“West Side Story” (1961)
Often considered the greatest movie musical ever made, “West Side Story” was shot using Super Panavision 70 by cinematographer Daniel L. Fapp. In order to capture the vibrancy and clarity of all those large and crowded dance numbers, Fapp and directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins knew the Super Panavision widescreen would be essential. It was one of the movie’s best production choices and turned set pieces for songs like “America” and “Jet Song” into iconic cinema.
“Lawrence of Arabia” (1962)
David Lean’s historical epic is one of the most stunning feature films in history because of F.A. Young’s Super Panavision 70 cinematography. Lean and Young were able to capture the massive expanse of the desert by using spherical lenses instead of anamorphic ones. Chronicling T.E. Lawrence’s WWI experiences in the Arab Peninsula, “Lawrence” was presented in two parts separated by an intermission, with the first half largely devoted to Lawrence’s emotional struggles and the second depicting the various battles he undertook as the leader of a guerrilla rebellion.
“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963)
Stanley Kramer’s comedy is a madcap adventure about a group of strangers who come together in order to locate $350,000 worth of stolen cash. The film was advertised as the first movie to be produced using one-projector Cinerama. Movies of this size traditionally used a three-projector system when exhibited, meaning three separate projectors would be electronically synced up and played onto one curved screen. The one-projector Cinerama allowed Kramer and cinematographer Ernest Laszlo to film in Ultra Panavision. The result was one of the biggest widescreen formats you could possibly get at the time. “Mad World” had a 2.75:1 aspect ratio.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s historical epic starring Elizabeth Taylor is one of Hollywood’s most infamous productions. Budget overruns, casting changes and production troubles nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox, and a majority of scenes had to be entirely reconstructed and shot more than once. Mankiewicz and cinematographer Leon Shamroy originally began production using anamorphic CinemaScope but switched to 3-panel Cinerama during filming. Because of the budget overruns, all of the footage captured in these formats had to be thrown out, and the movie started production anew using the Todd-AO.
“The Sound of Music” (1965)
The hills were alive and massive when “The Sound of Music” opened in a select 70mm roadshow format in 1965. The seminal adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “The Sound of Music” was photographed in 70 mm Todd-AO by cinematographer Ted McCord. Director Robert Wise wanted to expand the scope of the musical and bring a cinematic quality to the story, hence all those sweeping shots atop lush mountaintops and in picturesque meadows. The Todd-AO film resulted in a smaller aspect ratio than Super Panavision, but it did support six sound channels, making it the ideal choice to shoot a big musical adaptation on.
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