chapter  5
13 Pages

The Black Writer in Hollywood, Circa 1930: The Case of Wallace Thurman: Phyllis Klotman

On July 8, 1928, Warner Bros.'s first all-dialogue picture, Lights of New York, opened at the Mark Strand Theatre in New York: "The age of talkies had dawned."! Black writer Wallace Thurman, who was busy putting his imprint on the Harlem Renaissance, was in New York working on his play Harlem with his White collaborator William Jourdan Rapp. Perhaps he saw the landmark film with Rapp; they may even have met the director Bryan Foy. Lights of New York, a prohibition-age melodrama, which today is much less well known than The Jazz Singer, was important for several reasons. "First, it ... demonstrated that a feature length talking picture [The Jazz Singer had music and a few ad-libbed lines by Al Jolson] could be made. But much more significantly, it ... revealed to the astonished Warner Bros. and to the disturbed and even more dumbfounded movie industry as a whole that such a film could attract audiences. They looked, they listened, and sometimes they laughed in the wrong placesbut they kept coming. And it was the talk, not the music, that brought them in droves to the Mark Strand Theatre.'?