As you may know, George Stevens’ Shane (1953) became a victim of the wide screen war of the early 50s. It was shot in the standard academy ratio (1.37:1) but cropped to 1.66 in theaters. The ad above, for an engagement in Youngstown, Ohio, shows how it was promoted. It was the first film exhibited in 1.66 — on Panoramic Giant-Sized Screens, thanks to a decree from Paramount.
There’s been a lot of speculation about how, and when, this classic Western would turn up on Blu-ray. Well, it’s in the works — and George Stevens, Jr. is prepping it for a 1.66 Blu-ray release this year, its 60th anniversary. You can read all about it here, in a piece that quickly wears out its welcome. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
While Loyal Griggs’ Oscar-winning cinematography is stunning in 1.37, which is how he composed it — and how we see it on DVD today — I’m really curious about the widescreen version. While it isn’t what Stevens (seen above with Alan Ladd and Van Heflin) intended, that’s how audiences saw it back in ’53. Either way, I bet those incredible vistas will be stunning on Blu-ray (even if we’re missing a bit of that blue Montana sky).
UPDATE (3/29/13): This morning I received an email from David Raynor, who’s come through with some terrific information for this blog, usually about aspect ratios and exhibition. As you’ll see, prints were full frame and theaters would’ve been able to run it as they saw fit.
I ran Shane at the cinema where I was a projectionist over 50 years ago and still have a couple of 35mm clippings from the print that I ran that I have scanned with my film scanner and here send to you as jpeg images. As the film was in Technicolor, the colour hasn’t faded and, as you can see, the film had a variable density optical soundtrack. By the time that I ran it, my cinema had adopted the 1.66:1 aspect ratio for non anamorphic films and this was later upgraded to 1.85:1, while CinemaScope was 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The idea was to get the biggest image possible on both systems, so that there was only a few feet difference on the sides of the screen between a ‘Scope and non ‘Scope picture. Shane was run at 1.66:1 at the cinema where I worked and, to avoid the actors’ heads being cropped off in some scenes due to it being composed for and shot in 1.37:1, the image was kept racked down in the projector gate… although this, of course, meant that a considerable amount of image was cropped off at the bottom of the frame.
Best Wishes from
Thanks so much, David. Yet again, I’m humbled by the knowledge and generosity of you folks out there. I also appreciate the extra treat of John Dierkes appearing in these frames!
: Greenbriar Pictures Shows, a blog
filled with much that is wonderful, weighs in on the Shane
1.66 issue with its usual authority and research.
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