18 MAY 1929, Page 19


[To the Editor of the Ssucrwroa.] commenting on Mr. Chaplin's refusal to use speech in his films, Mr. St. John Ervine says : "We are here dealing with a matter of technique and style, although Mr. Chaplin is inclined to think that he is dealing with a fundamental matter." But we are dealing with a fundamental matter, which strikes at the whole root of film art. Mr. Ervine has allowed himself to be influenced by that pernicious phrase the "silent drama," which embodies the conception that the screen play is merely the stage play with the absence of dialogue. This the film never has been since it first began to develop into an art form.

The whole technique of the film is based on certain funda- mentals which, in point of fact, differ from those of the stage far more than they resemble them, the points of essential difference being far greater than those of apparent similarity. Hence the " talkie " is a hybrid, analogous to a combination of portrait and gramophone. It may conceivably develop into an art form, but it will not do so until and unless producers realize the necessity to evolve a completely new technique, of which the beginning is not even in sight.

I seem to remember that Mr. Ervine recently set on record his dislike of the films, together with the fact that he had rarely paid a visit to a picture theatre, and then only under pressure. Moreover, he appears to have seen very few, if any, screen classics. In the circumstances, it would appear that the considered opinions of so distinguished and expe- rienced a practitioner as Mr. Chaplin would carry the greater weight. Ne sutor ultra crepidam.—I am, Sir, &c.,