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Film: Silent, Indies, and Post-Talkies Era

  • By: Joseph Dewey
  • In: The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia
  • Edited by: Genie Gertz & Patrick Boudreault
  • Subject:Physical Disabilities, Otorhinolaryngology (Ears, Nose, & Throat)

When silent movies first became part of entertainment culture, their popularity was immediate and immense—within a decade, the novelty of watching movies had closed hundreds of vaudeville theaters as well as challenged reputable theaters offering traditional repertory theatrical fare from Shakespeare to popular melodramas. That first generation of films, roughly 1900 to 1925, also represented a landmark moment in the evolution of film in which, for a brief time, both hearing and deaf could enjoy the same entertainment. After all, the most popular public entertainment forums for most of the 19th century—public readings by noted authors and poets, the lyceum speech circuit, political forums and debates, traditional theater performances, opera, symphonic music, minstrel shows, even burlesque shows—fairly excluded the deaf. The advent of silent films ...

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