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The Continental Sound Film                                                     by Ken Tulloch

              "The Jazz Singer" and the early talkies arrived in Europe in 1928. This new challenge from across the Atlantic
              affected the highly developed film industries of Germany and France in remarkably different ways.

             The French studios were totally unprepared for the introduction of sound , and the lucrative domestic market
             was consequently invaded by the better organised American and German film  companies.  Yet in Germany
             filmgoers had  seen talking pictures as early as 1922. The Americans took the lead in exploiting sound, as a ·
              result of under investment, lack of interest, and wasted  opportunities  on the  part of  German business.

              In  1918, three Germans, Hans Vogt, Joseph Massolle, and Joseph Engl. patented a sound film system, and
             they called it Tri-Ergon  ("the work of three people").  Theirs was a sound on film  system and was extremely
             advanced for its time. On September 17-1922, Vogt, Masso lie and Eng I mounted the first public show of their
             invention  at the Alhambra  Cinema  in  Berlin.  The audience saw and  heard,  a  two  hour film  programme of
             musical numbers and recitations. By all accounts the Tri-Ergon system scored an immediate hit with the public
             who were thrilled at the perfect synchronisation of lip movements and sound.

             Under normal  circumstances Tri-Ergon would  have been  ripe  for commercial  exploitation,  but its  inventors
             were to receive much the same kind of negative reaction from sponsors as the American, Lee  De Forest had
             encountered for his Phonofilms.  Further more Germany had scarcely recovered from the devastation of World
             War 1 and the econom9 was at its most inflationary. For a crucial couple of years the ownership of Tri-Ergon
             sound on film patents passed from one company to another, with none of them succeeding in capitalising on
             the system.

             Late in 1924 a contract was signed linking Tri-Ergon with the big U.F.A. studios (stands for Universum Film
             Aktiengelschaft)  in Babelsberg,  Germany's biggest film  making  company,  for the  purpose of attempting  a
             sound feature film. ·The result  was  a film  called  "Das Madchen  Mit Den  Schwefelholzern" based on Hans
             Christian Anderson's tale of "The Little Match Girl".

             A studio with the necessary technical equipment was constructed and the film was shot at a breathtaking pace.
             Its' premiere on December 20-1925 however, was bedevilled with breakdowns and technical mishaps.  As a
             result U.F.A. turned down the offer of world rights to the system. Three months later, on a visit to Europe, the
             movie mogul William Fox purchased the American rights.

             The following year the first of Fox's Movietone Newsreels, showing Lindberg's triumphal crossing of the Atlantic,
             was watched in Germany by enthusiastic tilmgoers and red faced U.F.A. executives who had finally realised
             their mistake in not taking up the option on the Tri-Ergon system. There was little progress made in the three
             years since the failure of "Das Madchen Mit Den Schwefelholzern", but the merger of the Tobis and Klangfilm
             companies signalled a combined attack on the European film markets.

             Early in 1929 the Deuthche Lichtspiel Company gave a sneak preview in Berlin.  Two popular stars of the silent
             screen, Harry Leidtke and Marlene Dietrich, were billed to appear in "lch Kusse lhre Hand,  Madame" (I  Kiss
             Your Hand Madame.) The film was screened and to everyone's surprise, Liedtke sang the title song, actually
             the voice was that of the famous tenor Richard Tauber, but the  effect on  the screen was totally believable,
             meaning that the German sound film had arrived.

             By the  end of the twenties, the German film producers were convinced of the future of sound films.  As in
             America it had taken some time to persuade them. Having decided in favour of the optical sound solution, the
             German  pioneers represented  a  genuine challenge to the American  Vitaphone sound  system,  (which  was
             sound on disc).

             Walter Ruttman's "Melodie Der Welt" 1929, a kind of travelogue with story sequences made by Tobis Studios,
             for the Hamberg-American steamship line, is generally taken to be the first German sound feature. During the
             transitional period 1928-29, German producers tried to recapture the markets lost to the Americans at the time
             of the release of Jolsons second film "The Singing Fool".

             Germany like America had silent films in release, these were quickly withdrawn and some dialogue and music
             were added.  One in particular was called "Das land ohne frauen" {1929 The Land Without Women).  This was
             a spectacular production,  featuring love stories and stirring action, its leading star was very well known and top
             box office star Conrad Veidt.
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