Newly discovered information confirms that PRIVATE EYES was fully composed for widescreen.
When Allied Artists announced their nearly two month old widescreen policy to the trades on July 3, 1953, they did not specify a house ratio. It wasn't until four months later - on November 17 - that 1.85 was indicated. For that reason, we assumed that 1.85 had been their chosen ratio from day one.
That's not the case.
We are currently working on the restoration of DRAGONFLY SQUADRON in preparation for 3-D Blu-ray release through Olive Films this summer. It began shooting on August 12 so we matted the film to 1.85. We found the compositions were VERY tight and one of the credit cards was clipped.
After that discovery, I've looked at nearly every Allied Artists production from May through November of 1953.
Starting with THE ROYAL AFRICAN RIFLES which rolled on May 7, I can now confirm that 1.66 was their initial widescreen ratio. It appears that AA first composed for 1.85 starting September 17 with their Technicolor production, ARROW IN THE DUST.
All of the pre-production trade announcements for PRIVATE EYES aka BOWERY BLOODHOUNDS, which rolled June 24, say widescreen. Utilizing an SMPTE RP-40 chart and a center image crop, I've matted the full-frame DVD transfer to 1.66 and selected medium and close-up shots from every scene in the film. You can see the results. The camera is tilting throughout to keep the actors in frame for that ratio.
More information on Hollywood's conversion to widescreen can be found here:
If you have the VLC Media Player, load the disc and open the Video settings. Set the aspect ratio to default. Then open the crop function and set to 16:10. This will give you a fairly close setting to the intended theatrical presentation ratio.
PRIVATE EYES - 1.66:1