On This Day: Warner Bros.’ Vitaphone Ushers In The Era Of Talkies

It’s Thursday night, Aug 6, 1926, and you’re standing in line at Warners’ Theatre in New York City waiting to see the premier of the highly hyped film Don Jaun starring John Barrymore and Warner Bros.’ new star, the Vitaphone sound film system.

Vitaphone, developed by Western Electric in the 1920s and acquired by Warner Bros. in 1926, would be used for feature films and short subjects from 1926 to 1961.  Vitaphone would become the last analog sound-on-disc system widely used and commercially successful. 

Unlike sound-on-film systems, the Vitaphone system recorded sound on shellac discs.  To improve sound quality, film equipment was placed in sound proof booths with microphones placed in strategic areas on the sound stage.  Sound recording equipment was often stationed in a separate room to prevent unwanted interruption from sound-stage production.  

Synchronization of film and sound was accomplished with synchronous electric motors in cameras and recorders. Just as in production of the film, the viewing of a Vitaphone recorded film would require a synchronized projector and phonograph sound system.

Vitaphone Projection System 1926

Although the film Don Jaun was limited to recorded music via the Vitaphone System, future films, such as the Jazz Singer (1927) would launch the “Talkie” revolution and open the door for the way we enjoy films today.


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On This Day: The Bloody Naval Battle of Dogger Bank Occurs In 1781

As the American Revolution raged in North America in 1781, the British and Dutch Republic found themselves battling it out on the North Sea during the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War in the Battle of Dogger Bank.  

In the predawn hours of Aug 5, British Vice Admiral Sir Hyde Parker spotted sails of a Dutch convoy on the horizon and ordered his fleet to beat to quarters.  The Dutch convoy, under the command of Admiral Johan Zoutman, formed up to fight the advancing British fleet.  The battle would last three hours and forty minutes with 246 souls lost and 742 wounded between the British and Dutch.

With neither side losing a ship in battle, both belligerents claimed victory.  Yet, on a strategic level the British were able to prevent the Dutch fleet from leaving port for the duration of the war, which allowed for continued British harassment and capture of Dutch merchant ships.  The Fourth Anglo-Dutch War would end in 1784, leaving the Dutch in economic decline and paving the way for further British dominance on the world stage.


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On This Day: Fascist Italy Invades British Somaliland

On Aug 3, 1940, Fascist Italy invaded British Somaliland as part of the Italian East African campaign.  The invasion would last from Aug 3 to Aug 19 and would end with the defeat of the British Army and Commonwealth forces.

Between Aug 11 and Aug 15, Italian forces pulverized the British with artillery fire which allowed the Italians to outflank British forces at the Battle of Tug Argan.  The British would later retreat toward Berbera.

By Aug 17, the British fought a rearguard retreat at Barkasan as they made their withdrawal to Berbera for evacuation.


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