Simulated Return of CinemaScope 55

A few weeks ago Fox restoration guru Schawn Belston told me that the Blurays of Carousel and The King and I inside the forthcoming Rodgers & Hammerstein Bluray set (Fox Home Video, 4.29) were sourced from the original widescreen CinemaScope 55 elements, which means richer, extra-sharp quality. Both films were shot with the larger-negative process (roughly analogous to VistaVision but with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, qnd “a picture four times the size of 35mm CinemaScope“) but both were reduced down to 35mm anamorphic film for theatrical projection. So not even the big-city roadshow engagements of these films presented the large-format benefits of the process — every print was reduced down to 35mm. At least Belston’s decision to draw from the original 55mm negative for the Blurays will provide a taste of what these two films might have looked like if Fox had decided against the down-rezzing.

By the way: Frank Sinatra was originally cast as Billy Bigelow in the Henry King film, but he walked off the set when told he’d have to shoot each scene twice a la Oklahoma! (which was shot in 35mm and Todd-AO). This makes no sense at all, of course, as King shot only one version in CinemaScope 55mm. The explanation is that right after Sinatra bolted, Carousel producers found a way to film the scene once on 55mm and then transfer it onto 35mm, so shooting twice was avoided. Here’s his “Soliloquy”, which I’ve always thought was one of his best-ever recordings ever in any capacity.