Early lip-synching

Woody_Herman (1)

Sometime in October 1939 Woody Herman and his band traveled to the Vitaphone Studio in Brooklyn to begin work on a ten-minute film short.

Probably within a week or two they returned with their instruments, but not to play them—this time they were there to mime playing as the recordings from their first session were played back! The film was issued with a phonograph record to be played during projection, creating an early example of what is now called lip-synching.

The producers also added some stock clips of an audience whose formal dress and staid demeanor indicate that they were a world away from any jazz performance.

This according to “Celluloid improvisations: Woody Herman and his orchestra” by Mark Cantor (The IAJRC journal XL/1 [February 2007] pp. 22–30).

Today is Herman’s 100th birthday! Above, a still from the second session; below, Herman leads the band in the finale of the Vitaphone film, King Oliver’s Doctor Jazz.

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