The Phonograph, Sound and the "Movies"

Music, Soundtracks, and Theme Songs for Moving Pictures


By Doug Boilesen

The first movies seen by the public using Edison's Kinetoscope in 1894 were without sound. Edison's intent from the beginning, however, was that recorded sound should be part of a multimedia "moving pictures" experience.

Edison had hoped to introduce his moving picture "Kinetoscope" at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and had promoted it as something which would include sound. His Kinetoscope 'peep-show' entertainer was not ready before the Exposition ended, and when the first Kinetoscope Parlor was opened on April 14, 1894 in New York City the phonograph was still not part of Edison's moving picture device.


The First Soundtracks

In 1895 Edison introduced his Kinetophone (a combination Kinetoscope and Phonograph, also known as the Phonokinetoscope) with its peep-show viewer for watching the moving pictures and ear tubes for listening to the phonograph. "Most, and probably all, of the films marketed for the Kinetophone were shot as silents, predominantly march or dance subjects." These movies created for Edison's kinetophones, however, did allow exhibitors of Kinetophones to "choose from a variety of musical cylinders offering a rhythmic match." (Altman, Rick, Silent Film Sound, (2007), pp. 81–83; Hendricks, Gordon, The Kinetoscope: America's First Commercially Successful Motion Picture Exhibitor. (1966), pp. 124–25).

The cylinder records selected and played by the kinetophone exhibitors, therefore, could be called the first soundtracks of the movies. For example, suggestions of "three different cylinders with orchestral performances were proposed as accompaniments for Carmencita: "Valse Santiago", "La Paloma", and "Alma-Danza Spagnola." - (Wikipedia, Guida practica (1895–96), p. 126 [p. 348 in Light and Movement]). Since Emile Berliner patented the 'Gramophone' in 1889 it wouldn't have been an anachronism to have Grammy Awards in 1895 so perhaps one of those recordings could have won the "1895 Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media."



Screenshot from Carmencita, the 1894 Edison short named for the featured dancer of the film, could have been seen and heard on a Kinetophone in 1895.

WATCH Carmencita (Source: Library of Congress).

LISTEN to La Paloma by the Edison Symphony Orchestra, Edison 2-minute Cylinder Record Number 565, Released 1902 (David Giovannoni Collection).


The Kinetophone was unsuccessful with only "forty-five of the machines were built over the next half-decade." (Musser, Charles, The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907, (1994), p. 88.)


The First Projected Movies

The first public screening of the Lumière brothers Cinématographe's which projected moving pictures was on December 28, 1895 in Paris. Projected moving pictures would soon dominate the way moving pictures were watched and significantly impact the kinetoscope market.


"Wants and For Sale," The Phonoscope, April 1897


The trade magazine The Phonoscope reported in their November 1897 issue that the Frenchmen had already bettered the peep-show kinetoscope and in a few years their projection system will be perfected:


The Phonoscope, November 1897


Projected movies would be the future of moving pictures but recorded sound would take some time to become an expected part of the movie-goers experience.

Leon Gaumont's projector, the Chronophone, was introduced in 1902 which successfully produced "several hundred Phono-Scenes by 1912 which used his projector and a synchronized gramophone sound system.

Leon Gaumont's Chronophone, a system that used a rheostat to synchronise the speed of a projector with that of a gramophone, was introduced in 1902, and by 1912 he had produced several hundred Phono-Scenes, mostly popular songs or extracts from operas and ballets. Sound effects were common in fairground performances, and in cinemas, actors would sometimes be concealed behind the screen, speaking in synchrony with the characters in the film. More important, in Burch's opinion, was the lecturer, who would explain and comment on the action, constructing a continuity out of a fragmentary narrative and indicating how the audience should respond. "Silent Film" edited by Richard Abel, The Sound of Silents, Rutgers University Press, 1996, (Chapter by Norman King "The Sound of Silents", p. 32).

Edison introduced his new Kinetophone in 1913 using a projecting kinetograph and phonograph system with a cylinder record but for a variety of reasons by 1915 he had abandoned it. Watch one of the surviving Edison Kinetophone demonstrations of moving pictures, dialogue and music (The Musical Blacksmiths) from 1913.


The Musical Blacksmiths, Kinetophone 1913


Phonofilms and 'sound-on-film'

In the 1920's "Phonofilms" were introduced by their inventors Theodore Case and Lee de Forest. These moving picture shorts were intended to be something that could be added to the featured movie bill. They were also seen as a novelty by the public and by many in the silent film industry. The demonstrations of sound-on-film technology in theatres are reminiscent of the first demonstrations of Edison's tin-foil phonograph by travelling exhibitors where paying audiences came to see and hear the new novelty and the wonder of recorded sound.

The projection and sound equipment for the Phonofilms had to be installed in a theatre and few theatres or movie chains invested in permanent systems. A common demonstration and distribution method, therefore, was for theatres to have limited engagements, hence the travelling show analogy of Edison's tin-foil entertainment device. De Forest explained that "The "phono-film" is adapted primarily for the reproduction of musical, vaudeville numbers and solos...De Forest points out that his invention opens the way to scenics carrying their own music, played by first class orchestras and comedies, and animated cartoons with bright lines and patter." (Film Daily, 7 April 1923, pp. 1-2)

For the story of Theodore Case and the invention of the first commercially successful system of sound-on-film and the demonstration of the Phonofilms, see the "digital story-telling adventure" of Cayuga Museum's Case Research Lab (called the Birthplace of Sound Film where the Movietone sound-on-film system was invented in the 1920's).

A 1923 sound-on-film demonstration using the DeForest PhonoFilms of Eddie Cantor performing a vaudeville routine can be seen and heard HERE.


WATCH "A Few Moments with Eddie Cantor," 1923 DeForest Phonofilms


Anna Case, one of Edison's Tone Test artists, made a moving picture for the 1915 advertising campaign of the Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph at the time of Edison's "Voice of the Violin' moving picture. Unfortunately, that Tone Test film has been lost. There is, however, a later 1926 Metropolitan opera Vitaphone short (with sound) for "La Fiesta" with Anna Case performing her song.


WATCH Anna Case in this 1926 Vitaphone short for the film "La Fiesta." Vitaphone Number 294, August 6, 1926.


On August 5, 1926 Warner Bros. premiered their silent feature "Don Juan" which they had updated with a symphonic musical score and sound effects. This was "the first feature-length film to utilize the Vitaphone sound-on-disc sound system with a synchronized musical score and sound effects, though it has no spoken dialogue." (Wikipedia)


The "Jazz Singer"

The "Jazz Singer" premiered on October 6, 1927 using The Vitaphone's sound-on-disc sound system with a synchronized musical score and sound effects, but added synchronized voice and songs. "The physical presentation of the film itself was remarkably complex:

Each of Jolson's musical numbers was mounted on a separate reel with a separate accompanying sound disc. Even though the film was only eighty-nine minutes long...there were fifteen reels and fifteen discs to manage, and the projectionist had to be able to thread the film and cue up the Vitaphone records very quickly. The least stumble, hesitation, or human error would result in public and financial humiliation for the company. ( Eyman, Scott, The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution, 1926–1930. New York: Simon and Schuster. (1997), p. 140. - Wikipedia

With "The Jazz Singer's" popular audience approval "1927 can be best remembered as the year of sound film, as two dueling systems rushed to bring in the Talkie Era and dominate the entertainment industry. For the duel between Movietone vs. Vitaphone see The Sound Film Wars begin!" - Cayuga Museum.

"The Jazz Singer" is commonly cited as the beginning of "the Talkies" and the end of silent movies. As an event in popular culture "The Talkies" had arrived.


One of the intertitles providing dialogue for a scene in The Jazz Singer, 1927.


WATCH The Jazz Singer


As seen by Gaumont's Chronophone and Edison's Kinetophone, DeForest Phonofilms, Theodore Case's Movietones, and others demonstrating moving pictures with sound, The Jazz Singer wasn't the first movie to use recorded sound. Likewise, The Jazz Singer still used some dialogue intertitles. And as historian Richard Koszarski' has written, "Silent films did not disappear overnight, nor did talking films immediately flood the theaters...." (Koszarski, Richard (1994) [1990]. "An Evening's Entertainment: The Age of the Silent Feature Picture, 1915–1928." Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, p. 90).

The Vitaphone's system of synchronized 'phonorecords' used physical records. But like Edison's Kinetophone, using records and a mechanical system for playing records had limitations and the Vitaphone was already being challenged by other technologies like Movietone's sound-on-film.

By 1931 Vitaphone movies were no longer being made. Interestingly, sound-on-disc for movies did return with the 1993 movie "Jurassic Park" and "the debut of the Digital Theater System (DTS), which stores the soundtrack on a compact disc and uses a time code to synchronize itself to the film. Unlike the Vitaphone phonograph record, the DTS compact disc purportedly suffers no wear when played repeatedly. In a further continuation of the format wars, DTS is rivalled by Dolby Systems’ AC-3, a digital sound-on-film technology. ("Vitaphone Vaudeville, 1926-1930." Essay by Richard Hildreth for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Winter 2007.)


A Vitaphone projection system was demonstrated in 1926. Engineer E. B. Craft holds a soundtrack disc. The turntable, on a massive tripod base, is at lower center. Wikipedia


Were Silent Movies Really Silent?

As the many examples have shown, The Jazz Singer, often called the first "talkie," was not the first film to synchronize with sound or to include spoken dialogue. Also, as Rick Altman has documented, the idea is incorrect that all previous movies before the 1927 The Jazz Singer were "silent." Not only did many sounds accompany the 'silent movies' a "variety of sound strategies" had been used.

During the nickelodeon period prior to 1910, this variety reached its zenith, with theaters often deploying half a dozen competing sound strategies—from carnival-like music in the street, automatic pianos at the rear of the theater, and small orchestras in the pit to lecturers, synchronized sound systems, and voices behind the screen. During this period, musical accompaniment had not yet begun to support the story and its emotions as it would in later years."

But in the 1910s, film sound acquiesced to the demands of captains of the burgeoning cinema industry, who successfully argued that accompaniment should enhance the film's narrative and emotional content rather than score points by burlesquing or "kidding" the film. The large theaters and blockbuster productions of the mid-1910s provided a perfect crucible for new instruments, new music-publication projects, and the development of a new style of film music. From that moment on, film music would become an integral part of the film rather than its adversary, and a new style of cinematic sound would favor accompaniment that worked in concert with cinematic storytelling. Source: Rick Altman, Silent Film Sound, Columbia University Press, 2007 - Columbia University Press Website


Drums and Pianos

The following 1909 article from the trade magazine "The Talking Machine World" provides a timeline for different "sound strategies" tried out by some movie picture theatres - the player piano, the phonograph, live singers, a real pianist, a four or five piece orchestra for the bigger theatres, and when too expensive, back to simply a piano and drum.

"When the five cent theatres first began to blossom in Chicago, their musical equipment consisted, as a rule, of an electric piano, which kept things stirred up during the intermission, and a talking machine which did the illustrated song stunt."

But in the latest development the article explains how there is now "an immense demand for drums and traps."

The advantages of having a drummer are many: plenty of noise with imitations of various rough house stunts depicted by the films, such as collapse of a building, the tumble of a hero from the seventh story window, etc. The patter of a horse's hoofs...the shuffling of feet...the squeak of a pig, etc... "Practically all the shows are using the drummer as the principal part of their equipment now and he keeps us wiring east to keep up with the demand."


"How the Drummer helps the Pictures," The Talking Machine World, January 1909 (Disclaimer)


Pipe Organ used with Biblical, mythological and historical subjects in movies.


Orpheum moving picture theatre pipe organ, The Talking Machine World, April 1909


In the September 1915 issue of Photoplay's "Close-Ups by Editor" section the following prediction was made about the future of combining film and great music:

"I believe that "The Birth of a Nation" is worth $2, and I believe that there will be other screen plays worth $2 — perhaps... there will be wonderful combinations of shadow-spectacle and master-music for which $5, or even more, may be successfully asked."

Large and small orchestras, organs, pianos, percussions and living voices provided most of the 'sound' for the silent films.

The phonograph and its records, however, have inserted into some movie scenes which is the focus of this Phonographia gallery.


Phonographs in Movie Houses

The following are examples of movies where phonograph music was used in a movie house. Most of these examples were the result of a local phonograph dealer providing a phonograph and record related to a movie scene. Adding phonograph sounds to theatre movies was viewed by the talking machine industry and local phonograph dealers as an 'immense' advertising opportunity in "wedding the talking machine" to the "movie theatre and its program."

When there was a "wedding of the talking machine" to the movie, however, it seems to have involved an insertion or the stoppage of the film at the appropriate (or in some cases "inappropriate) time in the movie in order to play a phonograph record. That insertion wasn't always smoothly done.


Talking Pictures with the Phonograph humorously Out of Synch.

The Photoplay Magazine, April 1915


"The Voice of the Violin" (1915)

The Thomas A. Edison movie, The Voice of the Violin, was a silent film created to promote the the Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph in 1915.

Two stars of the show were the Edison Diamond Disc Louis XV Model B-375 Phonograph (1912 - 1915) and the Edison Diamond Disc record "Feast of the Flowers." This movie was intended to be used by Edison dealers and shown in local theatres as an advertisement for the Edison Diamond Disc and its "Re-created" music of the Edison Records. The violin piece "Feast of the Flowers" was the featured Edison record in the movie which was also surely played as part of the 'silent' movie and was also important for its role in the story of reuniting a family.



LISTEN to "Feast of the Flowers" performed by American Symphony Orchestra, Edison Diamond Disc Record 50118-R (Source: DAHR and UCSB Library).



Listening to the Edison Diamond Disc Louis XV Model A-375 Phonograph in "The Voice of the Violin."


See Phonographia's "Voice of the Violin" for more details about the movie, screenshots from key scenes, and a link to the 20 minute movie which can be watched courtesy of the Library of Congress.


"The Stolen Voice." (1916)

A "Victrola" provided an "aria" and represented the voice of one of the movie actors, Robert Warwick, in the silent 1916 movie "The Stolen Voice."

The Talking Machine World in 1916 reported seeing an article in a Chicago piano trade publication which described a Buffalo, New York motion picture house pausing the film so that a Victrola could quickly be moved into place, and then restarting the film with the introduction of the talking machine in the picture to which the "audience enthusiastically applauded," an "aria from 'Pagliacci' was played and sung."

The Talking Machine World, May 15, 1916

LISTEN to the aria “Vesti la giubba,” sung by Enrico Caruso, Victor 12" Red Seal Record 88061, recorded March 17, 1907 Giovannoni Collection at the Library of Congress).


Note: The writer of this Talking Machine World article had titled it "Can You Solve this Puzzle? We Have Given Up," not because he was surprised by a Victrola being used to provide the voice of one of the movies actors. Instead, the puzzle was because there had been no merger between Edison and Columbia (the maker of Garfonola's), and there was no such machine as "a high-class Edison Grafonola." To add further confusion, this phonograph was also later identified as "the Victrola" (yet another company's machine).

TMW humorously answered the question of why three makers of phonographs had been named: "Perhaps it's an effort to be impartial, but in that case what about the Pathe, the Sonora and a dozen others?" More likely, they surmised, it was because the editor of the piano trade publication was "careless in reading his clippings."


"A Stolen Voice. (1916)

The Edison Phonograph Monthly, August 1916, provided more accurate details than were reported by The Talking Machine World the previous month (see above) and solved its "puzzle." In this presentation of "A Stolen Voice," just as the scene commences where Mr. Warcik is shown singing the lights were turned out, the projector stopped, and an aria from "Pagliacci" came from an Edison phonograph on the stage. When the song ended the picture again was flashed on the screen and the performance continued."

It was then noted that this "new combination of the phonograph and the motion picture" can be "used to advantage with many picture plays and managers should be interested in this new and effective use of the phonograph in connection with the movies."


"The phonograph provides music during intermissions in a great many motion pictures houses..." The Edison Phonograph Monthly, August 1916.


"Why Change Your Wife." (1920) - The movie insertion of the Victrola and two recorded songs.


The Talking Machine World, June 15, 1920, p. 3.

The Lehman Music house in St. Louis provided a Victrola and the Victor records "Hindustan" and "Dying Poet" to a movie theatre after Mr. Lehman saw the Cecil B. DeMille film "Why Change Your Wife." In that film Lehman had seen a machine playing those songs and realized the advertising opportunity he would have if he could replace the orchestra at just the proper time with the Victrola music.


Screenshot of couple looking at Victor Record 18623-A "Give Me a Smile and Kiss" and then putting stylus onto the record player to their right. A close-up of the Victor record is also shown in the movie.

LISTEN to Victor 18623-A "Give me a smile and kiss" / John Steel (Black label (popular) 10-in. double-faced) recorded on September 20, 1919 and released on September 29, 1919. (Source: DAHR Recording from Library of Congress).

Screenshot of woman upset with the record that was playing when she entered the room. She then proceeded to break the Victor Record 35467-A "The Dying Poet"" in half.

LISTEN to Victor Record 35467-A "The Dying Poet," Sousa's Band, recording May 14, 1912 (Courtesy Library of Congress).



In another scene Victor Record 18507-A "Hindustan" is shown for the audience to read its title, and then it was played.

LISTEN to Victor 18507-A "Hindustan" performed by Joseph C. Smith's Orchestra, (Black label (popular) 10-in. double-faced) released on July 17, 1918 (DAHR and Recording David Giovannoni Collection).


Lehman also created a colored slide which invited the audience to visit his store and hear more records. With the house in darkness, Lehman also arranged to have a spotlight reveal a Victrola which was on the stage. "Now this is the kind of advertising which is well worth emulating" noted The Talking Machine World.

For other glass slides being used for phonograph advertising in theatres, see Phonographia's Movie Slides Advertising the Phonograph.


"Many customers want a record to remember the show. It is through the medium of the record that they remember the show." The Talking Machine World, December 15, 1920, pp.150, 152.


"The Barbarian." (1921) and "Our Yesterdays."

A Sonora dealer provided a Sonora Portable to a theatre to use in the movie "The Barbarian" with the record "Our Yesterdays" to be played "at the proper time", The Talking Machine World, May 15, 1921.

LISTEN to "Our Yesterdays" by Milton Charles played on Tivoli Theatre Pipe Organ, Autograph Records, 4010-A, 1925. (David Giovannoni Collection).

For an interesting story about the desmise of the theatre movie organ after 1927 and the history of one of those Wurlitzers which was saved, see The Hardman Studio Wurlitzer The History of the Theatre Organ.


"Molly O" (1922) and "Molly O."

Brunswick phonograph in moving picture theatre, The Talking Machine World, March 15, 1922

"A Brunswick phonograph was provided the the Brunswick Temple of Music store in connection with the moving picture "Molly O," which was being featured in the program. Several selections were played and before the picture was flashed on the screen the well-known song record of the same name, "Molly O," was played."


"Molly O (I Love You)" Lyric by James C. Emery. Music by Norman McNeil, Waterson, Berlin & Snyder Co., Music Publishers, New York, 1921 (Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection, Johns Hopkins).

LISTEN to "Molly-O (I Love You)" by William Robyn, Record 18829-A, recorded 17Oct2021 (DAHR and Library of Congress).


"Honors Are Even" (1923) - Victrola plays "La Golondrina during one of the scenes..."



Victrola played "La Golondrina" at the Toldeo Theatre during performance of "Honors Are Even," The Talking Machine World, May 15, 1923. Note: "Honors Are Even" opened on Broadway August 10, 1921, however, no movie has been found.



LISTEN to "La Golondrina" by Max Dolin Orchestra, Victor Record 73171-A, recorded November 22, 1921 (DAHR - Recording UCSB).



Other Factolas related to Music for the Movies


ENRICO CARUSO to become film actor - "Attend a Caruso picture, with your phonograph in your lap."

In Photoplay Magazine, November 1915, there is an announcement that Enrico Caruso, the famous tenor, is "to become a film actor... His first picture, from the Pallas studios, will be Booth Tarkington’s “The Gentleman from Indiana.” Arthur Johnson's argued that there are countless thousands all over the world so eager for a sight of Caruso that his pantomime will be welcome, even though the voix d’or is silent. Receipt for an orgy: attend a Caruso picture, with your phonograph in your lap."


Geraldine Farrar uses Bizet's music during the filming of her movie "Carmen."

In Photoplay Magazine, August 1915, Geraldine Farrar reported that Bizet's music would be used while her new movie "Carmen" was being filmed. "When my ‘Carmen’ film is taken at Lasky’s,” said she, “it will be to the accompaniment of Bizet’s music... Bizet’s wonderful music makes me a Russian or a Spaniard, whichever you will, above my belt. Without it I am cramped, slow, heavy. So while the crank is inturning ‘Carmen,’ I’m going to have the music under way. I want you to see ‘Carmen’ in the bright shadows —not ‘Jerry’ Farrar. Understand?”


Film Scores for Silent Films - The Library of Congress (its digital collection includes over 3,000 items published or created for use in silent film accompaniment between 1904 - 1927.)

The Music Division's collection of music for silent film can be divided into four different categories, the vast majority of which can be found under four different call numbers. The four categories are:

Film Scores: written for specific films, which can include full scores, piano scores, and sets of orchestral parts

Cue sheets: served as musical primers for film accompaniment, may or may not include music incipits

Photoplay albums: stock music written specifically for use in accompanying silent film, which can include piano scores and sets of parts

Salon orchestra music: music often used in silent film accompaniment, but not originally published with that use in mind, which primarily consists of sets of parts.


Music score for the photoplay Joan the Woman with Geraldine Ferrar as presented by Jesse L. Lasky and produced by Cecil B. De Mille for the Cardinal Film Corporation, New York : G. Schirmer, [1917]. (Library of Congress: Silent Film Scores and Arrangements).


As an example of a major silent picture film score, the 1924 "Thief of Bagdad" starring Douglas Fairbanks has a Reconstructed Film Score (from the original film score) which has been recorded for the first time by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Mark Fitz-Gerald, First Hand Records ©2022 and can be heard on Spotify, et al.


WATCH the Thief of Bagdad Trailer from Cohen Media Group


LISTEN to the 1924 Thief of Bagdad (Spotify)


A Footnote on Silent Movies: There is no "Silent" Drama.

An article in Photoplay Magazine, September 1915 starts with the question: Is "silent drama" silent? If not, why, how and to what extent is it vocal?


Photoplay Magazine, September 1915


The premise of this article is that the actors are following scripts and are actually talking -- and that the audience recognizes they are talking because of the intertitles, the action and context of the scenes, and the words being 'spoken' by the actors in the movie. The article notes that "The public is rapidly and unconsciously acquiring a very fair degree of proficiency in lip-reading, and a false speech will be subconsciously noted and resented, and the matter is of too great importance to depend upon a chance selection of words."

"During the early days of picturemaking little attention was paid to dialogue, with the result that the action lost much of its meaning and continuity. It wandered. Frequently nonsense or profanity was introduced."

Dialogue, it was being said, was used in silent movies and that meant they weren't really "silent."

Perhaps Photoplay's further example could have been that seeing dialogue in silent movies was like reading a book, with the voices in each case being "heard" in the mind -- either by reading the dialogue in the context of the book's story or by reading the lips, intertitles, and emotions/action in the movie.

The following are some of Photoplay Magazine's conclusions regarding dialogue being used in the "no silent" movies of 1915:


Photoplay Magazine, September 1915, pp. 73-76



Movie related songs and performances pre-1929.

"At the Movies" by Ethel C. Olson, Victor 10" Ethnic Norwegian Series 77251, Comic Monologue, recorded November 6, 1923 (David Giovannoni Collection,

At the Ten-Cent Movie Show by Walter Van Brunt, Silvertone 10" Record 38719 (Columbia Client), recorded on March 21, 1913. (Ibid.)


"Echoes from the Movies" Accordian played by Pietro J. Frosini, Edison Blue Amberol, Record 2531, recorded October 31, 1914. (Ibid.)

"Ever Since the Movies Learned to Talk" from Whoopee by Billy Murray, Harmony 10" 784-H, recorded November 15, 1928 (Ryan Barna Collection,

"He's working in the movies now" by Billy Murray, Edison Record 2335, 4-minute celluloid cylinder, recorded March 27, 1914 (David Giovannoni Collection).

"Since Mother Goes to the Movie Shows" by Billy Murray, Edison Blue Amberol, Record 2920, recorded February 3, 1916 (EPM New Releases for August 1916). (Ibid.)



The following are a few examples of recorded music that have become well-known by being associated with respective movies.

Best Selling Soundtrack Albums (as of January 1, 2023) - See Wikipedia for latest lists.

1992 The Bodyguard by Whitney Houston & Various

1977 Saturday Night Fever, by Bee Gees & Various

1987 Dirty Dancing by Various

1997 Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture by James Horner & Various

1978 Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture by Various


Best Streaming Soundtrack Albums (as of January 1, 2023) - See Wikipedia for latest lists.

2015 Furious 7 ("See You Again") by Wiz Khalifa, Charlie Puth

2018 A Star Is Born by Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper

2017 The Greatest Showman by Hugh Jackman, Keala Settle, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Various

2013 Frozen ("Let It Go") by Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell

2016 Moana by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina, Opetaia Foa'i, Auli'i Cravalho, Alessia Cara


For examples of popular Movie Songs identified in 2022, see Best Movie Songs - 50 Themes from Hollywood Film Classics.


A Friend of the Phonograph's memories of sound track record albums.

Growing up in the 1950's and 1960's our family saw several movies at the Omaha Cinerama (where souvenirs and memorabilia for some of the movies were also sold). Two albums that my parents purchased because of going to the movies were Michael Todd's "Around the World in 80 Days" in Todd-AO and "How the West Was Won."

Our movie soundtrack LP library also included "The Great Race" and "The Sound of Music." (DB, 2004)


"Around the World in 80 Days," MCA Records, 1956


"How the West Was Won," Original Sound Track, MGM Records, 1963


"The Great Race," RCA Victor Dynagroove Recording, Music from the Film Score, 1965


"The Sound of Music," RCA Victor Stereo, An Original Soundtrack Recording, 1965



Sound Recordings - Copyright Registration for Sound Recordings -- (Copywrite Office Circular 56 Revised 03/2021 -

Sound Recordings Distinguished from the Sounds Accompanying a Motion Picture

There is a legal distinction between a sound recording and the soundtrack for a motion picture or other audiovisual work. The Copyright Act states that “sounds accompanying a motion picture or audiovisual work” are not sound recordings. These types of sounds are considered part of the motion picture or audiovisual work. Common examples of works that do not qualify as sound recordings include:

• The soundtrack for a cartoon, documentary, or major motion picture.

• The soundtrack for an online video, music video, or concert video.

A musical performance during a scene or during the credits for a motion picture.

Sound Recordings Distinguished from Phonorecords A sound recording is not the same as a phonorecord. A phonorecord is the statutory term for a physical object that contains a sound recording, such as a digital audio file, a compact disc, or an LP. The term “phonorecord” includes any type of object that may be used to store a sound recording, including digital formats such as .mp3 and .wav files.


Sound Recordings Distinguished from Phonorecords

A sound recording is not the same as a phonorecord. A phonorecord is the statutory term for a physical object that contains a sound recording, such as a digital audio file, a compact disc, or an LP. The term “phonorecord” includes any type of object that may be used to store a sound recording, including digital formats such as .mp3 and .wav files.



Movie Pictorial Magazine, October 1, 1914 - "The Crying Need of The Silent Drama"


Movie Pictorial, October 1, 1914


Movie Pictorial's New Department - THE MUSIC STORY - A Department for Musical Interpretation of Moving Pictures

The Lack of Harmony between the visual messages and music messages of the movie


Movie patrons must insisting on better music "to enjoy moving pictures to the fullest" and higher co-ordination between music and pictures! "How to Make Music Tell the Story of the Films, Movie Pictorial, October 1, 1914


Film Players Herald Tradelasts "Things About My Theatre I Like and Dislike"

Disconnects Between Movies and their Music

"Mechanical boxes for music" plays inappropriate song. Film Players Herald, February 1916


"Canned music grinder" is inexcusable for "Carmen and Geraldine Farrar's film as "Carmen."

Geraldine Farrar as "Carmen." Film Players Herald, February 1, 1916




This gallery is a very limited scrapbook of the history of silent and talking movies, soundtracks, and other movie connections with the phonograph and recorded sound. For a comprehensive examination with wonderful illustrations related to "all aspects of sound practices during the silent film period in America" see Rick Altman's "Silent Film Sound," Columbia University Press, 2004.

For more details on Phonofilms and MovieTone's sound-on-film system see Cayuga Museum of History & Art: "Inventing the 20's: Recording Sound on Film."

Also, see's "Virtual Broadway, Virtual Orchestra: De Forest And Vitaphone."