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The Translation of Films, 1900-1950$
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Carol O'Sullivan and Jean-François Cornu

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266434

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266434.001.0001

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Dubbing in the early 1930s: An improbable policy

Dubbing in the early 1930s: An improbable policy

(p.177) 10 Dubbing in the early 1930s: An improbable policy
The Translation of Films, 1900-1950

Charles O’brien

British Academy

This chapter uses the case of dubbing practices in the early 1930s to consider the possibility that the impact of screen translation techniques on film aesthetics is more significant than has been recognised. The focus is on Hollywood’s unexpected adoption in 1931 of voice dubbing as its principal means of preparing films for the main foreign markets. Hollywood’s reliance on dubbing is contrasted with practices in the German film industry, its main rival for the world film market, where films for export were prepared in foreign-language versions rather than dubbed. Dubbing involved more than voice replacement to affect motion picture style in various ways. Trade press documentation is used to suggest that the dubbed American films of 1931 typically featured less speech; fewer close-ups of speaking actors; more reaction shots in dialogue scenes; more cuts overall; framings and props that concealed rather than displayed the actors’ moving lips; and other stylistic quirks.

Keywords:   Dubbing, film style, German cinema, Hollywood, multiple-language versions, sound technology, translation policy, audiovisual translation history, film history

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