Our Screaming Technicolor brunch series continues with Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter featuring the stellar cast of Jayne Mansfield, Tony Randall in his first starring film roles, John Williams,Mickey Hargitay, and even Groucho Marx! Saturday (July 21) and Sunday (July 22) at 12:10pm.
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter is bigger than just Jayne Mansfield. That the satirical comedy, based on George Axelrod’s Broadway smash, takes good aim at the emergence of television and advertising in the late 1950s isn’t entirely unrelated to the process in which it was filmed. Made in DeLuxe Color and CinemaScope, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter was intended to present a heightened, saturated reality (aspect ratios and Mansfield alike) as part of a production strategy of the film industry to compete, and stay ahead, of the convenience and prolificness of television. Though somewhat debunked here on Brooklyn Center Cinema, it’s an interesting correlation and conflation of the time.
But you may ask, what exactly is CinemaScope?
Henri Chrétien developed/patented the film process Anamorphoscope in 1926 that would form the basis for CinemaScope. Paramount bought the rights and began making films in the 1950s as a response to the “realistic” movie trends found in Cinerama and 3D. Technically speaking, it is:
…an anamorphic lens series used for shooting wide screen movies from 1953 to 1967. Its creation in 1953, by the president of 20th Century-Fox, marked the beginning of the modern anamorphic format in both principal photography and movie projection.
The anamorphic lenses theoretically allowed the process to create an image of up to a 2.66:1 aspect ratio, almost twice as wide as the previously common Academy format’s 1.37:1 ratio. Although the CinemaScope lens system was made obsolete by new technological developments, primarily advanced by Panavision, the CinemaScope anamorphic format has continued to this day. In film-industry jargon, the shortened form, ‘Scope, is still widely used by both filmmakers and projectionists, although today it generally refers to any 2.35:1 or 2.39:1 or 2.40:1 presentation or, sometimes, the use of anamorphic lensing or projection in particular. Bausch & Lomb won a 1954 Oscar for its development of the CinemaScope lens.
Not used often, the CinemaScope lens has been used in recent years on Down with Love and Titan A.E., but fortunately what’s left behind from its golden era are literal shining gems.