Movies Way Back When: Sound Causes Silence

By Betsy J. Green

The talk of the town in March 1914 was about Thomas Edison’s “talking pictures” to be shown for the first time in Santa Barbara at the Potter Theatre. The newspaper ads called it “the sensation of the century,” and for once this was not empty hyperbole.

“The great crowd sat in absolute silence,” the newspaper wrote, “as they saw the pictures flashed upon the screen and heard the voice of each character with as much clearness as if the players on the screen were actually talking . . . Without a doubt, these pictures are the best and most entertaining ever presented. There is no doubt the ‘talking movies’ have come to stay.”

[Spoiler alert – the age of the talkies was still a long way off.]


Betsy’s Way Back When book — 1919 — is now available in local bookstores and at This is the sixth book in her series of the history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time. Learn more at​.


Written by bjgreen

Betsy J. Green is a Santa Barbara historian and author. Her books are available in local bookstores, and at (Shop local if you can.) Learn more at

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