I just watched the Fox Home Video Bluray of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and it’s absolutely beautiful, scrumptious, dazzling. A breathtaking Technicolor high. Watching it is like eating an ice cream sundae with whipped cream and a cherry. On top of which it’s been mastered at a 1.37 aspect ratio…heavens!
Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
In going with 1.37 Fox Home Video’s Schawn Belston has delivered a gentle reminder to the Bluray community that 20th Century Fox wasn’t part of the 1.85 aspect ratio mandate that swept across Hollywood in the spring of ’53. 1.85 fascist theology says that all films released after April 1953 were projected at 1.85…nope!
This may sound anecdotal to some, but to me the 1.37 presentation of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which originally opened in July 1953, is a slight crack in the dike.
Projectionist #1 at New York’s Roxy (on or about July 12, 1953): Here are the prints for that new picture, Gentleman Prefer Blondes. We can run it after the show tonight.
Projectionist #2: With what aperture plate?
Projectionist #1: You ask? 1.85, of course. That’s the new rule, what the boss wants.
Projectionist #2: Wrong. We’re showing it at 1.37.
Projectionist #1: Whaddaya mean? Everything is supposed to be shown at 1.85. The rule came down three or four months ago. S’matter with you?
Projectionist #2: It’s wrong, I tell ya. I’ve heard this one has to be shown at 1.37. Fox films are a different deal than ones from Columbia and Warner Bros. and Paramount.
Projectionist #1: Except Paramount wants 1.66.
Projectionist #2: And that’s not all. When From Here To Eternity opens next month we’re not showing that in 1.85 either. That’ll also be shown at 1.37.
Projectionist #1: But that’s Columbia!
Projectionsist #2: Whatever. We’re showing it at 1.37.
Projectionist #1: How’s anyone supposed to keep this shit straight?
“I’ve never found any evidence in [Fox’s] studio files of a ‘1:85 starts at midnight’ dictum,” Belston told me this morning. “There is plenty of documentation, as you probably know, about Fox from 1954 on making every movie possible in CinemaScope. Ditto the development of stereo and CinemaScope55 later.
“I can tell you from looking at the non-Scope Fox films of 1953 (Call Me Madam, Niagara, Inferno and Pickup on South Street come to mind particularly) that they look more correctly framed in 1.37 than in 1.85, in my opinion. Additionally, whenever these films have screened within the last decade, projectionists/archives/museums have always shown them as you might expect in a 1.33/1.37 aspect ratio.
“Neither of these points is proof of how they should be shown, but for whatever it is worth to you, I’m fairly certain most if not all academics would agree with the 1.37 approach.”