The Cheaters

Cheaters, The (Paulette McDonagh, 1930) wr. Paulette McDonagh; Marie Lorraine [Isabel McDonagh], Josef Bambach, Arthur Greenaway; made as a silent, with sound inserts added later, so considered to be first sound film in that sense [cf. Spur Of The Moment]

Two 1930 silent features had sound-on-disc inserts added later and were shown with them: The Cheaters (Paulette McDonagh, 1930, screened May) and Fellers (Arthur Higgins, Austin Fay, 1930, screened August). They were therefore the first films to be shown which had any kind of sound as part of the film, but it was only a few minutes in each case, and not successful.

Although completed as a silent film early in 1929, The Cheaters was so long delayed in the McDonaghs' search for a release that they attempted to improve its commercial chances by adapting it into a partial talkie. Additional scenes were filmed in March 1930 in Melbourne, using a sound-on-disc system. The talkie scenes, none of which remain in the surviving copy of the film, included a fancydress party sequence and a romantic interlude in which Paula at the piano sings a song to Lee. A musicians' union, nervous about the implications of talkies, caused further delays by temporarily preventing its members from recording music for the film, but by May it was ready for entry in the first Commonwealth film competition, where it failed to win a prize. On 1 June it was shown at the Roxy Theatre, Parramatta, to a large invited audience of press and trade representatives, but few commercial screenings followed, partly because of the poor quality of the sound reproduction. Pike & Cooper: 152. [bold added]


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