Loving Out Loud

Romantic Coupling in Early Sound Films, 1928–1933


  • Eric McKee Penn State University




early sound films, love scene, ballroom, diegetic, nondiegetic


This article examines the critical reception of love scenes in early Hollywood sound films (1928–1933). Why were love scenes so unsuccessful, and what did Hollywood do to fix the problem? Hollywood quickly responded and developed a new approach. In the second part, I consider the role of music in one common type of love scene—the ballroom love scene, in the films Coquette (1929) and The Naughty Flirt (1931). These films feature two innovative techniques—drifts and jumps—which provide musical pathways from diegetic to nondiegetic spaces (and sometimes back again). In a survey of 220 films, in almost every case these innovative techniques were reserved for love scenes. I argue that drifts and jumps deepened the audience’s engagement, thereby making filmic lovemaking more palatable and less susceptible to mockery and laughter.


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How to Cite

McKee, E. (2022). Loving Out Loud: Romantic Coupling in Early Sound Films, 1928–1933. Journal of Film Music, 10(2), 49–68. https://doi.org/10.1558/jfm.24719