to sound in the movies, and then to color.

Perhaps most satisfying, Mrs. Maas outlived pretty much anybody who might have disagreed with her version of things. “I can get my payback now,” she said in an interview with Salon in 1999. “I’m alive and thriving and, well, you S.O.B.’s are all below.”

(She was also the 44th-oldest person in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which keeps records of such things and which announced her death.)

Mrs. Maas’s life was like the plot of an old-fashioned movie. She dropped out of college to scout Broadway for movie ideas. She moved to Hollywood, rejected encouragement to be an actress and wrote for the Universal, MGM, Paramount and Fox studios. After the industry had no further use for her work, she almost committed suicide.

Much later, after giving up on Hollywood, Mrs. Maas said she would have preferred to be a “wash lady.”

Still, Hollywood gave her stories to tell: about meeting Crawford, whom she called “a gum-chewing dame,” and helping her find the sort of tailored clothes she herself favored; about seeing Clara Bow dancing naked on a table at a Jazz Age blowout. Sex, she wrote, became as “humdrum as washing your face or cleansing your teeth.”

Frederica Sagor, one of four daughters, was born on July 6, 1900, in a cold-water railroad flat at 101st Street near Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Her parents, Jewish immigrants from Russia, shortened their name from Zagosky. Frederica gave up plans to be a doctor and studied journalism at Columbia. She worked a summer as a copy girl for The New York Globe.

She joined the movie industry, and left school, after answering a want ad for an assistant to the story editor at Universal Pictures in New York. Getting the job, she learned about movies by seeing ones she liked three or four times, studying them frame by frame.

“I was fierce in my passion for this new medium,” she wrote in her memoir, “The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood.”

In 1924, Frederica Sagor moved to Hollywood to write for Preferred Pictures. She helped adapt “The Plastic Age,” a popular novel about collegiate life, for a 1925 movie that was a hit for Clara Bow. (Five years older than Bow, she outlived her by more than 46.) After that success, she signed with MGM, where, she said, others took credit for her work. In a studio system with armies of writers, she added, that was not unusual.

“Unless you wanted to quit the business, you just kept your mouth shut,” she wrote.

She moved on to Tiffany Productions, where she got credit for the flapper comedies “That Model From Paris” (1926) and “The First Night” (1927).

She married a screenwriter, Ernest Maas, in 1927, and went on to write scripts both with him and by herself. For her story for “Rolled Stockings” (1927), starring Louise Brooks, she was credited not only on the screen but on the poster as well, a rarity then.

The couple’s lives began a downward spiral when they lost $10,000 in the 1929 stock market crash. They survived by writing movie reviews and turned out screenplays, but all but one were rejected. The exception was a joint effort, “The Shocking Miss Pilgrim,” a 1947 release from which Mrs. Maas took the title for her memoir. The film was about a young stenographer who becomes the first woman ever hired by a Boston shipping office, but even that was twisted by the Hollywood homogenizers. Written as a study of a woman’s empowerment, “Miss Pilgrim” was turned into a frothy musical starring Betty Grable.

Impoverished and disillusioned, the couple drove to an isolated hilltop at sunset in 1950 with the intention of asphyxiating themselves. But they could not go through with it, Mrs. Maas said. Suddenly clutching each other, they cried and turned off the ignition.

“We had each other and we were alive,” Mrs. Maas told the online magazine Salon.

The couple had no children, and Mrs. Maas left no immediate survivors. Mr. Maas died at 94 in 1986.

Neither of the two returned to the industry. To get a job as a typist in an insurance agency, Mrs. Maas lied about her age, saying she was 40 when she was actually 50. She advanced to adjuster.

As for movies, Mrs. Maas stopped going. “I think the product they’re making today,” she said in 1999, “is even worse than the product we made in the early days.”

Frederica Sagor Maas, Silent-Era Scriptwriter, Dies at 111,






Rosa Rio,

Organist From Silent Films

to Soap Operas,

Dies at 107


May 14, 2010
The New York Times


On Oct. 6, 1927, the day “The Jazz Singer” splashed noisily across American movie screens, Rosa Rio broke down and wept. Al Jolson was talking, and the very sound of him, she knew, would put her out of business.

But Miss Rio’s fears went unrealized, and for the next eight decades — until her final performance, last year — she built a career as one of the country’s premier theater organists.

Miss Rio was undoubtedly among the very last to have played the silent-picture houses, accompanying the likes of Chaplin, Keaton and Pickford on the Mighty Wurlitzer amid velvet draperies, gilded rococo walls and vaulted ceilings awash in stars. She was also one of the few women to have made her way in a field dominated by men.

Miss Rio died on Thursday, less than three weeks before her 108th birthday. The death, at her home in Sun City Center, Fla., was confirmed by her husband, Bill Yeoman.

For the silents, Miss Rio provided music — often improvised — to set moods that images alone could not: the footsteps of a cat burglar, the sighs of young lovers and the dreadful roar of the oncoming train as the heroine flailed on the tracks. When silents gave way to talkies, she became a ubiquitous presence on the radio; when radio yielded to television, she played for daytime serials. The Queen of the Soaps, the newspapers called her.

In Miss Rio’s career one can trace the entire history of entertainment technology in the 20th century. After all, she was alive, and playing, for nearly all of it.

Midcentury Americans could scarcely touch a dial without hearing Miss Rio. As the staff organist of the NBC radio network from the late 1930s to 1960, and an occasional organist for ABC Radio, she provided live music for a spate of popular shows, including “The Shadow,” starring a trim Orson Welles, and “The Bob and Ray Show.” Her television credits include “As the World Turns” and the “Today” show.

In recent years, long after television dispensed with live organists, Miss Rio accompanied silent films at some of the nation’s tenderly restored movie houses. She was most closely associated with the Tampa Theater in Florida, a lavish picture palace built in 1926.

Several times a year Miss Rio would rise from beneath the stage there, seated at the organ in sequined evening gown, diamond rings and gold lamé slippers. As she wafted majestically upward, the room shook with her signature tune, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” or, as she much preferred to call it, “Everything’s Coming Up Rosa.”

Borne on a wave of cinematic nostalgia, Miss Rio had come blissfully full circle.

Miss Rio was born on June 2, 1902. Her maiden name and birthplace have been lost to time; her given name was Elizabeth and she was reared in New Orleans. She began calling herself Rosa Rio — a name narrow enough to fit neatly on a theater marquee — early in her career.

At 8, Elizabeth began piano lessons and immediately decided on a show business career. This, her parents made clear, was no fit occupation for a proper Southern girl.

She persevered, and her parents relented a little. Playing in church would be fine, they decided. So would the genteel life of a children’s piano teacher. With these callings in mind, Elizabeth entered the Oberlin College Conservatory in Ohio.

She chafed there until the day she visited a Cleveland movie palace and heard a theater organ for the first time. Not long afterward, she transferred to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, which had a program in silent-film accompanying.

Miss Rio’s first marriage, to John Hammond, an organist, ended in divorce. She is survived by her second husband, Mr. Yeoman, whom she married in 1947; three grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. A son, John Hammond III, died several years ago.

In the 1920s, Miss Rio played in movie houses around the country before being hired by the Fox Theater in Brooklyn. Then came Jolson, and she found supplementary work as an accompanist and vocal coach. One of her clients was an unknown singer named Mary Martin, whom Miss Rio accompanied on her successful audition for the Cole Porter musical “Leave It to Me!” (1938), Martin’s Broadway debut.

At NBC, Miss Rio played for as many as two dozen radio shows a week, often with just 60 seconds between shows to bolt from one studio to another. On Sept. 1, 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland, she was summoned to work at 2 a.m. For the next 10 hours, she performed somber music between news bulletins. After the United States entered the war, she had her own show, “Rosa Rio Rhythms,” broadcast to American troops overseas.

Radio of the period was a rough-and-tumble world — a man’s world. Miss Rio gave as good as she got.

As recounted in Leonard Maltin’s book “The Great American Broadcast: A Celebration of Radio’s Golden Age” (Dutton, 1997), she was playing a show at NBC one day when the announcer, Dorian St. George, crept up behind her, undid the buttons down the back of her blouse and unhooked her bra. Miss Rio, performing live before a gallery of visitors, could do nothing but play on.

When the music stopped, Mr. St. George stepped up to the microphone to do a commercial. As he intoned plummily with the gallery looking on, Miss Rio stole up behind him, unbuckled his belt, unzipped his fly and neatly dropped his trousers. Then, according to Mr. Maltin’s book, she started on his undershorts.

What happened next is unrecorded.

Rosa Rio, Organist From Silent Films to Soap Operas, Dies at 107,






On This Day - August 17, 1960


From The Times Archive


Buster Keaton is now regarded
as the greatest comic of the silent movie era.
His modern reputation was much helped
by the discovery and restoration
of his films in Europe in the late 1950s


MR BUSTER KEATON, the legendary “frozen-faced” comedian of silent pictures, sped through London earlier this month on his way back to America after a European tour. Now aged 64, he has the appearance of a tough, leathery veteran. He is a short, stocky man, nut-brown in complexion, and when he speaks it is with punchy, gravel-throated directness.

After explaining why so many of his films had found their way into European collections, Mr Keaton embarked on more personal recollections.

“I began in vaudeville, on the stage: I was playing in the Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue in 1909 — my first trip to this country. And it was on the stage I learnt not to smile. I found that if I laughed at my own gags nobody else did: so I stopped laughing. I went into movies during the war. I never went into the Broadway show, and I’ve never been back on stage since.”

As his own director, changing his leading lady from film to film, Mr Keaton set his image on these comedies as “the great stone face” and as the master of such pieces of mechanical wizardry as the locomotive race in The General.

“Action. That’s what went out when the talkies came in. When talking pictures arrived the edict went around Hollywood — they all have to talk. The script writers got an upper hand and action got left out.”

From The Times Archive > On This Day
August 17, 1960,
Times, 17.8.2005.










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The Early Cinema

This Channel is the place

to watch films from the silent era.





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