Elinor Glyn's British Talkies: Voice, nationality and the author on-screen

Lisa Stead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Downloads (Pure)


Existing accounts of Elinor Glyn's career have emphasized her substantial impact on early Hollywood. In contrast, relatively little attention has been paid to her less successful efforts to break into the UK film industry in the early sound period. This article addresses this underexplored period, focusing on Glyn's use of sound in her two 1930 British films, Knowing Men and The Price of Things. The article argues that Glyn's British production practices reveal a unique strategy for reformulating her authorial stardom through the medium of the ‘talkie’. It explores how Glyn sought to exploit the specifically national qualities of the recorded English voice amidst a turbulent period in UK film production. The article contextualizes this strategy in relation to Glyn's business and personal archives, which evidence her attempts to refine her own speaking voice, alongside those of the screen stars whose careers she sought to develop for recorded sound. It suggests that the sound film was marked out as an important, exploitable new tool for Glyn within a broader context of debates about voice, recorded sound and nationality in UK culture at this time. This enabled her to portray a distinctively national brand identity through her new film work and surrounding publicity, in contrast to her appearances in American silent films. The article will show that recorded sound further allowed Glyn performatively to foreground her role as author-director through speaking cameos. This is analysed in relation to wider evidence of her practice, where she reflected on the performative qualities of the spoken voice in her writing and interviews, and made use of radio, newsreel and live performance to perfect and refine her own skills in recitation and oration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-187
Number of pages19
JournalWomen: A Cultural Review
Issue number2
Early online date25 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Elinor Glyn
  • sound
  • voice
  • talkies
  • speech
  • British cinema
  • Englishness
  • radio
  • accent
  • interwar
  • 1920s
  • 1930s
  • adaptation
  • authorship
  • archives
  • cameo
  • film
  • BBC

Cite this