For a subject that’s integral to the success of motion pictures, precious little has been written about sound. I’m not referring to the dawn of the talkie era but later developments that came in conjunction with widescreen, Cinerama, and 3-D in the early 1950s, in a feverish attempt to lure people away from their new television sets and back into movie theaters. (And let’s not forget the pioneering efforts of Walt Disney with his introduction of Fantasound in 1940 for the roadshow engagements of Fantasia.)
Longtime UCLA Film and Television Archive preservationist Bob Gitt has made a great study of sound and performed compelling demonstrations over the years…but now Robert Furmanek, of the 3-D Archive, has compiled a fascinating article about the history, introduction and promotion of Stereophonic sound in the 1950s.
Using articles and ads from trade magazines of the period, Bob helps bring this era to life with all its technological advances and attendant ballyhoo. Even if you don’t understand the scientific aspects of the story I think you’ll enjoy the “big picture” he paints, along with the wonderfully evocative advertisements.
The drum-beating was so loud during this period that Cole Porter even wrote a satirical song about the audio craze for his 1955 Broadway musical Silk Stockings, introduced by Don Ameche and Hildegarde Neff—and later reprised in the 1957 movie by Fred Astaire and Janis Paige. Porter added additional lyrics (and sanitized others) for the MGM movie but this original stanza will give you a sampling:
If Zanuck’s latest picture were the good old-fashioned kind
There’d be no one in front to look at Marilyn’s behind
If you want to hear applauding hands resound
You’ve got to have glorious technicolor,
Breath-taking Cinemascope and
To read Bob Furmanek’s informative column, click HERE.