Dubbing in silent movies

I have written in previous posts some interesting news about the origin of dubbing in Spain.

Now I would like to go back a little further in time (until the late nineteenth century, early twentieth century) to highlight some peculiar aspects of the silent cinema, or maybe not so mute …

In fact the word “silent” does not define exactly what the public at the time witnessed with delight. And far from being literally “mute”, this type of cinema was almost a multidisciplinary show with elements of circus, music hall and of course theater.

The cinema was a popular show, screened in theaters with occasional dance numbers and other varieties that complemented the movies such as performances by dancers and comedians. People used to see the movies while having dinner (this has not changed nowadays), smoking or having some drinks with friends. The most showy of all this is that usually the films were accompanied by an orchestra, special effects and occasionally a synchronized phonograph recording (in part) with the images, to give the impression of seeing a real sound film. It was a big show watching films like The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance as its special effects were amazing (thunders, explosions, fire, neighing of horses …)

The explainers “dubbed” in live the characters on the screen, also read the labels (captions) to tell what was going on (remember that many people were illiterate) so as to give a dramatic charge to the development of the film (with Gothic print letter subtitles in horror films, etc).

Also noteworthy is the coloration of the films of this era as using from hand-colored photographic to toning up, was obtained the desired effect for each dramatic situation, e.g. pink for romantic scenes, reds for violent, blue for sea evocations, etc..

So in spite of the fact that how “silent” the cinema in those years was, there is no doubt that attending to these projections was a very voiced show.