The Wilhelm Scream, a classic sound effect, has been in hundreds of movies, from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Star Wars to Toy Story. It's a sort of audio signature, a hidden gem in plain hearing, that has become a beloved inside joke in the industry. Well, Craig Smith, a researcher from Cal Arts, stumbled upon the source of the infamous scream while rummaging through a collection of discarded tapes from USC's Film School, unknowingly finding a piece of Hollywood's history.
UPDATE: New video link
The Wilhelm Scream first hit the silver screen in the 1951 film Distant Drums, and later got its moniker from the 1953 film The Charge at Feather River, where a character named Private Wilhelm delivers the distinctive yell. In an era when crafting new sound effects wasn't cheap, the industry decided to recycle the Wilhelm Scream, leading to its ongoing presence in films.
Who originally voiced the scream? One commenter wants to set the record straight:
I'm happy to hear that the original recording was found, but the person screaming has never been a mystery. Sheb Wooley, a relative of mine, made the scream along with countless other commonly used sound effects that everyone has heard. I thought the whole world new this. I can't believe that he isn't being credited for his iconic scream and people are pretending it's a mystery. Guess I'll have to call his wife and see what she can do about this, surely she has some proof lying around in storage somewhere. Very disappointing… So I'll say it again:
SHEB WOOLEY WAS THE VOICE OF THE WILHELM SCREAM!!!
Thanks, David W.!