THE INVENTOR OF THE SONOVOX
This article originally appeared in Time Magazine on July 24, 1939
For many a sentimental
reader, the books of Novelist Harold Bell Wright (The Winning of
Barbara Worth, The Calling of Dan Matthews) made many a
dream seem to get up and walk. Last week the aged author's solemn
son Gilbert went his father one better: he made real people talk
like waterfalls, braying donkeys, barking dogs, slamming doors,
locomotive whistles. The appropriate place: Hollywood.
In the Sonovox, a
sound recording of a waterfall, a vociferating animal, rattling dice
or whatnot is fed through wires to two little biscuit-shaped gadgets
which are placed on each side of the throat against the larynx.
These gadgets transmit the sound vibrations to the larynx, so that
the sound comes out of the throat as if produced there. The sound is
shaped into speech by mouthing the desired words. Thus a grunting
pig, relayed through the human voice-box, can be made to observe:
"It's a wise pig who knows his own fodder."
Gilbert Wright, now a writer, used to be a cowpuncher, a lifeguard, a utility technician, a tutor. Born 38 years ago in Kansas, he graduated (1925) from the University of California, where he studied physics and mathematics. He taught math at a military academy for a year, took to writing short stories. Unwilling to capitalize on his father's fame, he used the pseudonym of "John Le Bar." Liberty found out who he was some years ago; since then he has signed his own name to his fiction.
He has had cinema jobs off and on, worked on the original screen
play of Thanks for Everything. Twice married, he has two
children by his first wife.
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