Posted February 21 2007 - 05:01 PM
As informative as DVDBeaver is as a reference of quality, their technical aspects are often wrong. They write things that are based on what they see on video, not in any fact or based on careful study of 35mm material of which the film originates. Note that they state that only five films in '53 from Universal were made for widescreen: untrue-- U's entire Fall and Winter season was ready to be shown 1.85.
You can't judge by a full-frame video master. As has been demonstrated on this forum in the past, because these films are over shot (that is to say, there is more image area on the film than needs to be projected), transfers are often "zoomed in" to protect the image from excess space or boom mics.
However, even on that one sample image, it is quite clear that the shot is blocked out for 1.85, Universal's standard. Notice the odd amount of space above Stewart's head. I recently saw a 35mm print run and framed correctly in a theatrical setting at 1.85, and unlike the DVD, it framed perfectly.
End result: GLENN MILLER STORY was shot during the late summer/early fall of '53, when Universal had already mandated it was going all-WS. Because of a totally unrelated mistake (a careless telecine operator), a website happend to report that the sky was falling and that Universal incorrectly matted a film shot in the Academy ratio.
THUNDER BAY, however, came out in April of '53, as a quick "introduction" to widescreen-- an attempt to catch up with the upcoming slew of technical innovations such as 3-D, stereophonic sound and anamorphic widescreen (and Cinerama, I guess). It was the film that introduced the 1.85 for flat theatrical widescreen, chosen probably because the film is mostly medium and long shots. Similarly, for the next month or two, certain films that were already in the can before the introduction of flat widescreen projection techniques were being advertised as "available for widescreen projection" even though this was not the case. At Universal, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE fell under this unfortunate mistake.
Obviously, however, once the idea was introduced, everyone was careful to make sure the next series of productions conformed to these standards. It wasn't difficult-- new viewfinders took care of the situation. But, there seems to be a feeling amongst armchair historians here and elsewhere that directors and DPs continued to compose for 1.37, despite orders from the head office, a fairly ridiculous idea if you think about it. Most of these films were being made so fast that there was no time to even THINK about defying the producers. On top of that, the studio's own projection rooms obviously would have made these transitions as well, and watching dailies in widescreen should have convinced any renegade film makers otherwise.