Arthur Dulay and John Grierson: fitting Drifters (1929)



Izod J (2019) Arthur Dulay and John Grierson: fitting Drifters (1929). Visual Culture in Britain, 20 (3: From Silent to Sound: Cinema in Scotland in the 1930s), pp. 261-277.

This article arises from an unexpected discovery among the papers held in John Grierson’s Archive at the University of Stirling, which stimulated historical analysis. The document in question makes it possible to locate Drifters in the short-lived period of transition from silent to sound films. The moment when Grierson’s film was first screened to audiences at the end of 1929 coincided with the technological transition in British cinema from accompaniment by musicians playing live in the auditorium to the introduction of fully synchronized sound on film. Arthur Dulay’s ‘Musical Suggestions for Drifters’ furnish plain evidence of not only how complex the work of projectionists and their assistants could be, but also how, until the transition to recorded sound was complete, a variety of methods was deployed in different cinemas to add music and sound effects to pictures. The transition from silent to sound film occurred comparatively rapidly, when seen against the long timespan of the silent era. For those caught up in it, however, it must have seemed a protracted change, with musicians having to live with deepening anxiety over their future while projectionists, independent cinema-owners and managers had to tackle the day-by-day delays in wiring their picture houses, acquiring, installing and learning how to operate expensive equipment.

British cinemas; Drifters; Arthur Dulay; John Grierson; live music; New Era; sound-on-disc

Visual Culture in Britain: Volume 20, Issue 3: From Silent to Sound: Cinema in Scotland in the 1930s

Publication date31/12/2019
Publication date online10/12/2019
Date accepted by journal18/11/2019

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Professor John Izod
Professor John Izod

Professor Emeritus, Communications, Media and Culture

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