Though talking pictures didn't become commercially viable until 1927's The Jazz Singer, moviemakers had been experimenting with combining sounds and pictures as early as 1895. One such experiment emerged in 1913 through the unlikely auspices of Cherry Kearton, a famed animal photographer and naturalist who was better known for his documentary films. Kearton's pioneering "talkie" was a potted version of the Max Reinhardt stage spectacular The Miracle. Based on the legend of a statue of the Virgin Mary coming to life to replace a wayward nun, the Reinhardt stage version ran nearly three hours. Kerton's adaptation was pared down to three reels, concentrating on the most famous of the dialogue sequences. Apparently, only the words spoken by the actors were pre-recorded; the other sounds -- footsteps, closing doors, church bells -- were conveyed "live," as was the musical accompaniment. In a sense, Kearton's version of The Miracle could be described as a "multi-media" presentation.
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