The Human Voice (1921)

This silent educational film from Bray Studios is all about that “marvellous sound producing instrument, the voice box”. Produced six years before the introduction of “talkies”, there's something pleasingly odd about a film dedicated to the mechanics of the human voice being entirely devoid of its subject matter — where the voiceover would soon boom we are treated to just the poignant silence of intertitles. Founded in 1912, Bray Productions was initially devoted to making animated series, including Max Fleischer's marvellous Out of the Inkwell series. During World War One, the studios moved mainly into producing education and training films, but its roots in animation were not forgotten and the technique was employed heavily in their new mission to explain and instruct. The Human Voice utilises a range of animations, often combining them with filmed footage of a man's head to reveal the subdermal mechanisms at play, and at one point we take a slightly terrifying “trip down ‘Throat Lane’” to find an animated glottis in song behind an overlaid stave.