Today, we figure out what was the first film to have a musical score written specifically for the film.
In “When We First Met”, we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of pop culture lore, like the first time that JJ said “Dy-no-MITE” or the first time that Fonzie made the jukebox at Arnold’s turn on and off by hitting it.
June will be When We First Met Month!
Music has been strongly associated with movies for pretty much as long as there WERE movies. There are two competing theories as to why music became such an integral part of the movie process right from the start. One theory suggests that music was necessary to drown out the sound of the film projectors, which were quite loud at the start. The other theory is that when movies moved to vaudeville theaters, those theaters had their own musicians, so it was only natural that they would play music to accompany the films which, of course, were silent at the time. The audiences then grew accustomed to having music with the film, and it just became a standard feature of films. Whatever the origins, it is fair to say that very quickly, it WAS a standard thing at a movie showing – the film would have music accompanying it.
However, that music would always be ESTABLISHED songs. This changed for the first time in 1908 (well, as far as we know. One of the trickiest things about film history is that you’re inherently basing your facts on what lasted long enough to be recorded. If some fly-by-night film company came and went without anyone paying attention, it MIGHT have had some major film first that no one noticed. UNLIKELY, of course, but just noting that it is at least a POSSIBILITY that there are almost always some unknown example for any given film first).
As to the first movie with an ORIGINAL score, there are two possibilities. The first would be The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays, an intriguing set-up that involved Frank L. Baum himself reading from his Oz books, with short film clips, and original music. I think that really isn’t a FILM, ya know? More like a vaudeville deal.
So I think the REAL answer came a couple of months later with The Assassination of the Duke of Guise, a super high brow French film (just 15 minutes long) written by the acclaimed playwright, Henri Lavedan, and scored by the acclaimed composer, Camille Saint-Saëns, as part of a strong push to get a “high brow” film out there.
If anyone else has a suggestion for a notable pop culture first that you’d like to see me spotlight, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org