Excerpts from “The Year in Review” from Gerald Leinwand, 1927: High Tide of the 1920s (New York, NY: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2001):

  • The Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, after numerous appeals and delays, were electrocuted in Charlestown, Massachusetts, for a crime in South Braintree, Massachusetts, that occurred seven years earlier.
  • On May 16, 1927, the first Academy Awards awarded an “Oscar” to Wings for “Best Picture.” Janet Gaynor, in Seventh Heaven, and Emil Jannings, in The Way of All Flesh, were chosen best actress and actor.
  • An organization called the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America, made up of Hollywood movie moguls, drew up a code of “good taste” in order to avoid government censorship of films. Under the direction of Will H. Hays, producers could not show the following on film: “any licentious or suggestive nudity,” “miscegenation,” “ridicule of clergy,” “inference of sexual perversion,” “indecent or undue exposure,” and “excessive and lustful kissing.” However, “actual hangings or electrocutions … brutality and possibly gruesomeness” may be shown “within careful limits of good taste.” Movie makers innovatively skirted the guidelines.

And, of course, The Jazz Singer was released. The film used a synchronized soundtrack with sound effects, music, and only a few spoken lines by star Al Jolson, but is still credited with ushering in the sound film era.

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