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Grant number like: FB-50153-04

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Emily A. Thompson
Princeton University (Princeton, NJ 08540-5228)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2004 – 12/31/2004

Technicians and the Talkies: The Sound Revolution in the American Film Industry, 1926-1933

"Technicians and the Talkies" proposes to explore the human experience of technological change in the American motion picture industry, 1926-1933. The introduction of sound technology circa 1926 dramatically disrupted the lives of virtually every man and woman working in the film industry. New jobs were created, old jobs were eliminated, and those that remained were completed reformulated to accommodate and to generate the new talking films. We know much about how famous actors and directors experienced this change, as well as how the studios managed the transformation institutionally. We know very little about the reactions and contributions of the numerous craft and technical workers in motion picture production and exhibition. My project will tell this tale in a book accessible to scholarly and general readers alike. The book will offer a captivating narrative of the human drama and conflict behind the transition to sound in the movies. It will also explore aspects of technological change--including dimensions of gender, issues of globalization, and distinctions between art, craft, and engineering--that speak to scholarly concerns in the history of technology, labor history, film studies, and gender studies.