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Sunday, March 29, 2009

1953's 'The Robe': Fun Bit of Hollywood History

This NY Times review of a new DVD of 'The Robe' is worth a look. It offers some great historical context on CinemaScope and the other widescreen technologies of the 1950s.

From the opening of the piece:

    In the early 1950s movies were in a position much like network television today. A new technology had come along — guess what? — draining away much of the audience for whom movies had been a two- or three-times-a-week habit. Hollywood scrambled to come up with something that the small-screen, black-and-white television set squatting in so many American living rooms couldn’t provide: a bigger, more sensory movie experience. A couple of initial experiments — with 3-D and the widescreen process Cinerama — produced impressive results, but proved to be too cumbersome for the basic purpose of telling stories.

    And then, on Sept. 16, 1953, “The Robe” had its premiere at the Roxy Theater in New York. Trumpeted as “The First Motion Picture in CinemaScope — The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses!” — “The Robe” offered audiences an image twice as wide and significantly taller than what they had become accustomed to.

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