Sing it big

Ask someone for their favourite film musical and they may well say “The Wizard Of Oz” or “Singin’ In The Rain”. These films are in what is called Academy Ratio, basically 4:3 (so for every 3 metres up the screen goes 4 across.

With wide screen/big screen formats becoming common in the 1950s, religious/historical films were an obvious topic (eg “Ben Hur”, “Spartacus”, “The Ten Commandments”). Westerns too.

Also ripe for making were musicals, usually classic musicals made for the very big screen.

Here’s a list of just a few. You can look up the different processes if you like:

  • VistaVision (“High Society”, “White Christmas”, “Funny Face”, “King Creole”)
  • Cinemascope (“Carousel”, “The King And I”, “A Star Is Born”, “Guys and Dolls”)
  • Todd-AO (“Oklahoma!”, “The Sound Of Music”, “Porgy And Bess”)
  • Super Panavision 70 (“My Fair Lady”, “West Side Story”, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”)

And let’s not forget “Kiss Me Kate” in 3D. And yes, we do know “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “The Sound Of Music” are the 1960s.

Musicals also benefited from multi-track hi-fidelity sound recording.

It’s very hard to see these films on a big screen from an actual print these days. They mostly have been scanned and manipulated and the experience is not the same. Watching on tv, even the wide, big screen sets we have now, loses the impact.

Of course, by the 1960s, musiclas were losing their appeal. Ever seen “Finian’s Rainbow”? “Camelot”? Probably not.

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