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Title card


In motion pictures, an intertitle (also known as a title card) is a piece of filmed, printed text edited into the midst of (i.e. inter-) the photographed action at various points, generally to convey character dialogue ("dialogue intertitles"), or descriptive narrative material related to, but not necessarily covered by, the material photographed ("expository intertitles").[1]

Intertitles, then known simply as "titles", were a mainstay of silent films once the films became of sufficient length and detail to necessitate dialogue and/or narration to make sense of the enacted or documented events. The earliest known use of intertitles was in the 1901 British film Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost.[2] The first Academy Awards presentation in 1929 included an award for "Best Title Writing" that went to Joseph Farnham for no specific film. The award was never given again, as intertitles went out of common use due to the introduction of "talkies".[3]

In modern film, intertitles are used to supply an epigraph, such as a poem, or to distinguish various "acts" of a film or multimedia production by use as a title card. However, they are most commonly used as part of a historical drama's epilogue to explain what happened to the depicted characters and events after the conclusion of the story proper.

The development of the soundtrack slowly eliminated their utility as a narrative device (they were common for providing narration, but not dialogue, well into the 1930s), but they are occasionally still used as an artistic device. For instance, intertitles were used as a gimmick in Frasier. The BBC's drama Threads uses them to give location, date and information on distant events beyond Sheffield. Law & Order use them to give only the location of the upcoming scene. Guy Maddin is a modern filmmaker known for recreating the style of older films, and uses intertitles appropriately. Some locally produced shows, such as quiz bowl game shows, use animated variations of intertitles to introduce the next round.

"Intertitle" is an academic term invented long after the advent of sound film (see also subtitle (captioning) and supertitle). These "titles" should not be confused with the modern-day definition of subtitle or main title.

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