Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"The Roaring Talkies"

In the August 24, 1929 issue of The New Yorker, James Thurber complains about the strange "resonance" and "clangor" of the voices in the talkies. Assuming that such things are here to stay, he proposes a plot which uses this audio problem to good effect.
[The Banker] is on his knees by the bathtub, scouring it out. Mrs. Brundage is in the kitchen cleaning out the breadbox. "Hello, dear," he calls--his head far down into the tub. "Hello, dear," she answers--her head deep in the breadbox. In the next scene, they go to the attic to straighten up there. The wife finds a couple of old megaphones that her husband used when he was a college cheerleader. Playfully, they talk through these. "Let's give a megaphone party," says the wife, through hers. "All the guests to talk through megaphones!" "Splendid, dear," he croons, through his.
The plot moves to the back of an armored truck, then into a laboratory.
At the laboratory, he picks up a hollow brass cylinder. "This hollow brass cylinder," he explains, talking into it, "is contrived to intensify musical tones and designed for the study and analysis of complex sounds." Mrs. Brundage takes it from him and sings the picture's theme song into it.
The next scene takes place in a bank vault, and then inside an empty diving-tank, followed by the lower level of Grand Central station. After the husband and wife have a fight, "She sobs brokenly into the goldfish bowl, 'Little fish, bring him back.' (Which also could easily have been the theme song.)"

No comments: