Information about the 3-strip movie "The Wonderful
World of the Brothers Grimm"
For the first time CINERAMA tells a story!
|Read more at|
The 70mm Newsletter
|Written by: Gerhard
Witte, in70mm.com reporter, Berlin
of the 1950s, MGM and CINERAMA came together in order to produce films with
the narrative storytelling of traditional film. On the occasion of
CINERAMA's 10th Anniversary a Tale of the Brothers Grimm – George Pal's "The
Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" (USA, 1962) will captivate viewers of
The movie's plot shortly narrated … the fairy stories they
collected have made them immortal.
The action of the film begins in late 1813, when France suffered a decisive
defeat in the Battle of Leipzig, and thus the end of Napoleon's dominion in
Germany was initiated. The two young scholar-linguists Wilhelm (played by
Laurence Harvey, 1928 –1973) and Jacob Grimm (played by Karlheinz Böhm, 1928
– 2014) are working in a library on a task that both find irksome, compiling
the family chronicles of a lineage of dukes. The hearts of both young men
are on other things. Wilhelm is fascinated by fairy tales and is constantly
trying to elicit timelessly young tales, mostly from older people, while the
more serious-minded Jacob is more concerned with the history of the German
language and grammar, as well as German mythology. Wilhelm is married to
Dorothea (played by Claire Bloom, b.1931) and has two children, Friedrich
and Pauline, by her.
Jacob and the charming Greta Heinrich from Berlin (played by Barbara Eden,
b. 1931), who is very taken with the brother's work, fall in love each
other. But the romance does not last long, because Jacob spends a lot of
time with Wilhelm and their joint activities are somehow more important for
Despite Jacob’s hard work, progress with the family chronicle is slow,
partly because Wilhelm is often preoccupied only with his fairy tales. "A
hobby as unprofitable as collecting stories will never put bread on the
table", says Jacob. Since it turns out that an entire branch of the duke’s
(played by Oscar Homolka, 1898 –1978) distinguished family, which was once
based on the Rhine, is not mentioned in the chronicle, he sends the two
brothers to the town of Rheinburg, situated on the Rhine, in order to
complete the missing information (author’s note: There is a villa in the
style of a castle situated in the Ehrenbreitstein district of Koblenz
(Rhineland Palatinate) with the name ‘Rheinburg’. For the film, the harbour
of Oberspay, south of Koblenz, was used as Rheinburg). Once there, however,
Jacob has no option but to carry out most of the work by himself, since
Wilhelm is once again out in search of fairy tales and has taken himself off
to the forest, to the hut of the storyteller Anna Richter (played by Martita
Hunt, 1899 –1969). There, every Friday, local children gather to listen to
her engaging stories. Since only children have access to the hut, Wilhelm
sits down on a wooden bench below an opened window – so he can listen and
write everything down. He is caught in a heavy downpour and is soaked to the
skin; later he falls ill with a severe feverish flu. Moreover, while walking
through the forest he loses the joint product of the brothers’ work – the
information on the duke. The thereupon infuriated duke requests from Wilhelm
within 3 days the payment of six outstanding monthly rents for his house in
which Wilhelm and his family and Jacob could, as long as they are working
for him, hitherto live rent-free. His brother comes to his aid in this dire
situation by selling his library.
Meanwhile Wilhelm is in bed with high fever. He has feverish dreams in which
a great giant pushes numerous figures from fairy tales through the window
into his bedroom on the second floor of the house. They say to him: "Our
lives depend on you. If you die, we will never be born! Who will give us our
names?" And Wilhelm gives them their names: Tom Thumb, Cinderella, Snow
White, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and Rumpelstiltskin.
Thanks to his determination to continue collecting fairy tales, Wilhelm
happily soon recovers. The brothers start working together again and Jacob
even helps Wilhelm gather more tales and document them. As time passes,
their work begins to bear fruit. In 1841, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, the new
Prussian king, appointed them for their scientific achievements to members
of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin.Wilhelm is slightly aggrieved
because the written invitation and honours mention only their academic work
and not the fairy tales themselves. Now their journey takes them to Berlin.
The film ends with the two brothers and Dorothea, Wilhelm's wife, arriving
at the station, where a delegation of the Academy, Greta Heinrich and
hundreds of appreciative children are awaiting Jacob and Wilhelm – first and
foremost Wilhelm – and crying out: "We want a story, we want a story!"
Wilhelm answers "Once upon a time there were two brothers …" The children
cheer, and the film ends with the line: "… and they lived happily ever
Embedded in the overall plot of the film are three of the Grimm brothers’
lesser-known tales: (A) "The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces" (KHM 133), in
the movie entitled "The Dancing Princess", in German "Die zertanzten Schuhe",
(B) "The Elves and the Shoemaker" (KHM 39), in the movie "The Cobbler and
the Elves", in German "Die Schuster und die Zwerge", and (C) "The Singing
Bone" (KHM 28), in German "Der singende Knochen". The framework plots of
these stories were followed in the making of the film. Nevertheless, much
was changed, including factors relating to the actual life circumstances of
the two brothers – to the extent that a realistic depiction is possible at
all. Read more about this at the end of the report.
(KHM = Kinder und Hausmärchen / Children's and Household Tales – the German
name for the little creatures that help the shoemaker in the original fairy
tale "The Elves and the Shoemaker" is "Wichtelmänner", in the German movie
programme they are called "Zwerge" (dwarfs))
Listen to the much more detailed MGM Storybook Record. It is a
presentation with images taken from the movie's souvenir brochure, unfortunately
with a lot of pops, clicks and hisses.
According to the narrator one gets the impression that the Grimms had lived
in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Bavaria, which is not true – Bavaria was
never their homeland. Born in Hanau, close to Frankfurt on the Main, they
spent a great deal of their lives in Hesse.
|More in 70mm reading:|
über den 3-Streifen-Film "Die Wunderwelt der Gebrüder Grimm"
Gerhard's Grimm Report Gallery
PDF: Information about the 3-strip movie "The
Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm"
The Wonderful World of the
Brothers Grimm. The legendary “lost” Cinerama Reviewed
in70mm.com auf Deutsch
in70mm.com's Cinerama page
"The Wonderful World of
Brothers Grimm" soundtrack released by Film Score Monthly
Liner notes for "The
Wonderful World of Brothers Grimm" 2-CD soundtrack
HTWWW's "World Preview" at the
Empire Cinerama Theatre in Paris
Tales from the Cooper Cinerama Theatre in Denver
Cinerama Theatre in Minneapolis / St. Louis Park
Indian Hills Theatre in Omaha (Nebraska)
Trailer of "Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm"
Russ Tamblyn and Yvette Mimieux
in "The Dancing Princess" in Pan & Scan
sequence of "The Cobbler and the Elves" in Pan & Scan
Hollywood Premiere of "How the West Was Won"
The Production Design of "Brothers Grimm"
The Dragon at "liveauctioneers.com"
The Dragon at "colemanzone.com"
Interesting information about the movie from Omics
The Movie's North American Premieres
An advert from 1962 announcing the first two story-telling CINERAMA movies
and below: One year later a 2-page advert announcing the upcoming (in
production) Cinerama movies "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (USA, 1963) and
"The Greatest Story Ever Told" (USA, 1965) – and a hint on the introduction
of the newly built Cinerama Dome Theatres: "1963 – Another Year Of Dynamic
Expansion". (Adverts from the author's collection)
The official World Premiere took place at New York's (New) Loew's
Cinerama Theatre on Tuesday, 07 August 1962.
In 1962, premiered following three 3-strip CINERAMA feature movies:
1.) "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" (USA)
2.) "How the West Was Won" (USA)
3.) "The Best of Cinerama" (USA)
There had been a World Preview of "Brothers Grimm" on Saturday, 14 July 1962
at the Cooper Cinerama Theatre in Denver (Colorado), and then it officially
opened at following venues across the United States:
On 07 August 1962: New York (NY) at Loew's Cinerama Theatre, here festive
World Premiere where it subsequently ran for 33 weeks – Boston (MA) at
On 08 August 1962:
Los Angeles (CA) at Warner's Hollywood Theatre (from the book "Movie
Roadshows" by Kim R. Holston) – Cincinnati (OH) at Capitol – Pittsburgh (PA)
at Warner – Cleveland (OH) at Palace – Denver (CO) at Cooper – Minneapolis (MN)
at Cooper – Philadelphia (PA) at Boyd – San Francisco (CA) at Orpheum –
Detroit (MI) at Music Hall – Montreal (QC) at Imperial – Kansas City (MO) at
Empire – Chicago (IL) at McVickers.
On 15 August 1962: Toronto (ON) at Eglington – Dallas (TX) at Capri –
Indianapolis (IN) at Indiana – Milwaukee (WI) at Palace.
On 22 August 1962: Rochester (NY) at Monroe – Columbus (OH) at Grand –
Vancouver (BC) at Strand – Oklahoma City (OK) at Cooper – Buffalo (NY) at
Teck – Salt Lake City (UT) at Villa.
… at the time, there were more in planning: Memphis at Loew's Palace –
Wichita at the Crown Uptown Theatre – Louisville at Rialto – Syracuse at New
Eckel – Honolulu at Cinerama – Norfolk at Rosna – Erie at Strand – Miami at
Florida – Portland at Hollywood – Tampa at Palace – Nashville at Crescent –
Washington at Uptown – El Paso at Capri – Hartford at Cinerama – Birmingham
at Ritz – Jacksonville at Five Points and in many other cities.
"How the West Was Won" debuted in Europe. The movie had a "World Preview" on
Tuesday, 02 October 1962 at the "Empire (Abel Gance) Cinérama Théâtre" in
Paris and its official World Premiere at London's "Casino Cinerama Theatre"
on Thursday, 01 November 1962.
The World Premiere of "The Best of Cinerama" took place at the Palace
Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday, 13 November 1962. This movie is a
compilation of the highlights of all 5 previous Cinerama travelogues.
End of the 1950s, when Cinerama, Inc. and MGM teamed up to make their first
Cinerama pictures that would be primarily story-telling films, they looked
around for dramatic properties that also offered spectacle. Finally, they
decided on two. One was "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" – a
movie about Wilhelm (1786 – 1859) and Jacob (1785 – 1863) Grimm portrayed by
the Lithuanian-born Laurence Harvey and by the Austrian Karlheinz Böhm –
sometimes also referred to as Carl Boehm or Karl Boehm,
… and the other "How the West Was Won" – retelling the life stories of bold
adventures in the American West.
The Famous German Brothers Grimm
illustration of the brothers Wilhelm Grimm (in all images on the left) and
Jacob Grimm, and on the right: A contemporary engraving of the great
folklorists and lexicographers. Images below: The movie's brothers Laurence
Harvey (1928 – 1973) and Karlheinz Böhm (1928 – 2014). In 1963, Laurence
Harvey was nominated for his role as Wilhelm Grimm for a Golden Globe (Best
Actor "Drama"). (Movie photos from the then MGM Press Archive)
They were tireless and persistent. Continually they had to collect
something, to write and to tell stories – a living and working symbiosis.
Their live values include, among others, following publications: The
well-known Children's and Household Tales, Irish Fairy Tales, German
Legends, German Mythology, German Grammar, History of German Language, the
German Dictionary, etc.
In this report I would like to report only briefly on the brothers – there
is a lot of really comprehensive information about their lives and works on
diverse interesting websites.
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are mainly worldwide renowned for their collection
of fairy tales – but they were also language- and cultural researchers,
diplomats, lawyers, professors, librarians and politicians. They were born
in Hanau as the eldest children into a Calvinist pastor's family with civil
service ties. Dorothea Grimm, the mother of the two, gave birth to nine
children, but three of them already died in infancy. A year apart in age,
but behaved like twins, they often shared until the time of death bed and
table, grew up with the same interests and attended the same schools. They
even shared a home in a group of three after Wilhelm had married his
girlfriend Henriette Dorothea (Dortchen) Wild in May of 1825, who later gave
him birth to three children – two boys named Herman and Rudolf, and a girl
Henriette Dorothea told Wilhelm some of the stories in the famous collection
of fairy tales. Back then, they could hardly have foreseen the world-wide
impact their tales would one day receive. Without their activities the
world, of course, to say nothing of the motion picture business, would have
been bereft of, e.g., Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Mother Holle, Hans in Luck,
Snow-White and Rose-Red, The Bremen Town Musicians, Snow White and the Seven
Dwarfs, and all the other fairy tales beloved of children these many years.
Their 200 "Children's and Household Tales / Kinder und Hausmärchen" were
published in two books – Volume 1 late in 1812 and Volume 2 came in print in
1814 (pre-dated 1815). In 1825, there appeared a further, but smaller
publication of the fairy tales. The Grimms managed to convince their brother
Ludwig Emil (1790 –1863) that he, as an illustrator, additionally decorated
the stories with nice drawings, which later significantly contributed to
In 2005, the original hand copies (5 books) of the Children's and Household
Tales of 1812 / 1815 became UNESCO World Documentary Heritage.
Already during their lifetimes the brothers were well-respected
personalities, celebrated as outstanding Germanists and great German
Concerning their political activities, for example, Jacob Grimm, as member
of the Frankfurt National Assembly, presented a supplementary application to
article 1 of the Frankfurt Constitution (a constitution for a unified German
Federal State, also called St. Paul's Church Constitution) from 28 March
1849 with following text:
“The German people are a free people, and the German lands tolerate no
bondage. They free any unfreedom which dwells upon them.”
On 04 September 2015, the "GRIMMWELT
Kassel" opened its doors. Here you can study in detail all about the Grimms
in a large exhibition complex.
three fairy tales, and an artwork that shows various scenes of the movie.
At the time, Cinerama, Inc. agreed to change the movie's shooting speed.
The travelogue predecessors of the Fifties ran at 26 frames per second. "How
the West Was Won" and "Brothers Grimm" were filmed at 24 fps – a concession
to cost and the convenience that they could be reduced after playing in
Cinerama theatres to a 35mm anamorphic format in order to present them in
standard exhibition venues.
Filming began on 31 July 1961(source: "Atlanta Journal-Constitution"
newspaper from that time), most likely at the MGM-Studios in Culver City, a
city in Los Angeles county. In charge of the cameras was the American
cinematographer Paul Vogel (1899 – 1975), who previously, in 1950, was
awarded with an Academy Award for the movie "Battelground" (USA, 1949) in
the category "Best black and white Cinematography". "Brothers Grimm" was
directed by Henry Levin, who took over the biographical script. Producer
George Pal was responsible for the fairy tale sequences. Before start of
filming, both had toured parts of Europe seeking authentic backgrounds for
the story. They found suitable film motifs in West-Germany, but not in Hesse,
the immediate homeland of the Grimms, where most buildings from the 1800s
had been destroyed during the past wars. They filmed at Neuschwanstein
Castle in Bavaria (the Royal Palace in "The Dancing Princess"), at
Weikersheim Castle in Baden Württemberg (the Duke's Residence), in the
Rhineland and in the historic, late medieval districts of the Bavarian towns
of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Middle Franconia (in the film their home
town), and Dinkelsbühl – also located in Middle Franconia. Pal and Levin
were able to convince the famed Regensburg "Domspatzen" Choir, consisting of
boys and young men, to sing (the boys) in the movie's Rheinburg sequence.
The steam-propelled side-wheeler tugboat (built in 1921 / 1922), named
"Oskar Huber", taken by the Grimms down the Rhine is the oldest such item in
Germany. The boat's last towering operation, now powered with fuel oil
instead with coil, took place in 1966. Today it is a museum ship and is
located in "Vinckekanal" (Vincke Canal) in Duisburg-Ruhrort, and is part of
the local Museum of the German Inland Navigation.
At the time, in Germany, the end of shooting of "Brothers Grimm" was planned
until middle or end of October of 1961, with then finishing work in
Hollywood / Culver City, where they had worked, it is written in the movie's
souvenir book, on around 75 film sets.
In 1963, the movie won the Oscar for Best Costume Design (Mary Wills) – it
was also nominated for Best Art Direction (Color), Best Music (Scoring of
Music / Adaptation or Treatment) and Best Cinematography (Color).
Additional note: Germany's biggest costume house is the renowned Berlin
Already for the silent films "Ben-Hur" (USA, 1925) and "Metropolis" (GER,
1927) had been a collaboration with this house, which exists since 1907.
The movie's Road Show Version opens as follows: After the Overture (2.46
minutes) and MGM's roaring lion (associated with some score) you can watch
war scenes and listen to trumpet fanfares of cavalry, drum beats and canon
strikes. A narrator gives following comment: "Early in the 1800s, the
fearful sounds of war once again shook the heart of Europe (increasing canon
strikes and fanfares) … not far from the field of battle there was another
sound … soft and gentle … yet it has echoed down the years to be heard long
after the guns were stilled and the battles forgotten (here you can watch
aerial shots of the town Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Weikersheim castle) …
if you listen closely you can hear it … now …" – then comes the movie's
title scene showing the brothers in a duke's library working on his family
history and you can listen to the movie's Main Theme played by a zither.
The Cinerama movie combines two elements. It sets the three Grimm fairy
tales against the life stories of the brothers themselves. Laurence Harvey
(Wilhelm Grimm) also appears in one of the three fairy tales. He portrays
the cobbler in "The Cobbler and the Elves".
These are not the best known fairy tales. "The Dancing Princess" is about a
young woodsman (Russ Tamblyn) and a princess (Yvette Mimieux) who wears out
her shoes with dancing every night in the forest, until the woodsman
discovers her secret and thereupon gets her as his wife – fortunately, they
also fall in love with each other; "The Cobbler and the Elves" is a
combination in which talking and moving elves (puppets) are combined with
living actors performing in a story-book (German?) village set. It is about
an old shoemaker (Laurence Harvey) who would rather carve elves for orphans
than make the shoes ordered by his customers, so that the elves surprisingly
finish the shoes for him on the night before Christmas; and "The Singing
Bone" is about a knight, Sir Ludwig (Terry-Thomas), who supposedly killed
the evil dragon, but in reality hides away like a coward – actually had
knights a great reputation and were regarded as heroes – while his loyal
servant, Hans (Buddy Hackett), stabs the monster, for which the knight kills
the brave fellow to avoid being denied the glory.
For filming local museums threw open their doors to supply important props.
Among these was a cannon actually used by Napoleonic troops during the
Napoleonic Wars, and that was fired in one of the filmed battle sequences
(Prussian War of Liberation) right at the beginning of the movie.
Premiere at New York's (New) Loew's Cinerama Theatre on Tuesday, 07 August
A 2-page advertisement in "New York VARIETY" dated Wednesday, 11 July
1962 – "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm", the first dramatic
story-telling motion picture in fabulous CINERAMA!
Produced by George Pal and directed by Henry Levin (Director for the
biographical script) – Fairytale sequences by George Pal – Screenplay by
David P. Harmon, Charles Beaumont and William Roberts from a screen story by
David P. Harmon, based on the book "Die Brüder Grimm" by Dr. Hermann
Gerstner – Director of Photography: Paul Vogel – Musical Score / Songs:
Leigh Harline, Bob Merrill – Art Directors: George W. Davis and Edward
The movie's official World Premiere was held in New York at the now renamed
"(New) Loew's Cinerama Theatre" on Tuesday, 07 August 1962. Previously, the
theatre had been closed for major reconstruction works on Wednesday, 20 June
1962. At that point in time, it was still called "Loew's Capitol Theatre".
A major feature of the newly rebuilt theatre was the huge deeply curved
Cinerama screen – a 28 x10 metres (93 x 33 feet) louvered screen that
covered over 3,000 square feet from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. The
seating capacity was significantly reduced to 1552 from the former 3612. The
side aisles in the orchestra, the last thirteen rows, half the balcony, and
a third of the loge were eliminated. The three Cinerama projection booths
were placed in the orchestra above the heads of the audience. The theatre's
spacious lounge chairs offered comfortable leg room and an unobstructed view
of the giant screen.
Two additional innovations were featured at Loew's Cinerama:
One was the "Babyrama", downstairs below the orchestra, which provided a
completely furnished and professionally staffed nursery so that parents
could watch the movie at rest while their small children were cared for. Its
service was free, and patrons could reserve a ticket in the "Babyrama" when
they purchased their regular tickets.
The second was a typical Japanese Garden which was at the entrance to the
auditorium. Everything in the Garden was authentic, from the bamboo fences
to the oriental stones which lined a pool. A wooden bridge led from the
lobby into the auditorium and offered easy access to the patrons who wanted
to stroll through the garden before and after the performance and during the
intermission. Beneath the bridge, water flowed and fish swam, and cages with
live songbirds hung above the heads of patrons.
All these alterations were part of a reported $17,000,000 construction
program for Cinerama theatres in the United States.
(Sources: "New York Times" and "International Projectionist" from that time)
Further interesting information about this venue are available on following
During the period of the movie's premiere, in America, there were shown
three different trailers in cinemas to excite prospective audiences: A.) an
initial color announcement, B.) cross-plug trailers for regular screens (author's
note: Cross-Plug trailers are graphically animated and personalized with
theatre name and location, and a distinctive music soundtrack – specify "Now
Showing" or "Coming Soon"), and C.), a three-strip one for Cinerama screens.
(Source: "Movie Roadshows" by Kim R. Holston)
But before New York's official World Premiere there had already been a World
Preview of "Brothers Grimm" at the Cooper Cinerama Theatre in Denver on
Saturday, 14 July 1962, the first of three Cooper Cinerama Theatres. It had
been chosen because it was the first cinema in the world designed especially
for showing Cinerama productions owned by Cooper Foundation Theatres.
Cooper Cinerama Theatre in Denver (Colorado) was festively opened with "This
is Cinerama" (USA, 1952) on Thursday, 09 March 1961. The theatre's circular
top was burnt-orange prefabricated with insulated mono-panels and brightly
illuminated to be visible for miles around. Base and other masonry were
black Roman brick, with trim in an off-white shade. Outside patio, with
lighted fountain and fireplace, opens into the foyer via floor-to ceiling
glass doors. The deeply curved Cinerama screen had a size of 32 x 11,5
metres (105 x 38 feet, another source indicates a height of 36 feet), the
circular curtain 51 metres (168 feet) – measured along the curve. The 814
seats were especially designed, had no legs and were mounted above the
floor, with risers also serving as foot-rests. (Images from the trade
magazine "Movie Marketing" from that time)
Here further information about this venue on
The unique design of the theatre was a modified concept of "The Theatre of
Tomorrow", created by Melvin C. Glatz of Fox Intermountain Theatres in
America. There were three projection boots, one all-purpose and the others
two-sided for Cinerama's three-projector system. Sound system was completely
transistorized. Heating and air-conditioning were divided into four units to
provide uniform temperature in all parts of the auditorium, thus eliminating
over-heated balconies, chilly areas near the entrances, etc.
The advantages of the circular structure of the building were varied: 1.)
Audiences feel a sense of participation not possible in
rectangular-proportioned houses, 2.) waste space in ordinary theatres can be
utilized here for lounge areas, and 3.) a seating build in a natural oval
pattern reduces the problem with the hard-to-fill side seats at rear and
close to screen. The two lounge areas on each side of the orchestra were
separated from the auditorium by hanging metal screens, and there were two
additional lounges above the booths, a spacious lobby and outside patio,
providing maximum comfort for patrons. Kenneth E. Anderson, General Manager
of Cooper Foundation Theatres, said at the time. "I have felt for a long
time that the public will patronize a high class roadshow theatre in a
metropolitan area such as Denver. We decided to design the theatre
specifically for the three-booth Cinerama process and to engineer it in
accordance with the latest Cinerama technical requirements. Through the use
of the circular theatre design, we were fortunately able to accomplish all
of our objectives. The public's acceptance of the theatre has been very
enthusiastic." (Source: The trade magazine "Movie Marketing" from that time)
The second Cooper Cinerama Theatre was festively opened in Minneapolis / St.
Louis Park (Minnesota) with "Brothers Grimm" on Wednesday, 08 August 1962,
and the third, the Indian Hills Theatre in Omaha (Nebraska), 4 months later
on Friday, 21 December 1962 – also with "Brothers Grimm" as opening film.
A short report about the World Preview of "Brothers Grimm" from "New York
Variety" dated Wednesday, 18 July 1962:
MGM-Cinerama's 200 GD (Directorate-General) Denver Junket. 400 Journalists
and Showmen Converge – Also See Central City, a Mining Burg. (Author's note:
Central City is a historic mining settlement founded in 1859 during the "Pike's
Peak Gold Rush" to be known as the "Richest Square Mile on Earth").
Metro-Cinerama shared a tab of about $200,000 in previewing their new
story-line release "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" here. Film
debuts August 07 in a number of spots.
Some 400 journalists, circuit and theatre showmen and company officials came
to Denver for the advance peep. There were persons here from as far away as
Japan and South America plus, of course, the releasing organizations` own
contingent: Joseph R. Vogel, Nicholas Reisini, Max E. Youngstein, Robert H.
Mochrie, Robert R. Weitman, Ray Klune, Maurice (Red) Silverstein, Peter
Shaw, Howard Strickling and Governor Stephen L.R. McNichols of Colorado (the
last one added by the author).
A couple of New York stockbrokers, bullish on Cinerama, or wondering if they
should be, also made the trip for a first see. Most of the transportation
was via American and United Airlines. Party was housed at Brown Palace
Hotel. Curiously, or admirably, there was none of the usual confusion in
handling the mob of junketeers, though all hit Denver within a couple of
hours of one another on Friday (13).
The new phase in Cinerama's history did not obscure its pioneering period,
or the visiting pioneers, Merian C. Cooper and Lowell Thomas. Recalled were
the late inventor, Fred Waller, and the late financial promoter, Paul W.
Kesten (CBS), not to mention such deceased Cinerama participants as Louis B.
Mayer and Mike Todd.
Respecting the $200,000 tab, the argument is advanced that magazine and
syndicate stuff will make it worthwhile. The price equivalents five color
pages in LIFE.
A large group of guests went by bus Friday night to Central City. The
mountain hamlet now identified summer-times with a chichi program of opera,
legit and Denver society cocktail parties.
Community was returned Saturday for the showing at the new Cooper
(Foundation) Theatre, first film house in the round built for the three-ply
projection medium. Denver Post front-paged fact that there were more
newspapermen present to see "Brothers Grimm" than had converged when
President Eisenhower had his dramatic heart attack locally. (Author's note:
Eisenhower had a heart attack in Denver – a coronary thrombosis – on 24
the time, the newspaper "Rocky Mountain News" (nicknamed "The Rocky")
reported about the presentation.
Here a YouTube clip
about the movie's World Preview in Denver (Colorado) on Saturday, 14 July
A slightly shortened review about the movie published in "New York VARIETY"
dated Wednesday, 18 July 1962:
A Metro Goldwyn Mayer-Cinerama picture produced by George Pal:
The Cinerama process has come of age as a dramatic tool with "The Wonderful
World of the Brothers Grimm". Producer George Pal demonstrates beyond
question that the out-sized screen medium can open a new and exciting era in
motion pictures. The novelty of seeing a story in Cinerama - 10 years after
the process gave birth to five unusual, in effects, travelogue epics -
should generate wide and profitable public interest in this joint
MGM-Cinerama project. But there is more to "Brothers Grimm" than just its
novelty and visual grandeur, and the excitement that stems from being, quite
frequently, a participant in the screen action. "Grimm" is a delightful,
refreshing entertainment, which takes full advantage of the ingenuity of
which the film medium is capable.
Although the performers, from stars to bit players, are uniformly
ingratiating - and properly nasty as occasion requires - if there is a star
that shines beyond compare in this two hour and 15 minutes show (plus
intermission) it is SPECIAL EFFECTS. The major Fairy Tales sequences – "The
Dancing Princess", "The Cobbler and the Elves" and "The Singing Bone" – are
as charming and artfully executed as anything has created by means of
Special Effects in years.
Some among the group of 400-odd newsmen and exhibitors junketed, from as far
away as Japan, to Denver for the special preview Saturday morning at the
Cooper Theatre (first house in the world built from the ground up and around
– it has a spherical shaped auditorium with 800 capacity – to accommodate
Cinerama) speculated whether "Grimm" would hold as much appeal for adults as
for young audiences. It would appear that the warm applause at the
intermission and the fadeout title – lived happily ever after – should quiet
While the Cinerama process now has stepped across the threshold to maturity
as a story form, it still is in its 'teens technically. This is not to say
that it has not progressed tremendously. It has. There are stretches of
considerable length, notably in the second half of the film, when the panel
lines are not noticeable at all. There are, however, times when the contrast
in film projected from three individual booths is marked and there emerges
three distinct and somewhat distracting "pictures". Moreover, the
technicians have not yet licked the jiggle, notably in the right panel, and
at this showing at least the center panel did its own dancing on a couple of
The key here may be in lighting and color composition. When there is uniform
lighting and the background colors are in solid tones, e.g.: deep green,
brown, black, where the three film strips join there is no separation in the
picture. No doubt that with more concentrated development these continuing
technical shortcomings can be licked. But these are considerations which do
not figure to loom disadvantageously (not seriously anyway) as far as public
Nor is it important whether or not the biographical aspects of "Brothers
Grimm" are entirely according to Hermann Gerstner's "Die Brüder Grimm"
whence David P. Harmon fashioned the screen story which in turn was molded
into script form by Harmon, Charles Beaumont and William Roberts. Its
purpose – director Henry Levin has accorded its appropriate visual
interpretation – is simply to provide a bridge for the Fairy Tales
sequences. Thankfully, it is a sturdy bridge, enabling the imaginative (some
call him loony) Wilhelm and his more practical brother Jacob to emerge as
engaging flesh and blood personalities. There is a deceitful simplicity
about the skillful and remarkably balanced acting of the respective brothers
by Laurence Harvey and Karl Boehm. And their sustained efforts are strongly
complimented by Claire Bloom, as the understanding, but at times, irritated,
wife of the story spinner.
Other important acting contributions are made by Walter Slezak, Barbara
Eden, Oscar Homolka, Arnold Stang, Martita Hunt, Ian Wolfe and Wilhelm
Grimm's children: Bryan Russell and Tammy Marihugh. In lesser roles, Betty
Grade, Cheerio Meredith and Walter Rilla also perform effectively.
Pal himself shares directorial credit with Levin and as the producer also is
responsible for directing the Fairy Tales sequences.
This traditional fairy tale of the princess in "The Dancing Princess", who
finds her true love in the humble woodsman has been interestingly
choreographed by Alex Romero and charmingly interpreted by Yvette Mimieux (a
remarkably versatile young actress) and Russ Tamblyn. Latter also gets quite
a vigorous workout as a sometimes visible, and then invisible guest, on the
tail gate of a coach racing around mountain paths in a wild ride, which, for
sheer visual stimulus, compares favorably with the rollercoaster thriller of
"This is Cinerama". Here camera trickery is dominant and appreciation goes
to cinematographer Paul C. Vogel, who, it should be added, overall does a
splendid job. And these aforementioned special effect experts quartet,
consisting of Gene Warren, Wah Chang, Tim Barr and Robert R. Hoag, star
here, too, as well as in other sections of the movie.
As far as acting honors go, Harvey is dominant, for in addition to playing
Wilhelm he also enacts, and with touching warmth offset by a trace of
irascibility, the title role in "The Cobbler and the Elves". This sequence,
with its Christmas setting and assortment of orphans and puppets which
performs a miracle in the cobbler's shop overnight, is entirely enchanting –
even though the memorable snowscapes are somewhat victimized by the division
of the panels on the huge screen. Short, but effective, performances here
are made by Walter Brooke, Sandra Gale Bettin and Robert Foulk. As for the
puppets – they are all loveable.
Fairy tales wouldn't have lasted through the ages, of course, if they didn't
at times scare the living daylight out of tots. "The Singing Bone" dealing
with a titanic encounter involving a supercilious aspiring knight and his
servant with a fire-spouting dragon is full of exaggerated chills and wry
humor. Buddy Hackett (who reminds of the late Lou Costello) as the humble
servant who finally emerges as the shining knight over his dastardly master,
is enchanting. And Terry-Thomas also is excellent as the master whose
cowardice ultimately stripes him of honor and glory. Otto Kruger is
authoritative as the king here.
The score by Leigh Harline and the words and music by Bob Merrill to a
series of songs, make very significant contributions to the total effect of
Also, while Special Effects were singled out, that would not have been as
effective if not appropriately complemented by the art direction
contributions of George W. Davis and Edward Carfango, supplemented by the
set decoration by Henry Grace and Richard "Dick" Pefferle. Film editor
Walter Thompson, in collaboration with directors Levin and Pal, also figured
importantly in determining the pace of the film.
The movie's producer, George Pal, has created an enchanting world in "The
Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm", a pictorial world which is a
trailblazer in the annals of motion picture history, commercially and
The Movie's Festive European Premiere
NOW LONDON BECOMES THE FIRST CITY IN THE WORLD TO HAVE TWO THEATRES
EXCUSIVELY FOR CINERAMA PRESENTATIONS! Premiere
advert in the British Trade Magazine "Films and Filming" dated July 1963,
and on the right side: Russ Tamblyn (the Woodsman in the "The Dancing
Princess") and his wife at the European premiere of "Brothers Grimm" –
below: Movie announcements. (Images from the author's collection)
It took place at London's new Coliseum
Cinerama Theatre on Monday, 15 July 1963. Princess Margaret, Lord Snowdon,
Nicolas Reisini (President of Cinerama, Inc.) and William R. Forman (Founder
of the Pacific Theatres Chain) attended the festive event.
The vintage theatre (not really a movie theatre – more an Opera House or
Musical Theatre) was taken over by CINERAMA, Inc. for the installation of a
giant Cinerama screen (size 27,5 x 8,5 metres (90 x 28 feet) – measured
along the curve). It was festively reopened as Coliseum Cinerama Theatre
with "Brothers Grimm" on Monday, 15 July 1963. Already in advance, MGM had
taken a lease on the house using it as cinema from 06 June 1961 till 19 May
From "The Times" dated 24 April 1963:
"The Coliseum Theatre is to become London's second Cinerama cinema. The
theatre, which became a cinema in 1961, will be converted for Cinerama after
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's lease expires next month, and will reopen early in
July with `The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm´."
incinerama.com gives interesting
information about the Cinerama theatre:
"Brothers Grimm" was followed by Stanley Kramer's "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad
World" (USA, 1963) which had its UK Premiere (also European) in single strip
70mm Cinerama on Monday, 02 December 1963. Prior to the premiere, the
Cinerama theatre had been closed for some days in order to install the 70mm
Cinerama projection process – then the first in Europe. After a revival of
Michel Todd's "Around the World in 80 Days"(USA, 1956) – now in 70mm – the
movie venue in this theatre was removed in early June 1968.
Today, the London Coliseum Theatre is an Opera House. Use following
link in order to get information
about the house's history.
Premiere in France
French vinyl 7" record of some themes from the film music (easy-listening
versions) interpreted by MGM Records artist David Rose and his Orchestra,
above right: The original French souvenir programme, and below: An
information about the movie's premiere date at the "Empire (Abel Gance)
Cinérama Théâtre" (from "La Cinématographie Francaise" of that time).
The movie, now renamed "Les Amours Enchantées" (Enchanted Amours),
debuted at the "Empire (Abel Gance) Cinérama Théâtre" in Paris on Tuesday,
17 September 1963. It ran there until mid-December 1963. At the time, the
Empire Theatre was the most expensive cinema in France.
There was a re-run of "Brothers Grimm" at the
in the time period from 22.03.1972 till 08.06.1972. If you have a glance at
the movie`s posters from that time you will notice that there later existed
a second title, namely: "Les Merveilleux Contes de Grimm" (The Wonderful
Fairy Tales by the Grimms). The IMDb even gives another title version: "Le
Monde Merveilleux des Contes de Grimm" (The Wonderful World of Fairy Tales
by the Grimms). The movie's 3 fairy tales in French: "La Princesse qui
dansait", "Le Savetier et les Elfes" and "L´Os qui chantait".
Premiere in Germany
A German Premiere advertisement and a scene photo taken in the castle
garden of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. (Image from the then MGM Press Archive)
took place under the auspices of the Senator for Science and Art, Dr. Adolf
Arndt, at Berlin's Cinerama "Capitol-Theater" on Thursday, 19 September
In some of the adverts appeared following slogan: "So großartig wurden
Märchen noch nie erzählt!" (Fairy Tales have never been so magnificently
told!). The movie ran at the "Capitol" for nearly 14 weeks. In the premiere
advert you can also see a scene of the movie showing Jacob Grimm (Karlheinz
Böhm) – "may I kiss you?" – and Greta Heinrich (Barbara Eden). Greta, the
charming visitor from Berlin, manages, temporarily at least, to turn Jacob's
mind from work to romance.
From today's perspective, the German word "Gebrüder" (see advert) is an
old-fashioned plural word of the word "Brüder" (brothers) – although, in
connection with this old story, it may sound more popular. In today's
parlance, the word "Brüder" is preferred and the movie's title is often "Die
Wunderwelt der Brüder Grimm".
Headline suggestions for the German premiere – one of the most important
advertising tools in your arsenal when it comes to inserts and
The lives and loves of two famous Germans, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, as
you've never seen them before!
The sensational rise of two men from middle-class anonymity to world fame at
the height of world literature!
With the same intensity that the camera uses to penetrate the lairs of the
fairy-tale figures, this film reveals the eventful lives of two
unforgettable men to an audience of millions – the lives and works of Jacob
and Wilhelm Grimm!
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm conquer the big screen!
The roles of the two famous German writers, whose immortal works have been
translated into more than 50 languages, are played by world-famous stars!
A magical colour film about the lives of the two great storytellers –
Laurence Harvey as Wilhelm Grimm, Claire Bloom as his wife Dorothea,
Karlheinz Böhm as Jacob Grimm; Walter Slezak, Russ Tamblyn, Yvette Mimieux
and many more stars of the silver screen!
The creators of stories that have been read and loved by millions – from
Cape Town to Hammerfest and from Tokyo to San Francisco – are brought back
to life in colour on the big screen!
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm – their lives and works! A two-hour journey back in
time with the fascinating brothers, showing the audience how their lives –
with all the highs and lows –inspired the immortal works that captured the
whole world's imagination!
Grimm" at Hamburg's Cinerama "Grindel-Filmtheater" in April 1964. The most
beautiful stories told in Cinerama! (Image from the author's collection)
A short, well-written review about the movie taken from the trade magazine "Filmecho
/ Filmwoche", No. 78, dated 28 September 1963:
Production: Metro Goldwyn Mayer and Cinerama (USA, 1962); Distributor: MGM /
Deutsche Cinerama, length: 3780 m, running time: 138 Minutes, German
Anyone who is intending on enjoying this film, whether as a member of the
paying public or as a critic, will have to come to terms with the fact that
Americans have their own way of making films about German fairy tales. So
when they, with their extensive entourage, made their way to Germany, to
Hansel and Gretel's woods and to the castles of enchanted sleeping
princesses, they only came in search of the outside world's perception of
German romanticism, plus whatever could be negotiated with the German
tourism industry to raise a profit. They had no other interest in Jacob and
Wilhelm Grimm. They needed them to be exceedingly likeable men – one of them
(Karlheinz Böhm) scholarly and the other (Laurence Harvey) dreamier than his
brother – who shared tales and brought them together in books for children
all around the world. The fact that they, along with five other academics,
were driven out of Göttingen by the King of Hannover because their liberal
ideas posed a threat to the monarchy wasn't worth mentioning because it
didn't really fit into the world of cinema.
German movie poster. On the right: An Austrian programme "Neues Film-Programm"
(No. 4157 / 4 pages).
The people from Cinerama had a thorough look around beautiful Germany, and
had more of an eye for mountains, forests, castles and sleepy urban niches
than many a German film producer. On this occasion, for the ever-effective
thrill of a breakneck descent, they chose winding woodland tracks, every bit
as exciting as high jinks on a rollercoaster.
Three tales are told during the course of the film. They're not the best
known, since Walt Disney had already made those into full-length features¬ –
(author's note: Do not forget the beautiful fairy tale film adaptations by
the Deutsche Film AG (DEFA) or a lot of other European productions). The
most endearing is the tale of the princess, and the 'most American' is the
one about the elves – not only because of the house inscriptions in English,
but more than anything because of the overly generous serving of Christmas
Parts of the dragon episode, spiced up with technical refinements, give the
impression that Cervantes was more in mind here than the Brothers Grimm.
The German Federal Archive provides on its website a newsreel ("Ufa-Film",
No. 277) from 1961. Here you can watch a
about the movie's filming at Neuschwanstein Castle – "The Dancing Princess".
Watch from 0:04:38.
upon a time – Hamburg's "Grindel-Filmtheater" in all its wonderful
widescreen glory. The deeply curved, louvered Cinerama screen had a size of
27 x 10 metres (89 x 33 feet) – measured along the curve. It consisted of
3000 louvers, each 1,8 cm wide, overlapping to 50 percent – so, 0,9 cm x
3000 = 2700 cm (= 27 metres). Image from the
A roadshow presentation: Excitement spread amongst the cinema audience when
the advertisements finished and the curtain closed for the start of the
advertised feature film. The cinema lights were slowly dimmed down to the
spotlights that were responsible for the curtain lighting. The cinemagoers
were then enveloped by the festive sounds of the film’s overture. In some
cinemas of the time, including the "Grindel" cinema in Hamburg, the colour
of the curtain lighting was also changed. At the end of the overture, the
entire auditorium was plunged into darkness. The curtains opened very slowly
and the first thing that could be seen was the film studio’s logo – never
before had anyone been presented with the entire white screen without the
film being projected onto it.
The curtain would doubtlessly have softened the sounds of the overture
somewhat. Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins solved the problem with their film
"West Side Story" (USA, 1961) by allowing the music to play with the
curtains open and with a special overture film shown with changing colours –
as was similarly the case some years later with George Cukor’s film "My Fair
Lady" (USA, 1964) with a small sequence of flower pictures. Films with Road
Show character were also shown with an Intermission, an Entr’acte for the
second part and often with an Exit Music. Towards the Intermission's end,
the patrons were requested to return to their seats by gong, chimes or bell
and the flashing of the lobby and lounge lights. This all contributed to
turning a visit to the cinema into a truly festive occasion.
advertisement of "Brothers Grimm" at Hamburg's Cinerama "Grindel-Filmtheater".
It took place on Thursday, 23 April 1964 – today festive premiere at 20.00
pm – a movie for you and the whole family: Romantic, adventurous, exciting –
on the gigantic Cinerama screen. Below: Diverse advertisements about all
3-strip movies that were shown at this venue. "Search for Paradise" (USA,
1957) and "The Best of Cinerama" (USA, 1962) were not performed there.
Here a list of the movies and their screening dates:
A.) "Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich" (USA, 1958) from
15.03.1960 till 19.05.1960, presented by M.C.S. Film KG (Munich), advertised
"in Cinemiracle" – from 08.06.1962 till 10.09.1962, presented by Deutsche
Cinerama GmbH (Munich), advertised "in Cinemiracle" / Screen size: 20 by 9
meters (most likely a slightly curved screen)
B.) "Seven Wonders of the World" (USA, 1956) from 22.09.1960 till 22.12.1960
– from 25.08.1961 till 27.09.1961, and from 15.12.1961 till 21.12 1961,
presented by Deutsche Cinerama GmbH (Munich) / Screen size 20 by 9 meters
(most likely a slightly curved screen)
C.) "South Seas Adventure" (USA, 1958) from 12.05.1961 till 24.08.1961,
presented by Deutsche Cinerama GmbH (Munich) / Screen size 20 by 9 meters
(most likely a slightly curved screen)
D.) "Cinerama Holiday" (USA, 1955) from 29.09.1961 till 14.12.1961,
presented by Deutsche Cinerama GmbH (Munich) / Screen size 20 by 9 meters
(most likely a slightly curved screen)
In January 1963, conversion into a theatre with a deeply curved, louvered
E.) "How the West Was Won" (USA, 1962) from 01.02.1963 till 15.12.1963,
presented by MGM and Deutsche Cinerama GmbH (Munich) / Screen size 27 by 10
meters (original deeply curved, louvered Cinerama screen, measured along the
F.) "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" (USA, 1962) from 23.04.1964
till 04.06.1964, presented by MGM and Deutsche Cinerama GmbH (Munich) /
Screen size 27 by 10 meters (original deeply curved, louvered Cinerama
screen, measured along the curve)
The Cinerama camera had to go through many adventures during the filming of
"Brothers Grimm" – Information taken from the movie's hardcover Roadshow
1 – it was mounted inside a "drum" and rolled down a hill to simulate the
gyrating universe as seen in the movie through the eyes of Russ Tamblyn,
2 – it was mounted on a sled to absorb the shock when driving on the cobbled
3 – it was strapped upside down beneath a coach where it caught the
thundering hoofs of a team of spirited horses,
4 – it was bolted to the helm of an ancient paddle-wheeler and dipped its
eyes in the Rhine River,
5 – it was mounted on a thirty-foot scaffolding inside the famous Regensburg
6 – it was strapped to a swing where it sailed back and forth above the
snapping jaws of a dragon,
7 – it was mounted on a platform slung beneath a helicopter where it floated
over the famous Rhine River Valley.
Author's note: The movie
“This Is Cinerama” (USA,
1952) was also not shown at the "The
Grimm" at the "Cinerama-Europa-Palast" in Essen
The Cinerama theatre, located in Essen (North Rhine-Westphalia) on
Viehofer Straße 38-52, opened with the 3-strip movie "How the West Was Won"
(USA, 1962) in 1963. It had an impressive deeply curved, louvered screen
with a size of 27 x 10 metres (89 x 33 feet – measured along the curve – the
same size as in the "Grindel-Filmtheater"). The venue was closed start of
the 1990s. Today, the building houses a large nightclub with the name
"Essence". (Images courtesy of Franz Bläsen)
Franz Bläsen, who later took over the management of the theatre, tells a
funny anecdote that describes a matinee of the film "How the West Was Won":
During the screening, a group of about 30 cinemagoers gathered in the foyer
and wished to complain – the realism of the film screening absolutely should
have been made clear to them in advance. During the rafting scene in the
swirling rapids of a river in the movie's first part, they were sprayed from
above with a fine jet of water emanating from the left front of the stage
The showing was interrupted and the supply from a broken water pipeline on
the ceiling of the auditorium could be stopped. "How the West Was Won"
continued, but no longer quite so realistically.
Elves in 3-Strip Cinerama
picture that shows the five elves in the fairy tale "The Cobbler and the
Elves". The company "Project Unlimited", a completely independent little
film studio, had handled most of the special effects. The elves and also the
dragon in the movie were sculptured by Wah Chang. The animation was
performed, among others, by Don Sahlin, Jim Danforth and David Pal, son of
George Pal. It took four months to complete the sequence. The word is that
one of the five elves – in the image the second from right – had previously
also been used for George Pal's movie "Tom Thumb" (UK / USA, 1958) where it
acted as "The Yawning Man". (Image from the then MGM Press Archive)
George Pal himself had directed the movie's three fairy-tale episodes
Between 1939 and 1948 George Pal (1908 – 1980), the Hungarian-born American
animator and film producer – also associated with the science fiction genre
– created not less than 40 Puppetoon short movies. Seven of these films have
been nominated for an Academy Award. In 1944, he got an honorary Oscar (a
plaque) for "the development of novel methods and techniques in the
production of short subjects known as Puppetoons". In 1960, he was honored
with a Star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood (located on 1720 Vine St.).
Excerpts from an interesting article "Puppetoons in Three Panels" by Roy
Frumkes and Neil Gader which was once published in the trade magazine "The
Critics and audiences of the day overlooked Pal's benchmark experimental use
of animation effects in the three-panel CINERAMA process. These were handled
by Project Unlimited – a company formed in 1958 by Wah Chang (known for his
superb animation model sculptures) and Gene Warren. During his many years of
partnership with Gene Warren, Wah Chang found time to create headdresses for
Elizabeth Taylor in "Cleopatra" (UK / USA / Switzerland, 1963), and also
numerous three-quarter scale, flexible foam soldiers and horses for
"Spartacus" (USA, 1960), used as forced perspective to make the aftermath of
the final battle more impressive.
Before Project Unlimited was dissolved in 1966, they created the effects for
a series of Pal's feature productions, including "Tom Thumb" (UK / USA,
1958), "The Time Machine" (USA, 1960), "Atlantis, the Lost Continent" (USA,
1961) and "7 Faces of Dr. Lao" (USA, 1964). For "Brothers Grimm" they did
animation for all three fairy-tale sequences: "The Dancing Princess", where
a potted flower nods off after a sleeping potion is tossed its way, "The
Cobbler and the Elves", where, in a flurry of late night activity, a team of
elves comes to the rescue of a kindly old cobbler, and "The Singing Bone",
where a dragon tries noshing on Buddy Hackett.
kindly old cobbler, played by the here hardly recognizable Laurence Harvey,
with his five elves. (Image from the then MGM Press Archive)
Pal's models had interchangeable wooden heads – as many as 30 – to form
dialogue. Wah Chang said about the making of "The Cobbler and the Elves":
"The only multiple masks were in the elves sequences. There might be as many
as 20 to 30 different faces. The puppet was designed so that the eyes remain
with the head and the masks have holes through which you can see the eyes,
that way you can animate the eyes. The masks were a series of wax casts that
all came out the same, and then I would modify them to either laugh, smile,
or say the different vowels. There would be a mask (head) for the "A", a
mask for the "E", a mask for the "O" or "M", and one would follow the
exposure sheet and put on the proper mask for the dialogue. The sound, of
course, is always recorded first and then the animation is done to the
soundtrack. There was a certain amount of freedom the animators had in
animating the dragon, because it wasn't tied down to any lyrics, whereas in
the elf sequence every frame had to be noted and every facial animate had to
be in synch with the singing of the song. And all of that is determined by
the director, who in this case was me. So you had to mark down on the
exposure sheet exactly what face mask had to be put on, what the elf had to
be doing whether it was hammering a nail, gluing a sole on a shoe, or
Predictably, the already ponderous filmmaking process was slowed down even
further by the complications of three-panel photography. While the animators
only used a Cinerama camera twice – for a Laurence Harvey dream sequence
(edited out of the finished movie), and to shoot titles for the American and
foreign versions of the film – they nevertheless hat to create the three
panels by shooting one panel at a time using a single Acme / Photosonics
camera on a special rig that duplicated the three focal points of the
Jim Danforth, a three-dimensional stop-motion animator who had previously
also worked with Project Unlimited on "The Time Machine" (USA, 1960) or
"Jack the Giant Killer" (USA, 1962) gave following information:
"For the animation, because we had different problems, such as needing
different focal length lenses, they had one camera on a rack over base. The
camera basically pivoted on the nodal point of the lens and it had ratchets
or stops for the three positions (author's note: Meaning the three different
angles for the Cinerama 3-strip process).
The base was like a large piece of pie made out of aluminum that was
horizontal and parallel to the ground. The front of the wedge of pie would
be where the pivot was. The back of the aluminum base had three holes
drilled into it. The camera was on a bar that would pivot at the point of
the pie wedge. And at the back end there was a trigger with a pistol-grip
handle. You could pull back on the lever, pull the pin out, and the pin
would drop into one of the three holes in the back. It would lock into
position A, B or C – so we would shoot sequential frames of animation: A-,
B- and C-panel."
Sahlin animating the elves, and right side: A box with a set of head masks
made of wax for various mouth movements (images by Wah Chang taken from the
article "Puppetoons in Three Panels").
Gene Warren added: "The only technical problem was the lining up of the
three views. We learned quite early how to compensate for the fact that the
axis was so radically different in each one of the viewpoints. We had to try
to compensate in the way we made the set. We couldn't just construct a long,
continuous horizontal line, e.g., on that elf shelf and then photograph it
in the three radical positions and expect it to look anywhere near normal.
But the interesting thing is that you lose your awareness of that strange
non-alignment of the horizon, because the scope of the screen was such that
you really couldn't take everything in from one position.
The human eye is capable of very wide peripheral vision, but,
comprehensively, you really don't have that same width. So you would find
yourself moving slightly from left to right to whatever grabbed your
attention. A lot of the action was planned that way – you´d watch the
left-hand frame because of some interesting action, unaware that the
horizontals were not matching."
The so-called "dailies", the traditional projected viewing of the previous
day's filming, became something of a misnomer for the Project Unlimited
team. They could either wait a few days until the frames (author's note:
Stop-motion is nothing but a series of still frames) were optically skipped
out at MGM's optical department and view all three panels, or they could do
some creative splicing and preview the individual panels on a Moviola (a
film viewer) and then send the approved material over to MGM.
Since it was more efficient to know immediately whether the shot was usable
they opted for the Moviola. Chang remembered the difficulties of this part
of the animation process: "Viewing dailies posed the biggest problem for us
as far as using Cinerama. We had an editor take every third frame, splice it
together, and then run it through a Moviola, which was bad because with
every frame spliced it is more difficult to view. And then you have to
consider that you´re only looking at a third of the picture at a time and
hoping that it fits in with the next strip."
Interesting information about
Don Sahlin and his work.
On Roland Lataille's website
incinerama.com you can see images
showing the shooting with the Acme / Photosonics camera.
The Movie's jewel-encrusted Dragon
Dragon in the movie and in July 2004 as it looked when going up on an
auction. Images on the right side: The Dragon 5 years later, meanwhile in a
disintegrated condition, offered and sold at "liveauctioneers". The auction
started there on 01 May 2009 (Hollywood Auction 36 – images and information
are taken from the attached web-links).
Note the little model figure of Buddy Hackett on the dragon's neck in the
little picture above. The dragon, measuring 33 inches (84 cm) long x 17,5
inches (44,5 cm) high, was purpose built and was also used for the detailed
close-up shots of the dragon's head as he fought with Hans (played by Buddy
Hackett) in the film's "The Singing Bone" sequence. The dragon was designed
by Wha Chang and Bill Brace and was animated by Jim Danforth. At the time,
Jim became one of the industries leading stop-motion animators. For those
times, without Computer-generated imagery, the dragon effects are well done
– except perhaps for one thing: The fire of the dragon gives the impression
as if they had used strips of colored paper.
The neck and the head exhibit steel ball and socket construction for
articulation, whereas the remainder of the body is created of heavy gauge
steel wire. The latex foam of the Wah Chang-sculpted body has understandably
hardened over time and all the jewels have since fallen off the dragon's
skin. The fact that this has survived at all can be regarded as an
exceptional case. Most of such miniatures were stripped down following the
productions and parts cannibalized for use in other applications.
Author's note: In the 1990s, I owned a wonderful limited STAR WARS "Yoda"
figure also made of latex foam. In the course of the years it unfortunately
also got small cracks and crumbled and looked terrible at the end.
The Music by Leigh Harline and Bob Merrill
Deluxe Box Album (MGM 1E3 – with voices from the Original Soundtrack) with
the movie's hardcover souvenir brochure (36 pages) and here additionally
added the German softcover brochure (16 pages) – all from the author's
collection. It is a spoken-word (Storybook) album which is more suitable for
children. Below left: Leigh Harline (1907 – 1969) and below right: Bob
Merrill (1921 – 1998).
MGM-Records proudly presents the thrilling album of music and stories of
the film "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm"! – Packaged in a Deluxe
Box Album with full-color, hard-cover Souvenir Book of the film included.
About the Album: The songs by Bob Merrill were especially adapted for this
album by Gus Levene, who also conducted the orchestra. David P. Harmon, who
wrote the screen story, also wrote for the LP the narration for Charles
Ruggles and directed the recording. The album was produced by Jesse Kaye.
Two renowned composers worked on the music project: Bob Merrill (an American
songwriter, theatrical composer, lyricist and screenwriter) penned words and
music for the four songs: "Ah-oom", "Christmas Land", the humorous
"Dee-Are-A-Gee-O-En" and "The Dancing Princess". He also contributed
following themes: "Gypsy Fire", "Above the Stars" and the
movie's main theme
"The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm". The music for "The Singing
Bone" was also written by him with words by Charles Beaumont.
With his score added Leigh Harline a new highlight to his career, which had
begun at Walt Disney Studios start of the 1930s, where he had composed and
arranged the scores for more than 50 short films, including for the "Silly
Symphonies" cartoon series.
He became famous for his songs for Disney's "Snow White and the Seven
Dwarfs" (USA, 1937) and his Oscar-winning score for Disney's "Pinocchio"
(USA, 1940), which also included the "When You Wish Upon a Star" for which
he also won an Oscar and which he shared with Ned Washington.
For the recording of Brothers Grimm's musical score appeared with the
MGM-Symphony Orchestra Ruth Welcome (1918 – 2005), a professional
German-American zither player and recording artist for Capitol Records. Miss
Welcome learned the instrument as a child in Freiburg in the Black Forest
country of Germany and in Basle, Switzerland. (Sources: Among others the
hardcover souvenir brochure)
For special roadshow engagements, the movie had been additionally equipped
with an Overture, an Entr´acte and an Exit Music. Cinerama's 7-Channel
Surround Sound ran in the projection room from a 35mm magnetic tape via a
special sound dubber that was electrically interlocked with the three
projectors. It ran at the same speed as the 3-strip movie at about 135 feet
(41 metres) per minute – a standard film (35mm) runs at 90 feet (27,4
metres) per minute.
In March 2010, the American soundtrack label "Film Score Monthly" (Lukas
Kendall) in Los Angeles released the movie's score on a double CD Album
(Vol. 13 / No. 4 / Silver Age). So, for many film music lovers a long
awaited wish, also the author's, came into fulfillment.
Here is a
from the Oscar-nominated score by Leigh Harline – one word of warning: Some
of the themes are catchy tunes and you will find yourself humming them for a
Some Thoughts about the Movie
It is commendable that the Americans have attempted with this film to build
a monument in CINERAMA to the two German linguists Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
The biographies of these two brothers, which are employed as a frame story
around the three fairy tales told in the film, are however fabulously
idealised, recognisably simplified, and also recounted with a touch of
naivety and kitsch. It must also be borne in mind that this lovingly made
film, with a lot of impressive shots of country, ancient German castles and
towns, was intended to be watched by children. And it has ultimately become
a children's film or also a film for adults who are still young at heart.
From today’s perspective, it may be considered old-fashioned and a
curiosity, and perhaps worth seeing just for that reason. I remember an
advert from 16 May 1960 (see image) for the Cinemiracle film "Windjammer"
(USA, 1958) which says: "Your last chance to see this clean and technically
extraordinary film!" These two qualities also apply to "Brothers Grimm".
In the film, the Grimm family children are named Friedrich and Pauline; in
real life, however, they were Herman (or Rudolf) and Auguste.
The contents of the fairy tales were also modified from how they are found
in the original Children’s and Household Tales – certainly to make them
easier to film, shorter, and perhaps also with a view to enhancing their
entertainment value. Here are just some of the marked differences:
A) "The Dancing Princess" – the original tale (KHM 133) tells of 12
daughters who dance their shoes at night to pieces in an underground and
brightly lit castle. The film features just one princess who dances at night
in a gypsy camp in the woods.
B) "The Cobbler and the Elves" – in the original (KHM 39), there are two
little naked dwarfs who perform the cobbling work over several nights around
Christmas time and who disappear forever after they are given clothing as a
thank you gift. In the film, there are five clothed elves who were carved by
the cobbler. They carry out the work in the night before Christmas Eve and
are then given to five orphans as a Christmas gift from the cobbler.
C) "The Singing Bone" – the original version (KHM 28) tells of two brothers
who fight a wild boar. One kills the boar and in turn is killed by his
brother in a fit of greed and vanity. When this gets out through a "singing
bone", which has emerged from the bones of the dead brother, the murderer is
sewn into a sack and drowned as punishment. The film, by contrast, tells of
a knight and his servant who both fight a dragon. Here the servant is killed
by the knight, driven by the same motives. In the film, the truth also comes
to light through the singing bone. The film-makers now delete a further
cruelty to the tale. The singing bone falls to the ground, from which the
murdered servant springs and comes back to life. The knight is no longer
sewn into a sack and drowned, but must serve his own former servant, now
`Sir Hans the Dragonkiller´, for evermore.
It must be added here that fairy tales belong to a literary genre in which
miracles are a given. They are freely invented, and their plots are set in
neither a fixed time nor place.
During his lifetime, Wilhelm Grimm changed the details of his stories here
and there in an attempt to remove a little of the cruelty and sexual
innuendo from them. Nevertheless, the violence in his tales was, and
In terms of typical Cinerama effects, the film keeps within limits. It is
above all in "The Dancing Princess", with its hectic carriage ride down
tortuous forest paths, where all the usual Cinerama widescreen camera tricks
are used in order to keep the audience truly captivated. There is also an
impressive effect in "The Singing Bone" sequence, in which Buddy Hackett
swings back and forth, to dizzying effect, on a rope over the cave occupied
by the dragon. In the fairy tale sequence "The Cobbler and the Elves", the
close-ups of the sweet elves have quite the opposite effect. Close-ups were
always a problem for Cinerama.
Raymond Durgnat wrote in his August 1963 film review of "Brothers Grimm" for
the English trade magazine "Films and Filming": "Cinerama visuals sustain a
mild interest … I´ve never known the Cinerama screen to seem so small …
people take their sense of screen size from the size of the human beings on
the screen, and Cinerama close-ups diminish Cinerama."
Sol A. Schwartz, President of RKO Pictures, once said about Cinerama: "I,
too, am enthusiastic about Cinerama, but I am not quite sure yet how
Cinerama can be adapted for dramatic material and how you can launch
intimate plays, considering the oversize screen."
The 3-strip Cinerama era came with the two films "How the West Was Won" and
"The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" to an end. Audiences favoured
the great Western film with its adventurous plot and impressive panoramic
images (open vistas). "Brothers Grimm" is more an intimate, pleasant story.
Gene Warren from Project Unlimited said in an interview (written in the
article "Puppetoons in Three Panels"): "Grimm would have been much more
dynamic had it been done in a single frame. We would have timed it
differently, and shot it differently. I think it was an unfavourable mix of
film format and subject."
Original Cinerama was eventually ditched in favor of 70mm.
3-strip Cinerama made both filming and projection too complicated and too
expensive for it to survive. Film-makers switched to 70mm film with its
6-Channel Magnetic Surround Sound printed on the film, using a special
projection lens in order to achieve at least a similar if not quite so
powerful effect (however without seams) on the big deeply curved Cinerama
This was also called Cinerama, which in comparison to the 3-strip system
with its special SEP MAG (Separated Magnetic) 7-Channel Surround Sound was
of course not entirely accurate.
I will soon find myself in the "bonus section" of my life – but I can report
with a certain sense of pride that I had watched "The Wonderful World of the
Brothers Grimm" at the age of 12 in 3-strip Cinerama at Hamburg's impressive
"Grindel-Filmtheater". More information about the film can be found in the
and, of course, in the numerous web-links.
A Plaque and the Family Plot of the Grimms
Berlin Memorial Plaque, and above right side: The house "Huth" with the
plaque below left. In the image below you can see the Family Plot of the
Grimms – now new with Auguste's grave leftmost. (All photos are taken by the
The plaque is mounted on the back of the listed house (Weinhaus /
Winehouse) "Huth" which is located on the "Alte Potsdamer Straße No. 5" –
near "Potsdamer Platz". The final resting place of the two famous Germans is
at the cemetery "Alter St. Matthäus-Friedhof" (Old St. Matthew's Cemetery)
located in Berlin-Schöneberg.
On the plaque, made by the Royal Porcelain Factory (KPM) in Berlin, is
written following text: "BERLIN MEMORIAL PLAQUE – here, opposite, in the
house Linkestraße 7, lived and worked the Brothers Grimm from 1847 until
their death. Both were among the pioneers of a united German Nation. Their
life's works include the German dictionary and the publication of the famous
Children's and Household Tales. The Brothers Grimm are regarded as the
founders of modern German language and literature."
The cemetery "Alter St. Matthäus-Friedhof" (Old St. Matthew's Cemetery) is
one of Berlin's most important cemeteries in terms of art history and urban
history and is celebrating this year its 160th Anniversary. These five
stones mark the graves of the Grimms – an honor burial place of the city of
The family plot – from left to right:
A.) Finally, after 97 years, Auguste Grimm, Wilhelm's daughter, born on 21
August 1832, died on 09 February 1919, has now been given an own grave
(inaugurated in June 2016). Previously, in 1919, her urn had been buried in
Wilhelm's grave – however without any inscription about her on Wilhelm's
B.) Herman Grimm, Wilhelm's son, born on 06 January 1828, died on 16 June
1901, "Lux Aeterna Luceat Eis" (may light eternal shine upon them),
C.) Rudolf Grimm, Wilhelm's son, born on 31 March 1830, died on 13 November
1889, "Beati Mundo Corde" (blessed are the pure in heart),
D.) Wilhelm Grimm, born on 24 February 1786, died on 16 December 1859,
E.) Jacob Grimm, born on 04 January 1785, died on 20 September 1863.
Wilhelm's wife, Henriette Dorothea "Dortchen" Grimm (née Wild), born on 23
May 1793, died on 22 August 1867, was buried at the "Alter Friedhof" (Old
Cemetery) in Eisenach. The tomb was costly restored in 2009 / 2010.
|Go: back - top - back issues - news index