70 mm Grandeur film

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70 mm Grandeur film, also called Fox Grandeur or Grandeur 70, was a 70mm widescreen film format developed by the Fox Film Corporation and used commercially on a small scale in 1929–31. It was a forerunner of the Todd-AO 70mm system which was introduced in 1955 and is still in limited use (albeit with significant modifications) today.

A small number of shorts and features were produced in Grandeur 70. These included several issues of Fox Movietone News called Fox Grandeur News first shown May 26, 1929. Features shot in Grandeur include Fox Movietone Follies of 1929, the musical Happy Days (1929), directed by Benjamin Stoloff, Song o’ My Heart (1930), a musical feature starring Irish tenor John McCormack and directed by Frank Borzage (Seventh Heaven, A Farewell to Arms), and the Western The Big Trail (1930), directed by Raoul Walsh, in which John Wayne played his first starring role.

Song 'o My Heart was double-shot in both conventional 35mm and Fox Grandeur, with all action and singing performed separately for the two processes. Production began in November 1929, and the 35mm version debuted on March 11, 1930, in New York. The Grandeur version, however, shipped from the labs on March 17, 1930, was never released and may no longer survive, according to film historian Miles Kreuger.[1]

Filming of The Big Trail began in April 1930. The film was shot simultaneously in Grandeur and conventional 35mm film. Both versions survive, and differ significantly in composition, staging and editing. When the film was released, the only theaters equipped with the Grandeur projectors and screen were Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles and the Roxy Theatre in New York City.

Grandeur 70 was one of a number of widescreen processes which were developed by the major Hollywood studios alongside sound in the late 1920s and early 1930s. A combination of the Great Depression and the costs of converting thousands of cinemas to sound prevented the successful introduction of any of these systems on a commercial scale. When widescreen did eventually become a commercially successful technology in the mid-1950s, however, the three major systems which emerged (CinemaScope -- Fox briefly considered using the Grandeur name again for CS, VistaVision, Todd-AO, and their derivatives) all drew heavily on the results of this initial phase of research and development, of which Grandeur was arguably the most successful example.

Unlike the later Todd-AO 70mm system, Grandeur did not use the same perforations as 35mm film, but instead had larger perforations on a longer pitch of 0.234 inch (5.95mm) compared to the 0.187 inch (4.75mm) pitch used by both 35 mm film and modern 70mm film. Although grandeur used a four perforation pulldown (i.e. each frame occupied the height equivalent to four perforations on the film) rather than the five of Todd-AO, because of the longer pitch the height of the image, at 0.91 inch (23.1mm), was slightly greater than that of the 0.816 inch (20.73mm) Todd AO image. The image width was 1.84 inch (46.74mm) giving an aspect ratio of 2:1 and providing enough space for a Fox Movietone variable-density optical soundtrack of approximately double the width of that used on a 35mm print.[2]

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References[edit]

  1. ^ [1], where Kreuger lays out an interesting history of early sound film recording techniques, and the audio advantages of Fox Grandeur.
  2. ^ "Preserving Wide Film History", Grant Lobban, Journal of the BKSTS Vol 67 No. 4 April 1985

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