When Squawkies Became Talkies: The Musicians' Union, Mechanical Music and British Cinemas, 1927-33



Izod J (2020) When Squawkies Became Talkies: The Musicians' Union, Mechanical Music and British Cinemas, 1927-33. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 17 (2), pp. 191-211.

The technical, commercial and cultural aspects of the advent of sound in the cinemas of several nations have been widely researched in work on that epoch. This article focuses on another facet of that history, namely its impact on musicians employed in British cinemas. Much of the evidence is based on the records of the Musicians' Union and chronicles that organisation's attempts to resist the introduction of the new technology and to ameliorate its impact on its members. The musicians' side of the story is complemented by information drawn from, among other sources, The Bioscope, a trade paper that revealed the eagerness of the Cinematograph Exhibitors' Association (whose members comprised the managers and owners of British picture houses) to dismiss their orchestras as soon as practicable. The effect of this course of action was to increase the unemployment already resulting from the Great Depression in the British entertainment industries. This in turn weakened the Musicians' Union, forcing a severe contraction in its ability to support its members.

Communication; Visual Arts and Performing Arts

Journal of British Cinema and Television: Volume 17, Issue 2

FundersAHRC Arts and Humanities Research Council
Publication date30/04/2020
Publication date online31/03/2020
Date accepted by journal17/12/2019
PublisherEdinburgh University Press

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Professor John Izod

Professor John Izod

Professor Emeritus, Communications, Media and Culture

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