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We should have a new TCM short on enjoying pre-widescreen films


filmlover
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I have been reading a number of comments in various internet chat rooms about the new, 70th anniversary Wizard of Oz DVD and Blu-ray releases today...and it is really amazing how many people today don't realize films were not always widescreen. One person said that he checked Best Buy's website on the Wizard of Oz release and saw they had two listed...he said one was listed as fullscreen and so he wondered if the other one was widescreen?

 

I love the TCM short on how movies should be seen widescreen. It might be a wonderful idea if they did a similar short about pre-widescreen movies.

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This is from http://thewizardofoz.info/faq13.html

 

<< 13.11. Where can I see a widescreen version of The Movie?

 

You can't. Like most movies of it's time (including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and numerous others), The Wizard of Oz was made with a 4:3 screen ratio ? nearly square, and very similar in shape to an older television screen. It wasn't until the 1950s that widescreen movie formats were introduced. So if you should ever see any sort of widescreen presentation of The Wizard of Oz, odds are the top and bottom of the picture are being cut off! For more information about screen ratios and how they relate to The Movie, take a look at http://hollywoodgothique.bravejournal.com/entry/7296.'>http://hollywoodgothique.bravejournal.com/entry/7296.'>http://hollywoodgothique.bravejournal.com/entry/7296.'>http://hollywoodgothique.bravejournal.com/entry/7296. >>

 

Also check http://hollywoodgothique.bravejournal.com/entry/7296

 

In other words the so called widescreen version is a mutilated version. Blame HD.

Fake widescreen is reminiscent the fake color (colorization). Its a miricle that some moron didn't colorized the first 15 min of "The Wizard of Oz".

 

Edited by: hamradio on Sep 29, 2009 11:38 PM

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This might be a little off-topic, but how can I know whether or not I'm seeing a film in the original format? I guess a lot of pre-1950 movies were filmed square-style, but not all. Besides looking for "context clues," how can I know if it's the original version? Are all TCM movies shown as they were first screened?

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It is always TCM's intent to show films as they were originally presented and filmed. This does not always work with letterboxed films as TCM is at the mercy of the film's owner.

 

Before about 1953 nearly all films were shot in the square format. There were a few exceptions but only a very few.

 

One way to find it is that imdb.com almost always has the format ratio in a film's info.

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> {quote:title=movieman1957 wrote:}{quote}

> Before about 1953 nearly all films were shot in the square format. There were a few exceptions but only a very few.

 

Indeed, the exceptions could probably be counted with one hand. The Big Trail (1930) was filmed in both widescreen and "normal" formats (the latest DVD includes both versions). Abel Gance's Napoleon (1927) is in the "normal" format for most of its running time, but features a memorable ending with a "triptych" screen (3 screens lined up horizontally, a little like Cinerama would do years later).

 

There is one other American film I believe but the name escapes me.

 

So, yeah, almost everything before 1953 was in the so-called Academy ratio.

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HollywoodGolightly wrote:

<< Abel Gance's Napoleon (1927) is in the "normal" format for most of its running time, but features a memorable ending with a "triptych" screen (3 screens lined up horizontally, a little like Cinerama would do years later). >>

 

Its actually called Polyvision which has an aspect ratio of 4.00 to 1 I'm so glad I own that movie. I placed it in my DVD drive and took a snapshot of the Polyvision screen. If you look closely, you can see the 3 individual projected screens. So neat. By the way it is used in 1 video game called "Burnout Paradise" was released with the same aspect ratio when three 4:3 monitors are used.

 

30jnvhf.jpg

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> {quote:title=mvblair wrote:}{quote}

> This might be a little off-topic, but how can I know whether or not I'm seeing a film in the original format?

 

You can look up the film by title on IMDB. Their search box is at the top of the page:

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031381/

 

Scroll down and look for the ?Aspect Ratio?. The ?square? screen films will be listed as 1.33 : 1 or 1.37 : 1.

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About "The Big Trail" (1930), it was shot in a process using 70mm film (beleive it or not) called "Fox Grandeur" which was first used in Fox Movietone Follies of 1929. Cost must have been very prohibited or they would have continued it. Just imagine if they *continued using* that format. What "Gone with Wind" could have been. Just thinking about it blows my mind that they had something so good but let it slip through their fingers.

 

"The Big Trail"

 

big-trail.jpg

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> {quote:title=hamradio wrote:}{quote}

> Fake widescreen is reminiscent the fake color (colorization).

 

Back in the 1970s they issued a ?wide screen? version of ?Gone With the Wind? for theaters, and it was basically a cropped version, cropped at the bottom and the top. It was a silly idea.

 

What a lot of people don?t understand today is that mall theater screens are much smaller than the old major theater-chain screens in the old days.

 

In fact, with the first wide-screen films were shown in some theaters in the 1950s, the old screen size remained the same and the top and bottom were cropped and showed up as wide black strips. Some theaters had no room to widen their screens on the sides for Cinemascope and other wide formats, so they just showed a Cinemascope film on their old square screens. A lot of people didn?t like that at all, and a lot of people laughed at it and complained to the theater managers.

 

Here is a composite photo I made using the large theater screen in ?Sherlock Jr.? in the background, and I superimposed ?The Robe? over that. You can see by the tall columns on each side of the original screen that the theater had no room to place a very wide Cinemascope screen. So the wide-screen film would show up as being merely a cropped normal-format film.

 

 

Sorry, the TCM message board and Jive Software won't let me post a picture of the proper size.

 

http://i33.tinypic.com/2znz7s2.jpg

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> {quote:title=hamradio wrote:}{quote}

 

> Use ! before and after the Tinypic web address link.

 

I did. I don't like that format. I wanted my picture to be about 600 wide and 500 tall. I wanted the whole picture to show up on the screen. I used the standard message board code for reducing the size of a photo, but it doesn't work on this part of the TCM message boards.

 

This new system on this forum sucks.

 

That's one of the reasons why this Jive Software makes the TCM message board the worst operating message board on the internet.

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> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote} Some theaters had no room to widen their screens on the sides for Cinemascope and other wide formats, so they just showed a Cinemascope film on their old square screens.

 

I have a book about old theaters here in upstate New York which has a list that includes the years of operation. It's easy to see that there were many theaters, especially neighborhood second-run houses and those in small towns, that closed within a two year period following the introduction of CinemaScope.

 

As you pointed out many simply didn't have room for a larger screen and also probably couldn't afford the cost of new equipment. Interestingly, the same thing happened in the late 1920's when sound films came out. In both cases the studios helped subsidize the conversion of the big city first-run theaters that they owned or those controlled by large, powerful circuits, but offered little or no help to the smaller, less profitable operations.

 

I hope I'm wrong, but I'm guessing we'll see the same sort of thing happen again if digital projection becomes standard.

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We STILL need something to educate people about widescreen AND letterboxing....period. There's still a LOT of idiots out there who (and I've had people say this to me) that they want a movie they watch to "fill their entire tv screen"...they see a movie in widescreen theatrically, but they don't WANT it that way on their tv. They actually WANT to see something panned-and-scanned.

 

Go figure....

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> {quote:title=kriegerg69 wrote:}{quote}

> We STILL need something to educate people about widescreen AND letterboxing....period. There's still a LOT of idiots out there who (and I've had people say this to me) that they want a movie they watch to "fill their entire tv screen"...they see a movie in widescreen theatrically, but they don't WANT it that way on their tv. They actually WANT to see something panned-and-scanned.

>

> Go figure....

 

About letterboxing and pillarboxing, because some people apparently do not want to see black bars on the sides of their HDTV screens, for movies that were filmed in the Academy ratio...

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