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Cinerama Afterglow
A Get Together in Dayton, OH

This article first appeared in
..in 70mm
The 70mm Newsletter

Written by: David Page, Bristol, England. Pictures by: Thomas Hauerslev Issue 49 - June 1997
The Trollers and the Marshes, outside the New Neon in Dayton Ohio. USA. Left to right: Beatrice Troller, John Marsh, Betty Marsh York and Fred Troller. Image by Thomas Hauerslev

Here's another of those 'reports about my holiday' articles. Well, actually, the original idea was to have written about 2 holidays. One was to have been about the visit I made to Bradford (that's in England, for those dear readers from outside our green and pleasant land...) around the middle of March last - particularly to the widescreen weekend during the Bradford Film Festival - and the other report was to be about a 'Cinerama' weekend in Dayton, Ohio.
 

Further in 70mm reading:

in70mm.com's Cinerama page

Time Travel

A Cinerama Holiday

Historical Wide Screen Gathering

This is Oyster Bay

Internet link:


Fred Troller Design

Troller RIT
 

Director of "Cinerama Holiday", Louis de Rochemont III

Unfortunately, I have decided not to write about the 5 days I spent around the Pictureville cinema in Bradford, because almost all of the screenings and/or events I went to turned out to be disasters - to a greater or lesser extent. The one exception was a free showing of the 1958 film "Windjammer". Free, because the print was pink and the organizers felt unable to charge an admission price for it. The film itself, rarely seen for over 30 years, was a treat. Apart from the obvious loss of color, nothing detracted from the fascination of watching a film that many would have thought lost. Albeit with a German soundtrack, the film still managed to weave a magic that drew the viewer in to the fascinating (and occasionally hilariously 'staged' ) life as the young crew sailed from port to port in true 3-strip travelogue fashion. 40 years on and unbearably funny now in parts, it was wonderful to have had the opportunity to see this little known film. Thanks to Willem Bouwmeester for this and his other Cinerama acquisition, "How the West Was Won", now lodged at Bradford.
 
 
Head of the New Neon Movies in Dayton, Ohio, Mr. Larry Smith, alias "Hamlet - note the beard.

Let's move on to Dayton, Ohio. The main point of visiting Dayton, the New Neon cinema, Larry Smith and John Harvey was to be part of the special "Cinerama Holiday grand slam reunion" that Larry and John (and Willem Bouwmeester, Editor.) had cooked up. That was to be on the 27th of April. First, though, a friend of mine and I flew to Cincinnati on Friday the 18th and checked in to our hotel some 25 miles north of Cincinnati and just 3 miles from Paramounts Kings Island theme park. It was the first weekend of their season and I had never been before. I wanted to ride some rollercoasters - as most sane and sensible people do! I did just that, of course, although my friend could only manage one (cue sound of large feathered bird, laying an egg!!).

Having spent Saturday and Sunday in the park, we decided to visit Dayton on the Monday and check out just where the New Neon cinema was. Well, we didn't want to get lost later in the week, did we? It proved easy enough to find. Until recently, it was an art house cinema. Quite small from the outside and unfortunately almost dwarfed by a vast concrete car park. No matter, we were not there for the exterior view. We took a few photos outside and peered in through the windows. Inside, the walls were covered with letters, photos and posters. T shirts, sweatshirts and other merchandise could be seen hanging around ready to be snapped up by eager fans. Suddenly, through the paraphernalia, I glimpsed someone. "Good God", I exclaimed, "It's Kenneth Branagh!". Could it be?. Was it Him?.....
 
 
Guests from Europe, Barrie Pick (l) and David Page (r) and Leonard Maltin in the middle.

Well, no. It was a trick of the light. The figure that came to the door and bade us welcome was none other that 'mine host', Larry Smith. The hair; the tache; the goatee beard, all part of Larry's enthusiasm for his forthcoming attraction in 70mm. What film was that?. Well, you'll just have to work that out for yourselves!!.

We had arrived in the middle of a press show for "Hamlet" (Damn, I've given you the answer now!). Nonetheless, Larry showed us around the cinema, as our arrival had coincided with the films intermission. It was a small auditorium, seating around 250(?). Part of the ceiling had been removed to give maximum height to the screen and a couple of rows of seats had also been taken away at the front. The screen itself - 48ft X 18ft and with a proper 146 degree curve is smaller than the screen at Bradford but the effect is so much more dramatic due to the ratio of screen size to the interior. There is no stage at the front and the screen fills the whole of the end wall. The bottom of the screen seemed to come down to seat level and the 2 sides extend out almost to the front row. It reminded me, in a smaller way, of the Casino Cinerama in London.
 
 
"Hamlet" in 70mm and the 20 (twenty) transportation boxes

After the free show, we left New Neon, having secured our tickets for the weekend ahead (now 3 days of 3-strip and surprises, Friday 25th to Sunday 27th) and went off to see Imax at the Air Force museum in Dayton.

The rest of the week was spent meeting friends, shopping, visiting the zoo, more shopping, eating, eating and eating. Barrie, the friend I was with, wanted to make his usual purchase of some Levi's. "34 waist, 32 leg", he demanded. However, his lengthy perambulations to and from the fitting rooms ended in tears. "I'm not coming back to this country", he exclaimed. "There's too much food!". It transpired that he could no longer get into a 34 inch waist and had to buy 36 instead. He was not a happy man!!
 
 
Louis de Rochemont and Larry Smith

Back to New Neon and the weekend we had been eagerly awaiting. The program turned out to be bigger, better and with more surprises than anyone could have imagined. Let me detail the 3 day program briefly:

Fri Apr 25th: "This is Cinerama". Plus, in the intermission, a 3 strip trailer for "Brothers Grimm" and "How The West Was Won". Also a very rare showing of the only commercial ever made in 3 strip - the Renault car commercial (with a Dutch soundtrack).

Sat Apr 26th: "How The West Was Won". Plus, in the intermission another rare showing. This time a 20 minute 'breakdown/emergency' reel made by Lowell Thomas for "Seven Wonders of the World" and intended - like all the 'breakdown reels - to be shown when things went wrong!.
 
 
John Marsh & Betty Marsh York and Louis de Rochemont

Sun Apr 27th: "Cinerama Holiday". This performance would see "in person" appearances by the 2 couples who starred in the 1955 film - the Marshes and the Trollers. In the intermission, another rare treat. The breakdown/ emergency reel that was made for "Cinerama Holiday" by the two couples, but which none of them had ever seen.

All of the above would have been plenty for any buff. However, there were to be more surprises and delights in store. First of all, Leonard Maltin, respected American film critic and writer, would be present on all 3 days. Over the period, he signed copies of books, gave interviews, and chatted with everyone. On the Saturday and Sunday we were joined by none other than Louis de Rochemont III. A most charming man, still working in the media and still willing (from my conversations with him, given good notice) to visit Bradford to see "Windjammer". Gunther Jung was there the whole weekend. A former Cinerama employee, Gunther was giving invaluable help to his friend John Harvey. AND...immediately prior to the Friday performance of "This is Cinerama", Larry Smith announced that in the audience, specially to see the breakdown reel made by Lowell Thomas, was......Mrs. Lowell Thomas!

On top of this, of course, was the undoubted star of the weekend; Mr. John Harvey. A gentleman, if ever I met one. Quietly working very hard in the background and obviously loving every moment of it. It was Larry Smith who made the comment to me that the New Neon cinema is but an extension of John's living room!. That just about summed up the atmosphere for the whole weekend. Friendly, relaxed and everyone enjoying everyone else's company. John was, as you would expect, often the center of attention and he was always willing to spare the time to share his great knowledge and experiences with us all.
 
 
Fred and Beatrice Troller, Willem Bouwmeester and John Harvey.

Press and TV were on hand most days to help record a unique event. People with cameras and tape recorders seemed to be everywhere. At one point, Larry Smith directed the Dayton News reporter towards us ("these guys have come all the way from England") and so it came to be that I got quoted in that most famous journal for all the world to see. Unfortunately, so did my age!! Oh well, I had to admit to being 35 some time!

One highlight that must be mentioned, came early on in the weekend. Larry Smith invited Leonard Maltin to make a presentation to John Harvey. Apparently, the Mayor of Dayton had declared that John should be recognized for the work he had done and the contribution he had made to the city. The Mayors proclamation, was that April 25th will "henceforth be known as John Harvey day". A tribute to John's work that was an honor to witness.
 
 
John Harvey (right) and Gunther Young rewinding Cinerama Film. Image by Thomas Hauerslev.

It would take a lot of column inches to review every film. The three main features, however, were center stage. Apart from anything else, the quality of the prints were outstanding. I had only ever seen (recently) Bradfords print of "This is Cinerama" and so it was a pleasant shock to view John Harvey's print. It was like seeing it afresh. Clear, bright colors and panels that match. It also remains mercifully free from damage. Also, John understands very well the enormous importance of grabbing the audience from the very second that the (now famous) words "Ladies and gentlemen, This is Cinerama", are spoken by Lowell Thomas. This is something that Bradford has yet to comprehend. Here, in Dayton, at the exact instant and a split second after Lowell Thomas had uttered those words - and before the curtain had even thought of moving - that huge image fills the entire area; the brief piece of music comes in with a bang and the audience is swept up in one of the cinemas most famous moments. Wonderful.

John's print of "How The West Was Won" is in similarly superb condition. My only continued grumble about one of my favorite 3 strip films, is the occasional and intrusive use of 70mm; and the use of some footage from "Raintree County" during the civil war sequence. Even with these slight misfires, the film remains as good to look at today as it always was. All the ingredients are there for a great Cinerama film: action, heart, grandeur, music and some humor.
 
 
John Marsh and Betty York Marsh being interviewed by local television.

The "Cinerama Holiday" print has lost the majority of yellow and blue, so John's print - like the "Windjammer" print at Bradford - is quite pink. No matter, this second Cinerama film (1955) made greater use of camera movement and better editing to (almost) tell a story. Particularly outstanding moments included the scenes in New Orleans, where there were some incredible close ups in the nightclub sequence and sound that traveled around you in dramatic fashion when a jazz band walks around the streets and past the camera after a funeral service. Of course, the screen really comes to life , as in all Cinerama films, when the camera is in moving forward and here, the toboggan run, New York fire engines and jet fighter/aircraft carrier sequences work very well.
 
 
In between were the other trailers and extras. The Renault commercial had - rather surprisingly - no forward motion in it, but relied more on sound for effect. I had never seen this film and so, I suspect, have few others. The 2 emergency/breakdown reels were a real hoot. Unintentionally funny due more to the fact of their age, but also due to the 'scripts'. These were absolute treasures and I hope I can get to see them again. The 3 strip trailer for "Brothers Grimm" was astonishing for one thing. Taking all the best bits (the only bits?!) and making the film look as if it was worth seeing.

In between each act were long intervals, so everyone had some time to talk to someone. After each film, there was as much time as was wanted to hang around and buy more pens, caps, T-shirt's, photos, brochures etc., or just to talk, listen or observe. If there was profit made from the commercial side of New Neon, then that's great, because I understand that Larry has plans to renew the soundtracks for some of the films.
 
 
David Page, Barrie Pick, Dennis Furbush, Willem Bouwmeester, Gunther Jung, John Harvey, David Joachim and Thomas "Mr. 70mm" Hauerslev taking the picture

The 3 days ended with a party of us - John Harvey, Willem Bouwmeester, Gunther Jung, Barrie Pick (not him again??!!), Bill Murray (Century V11 Productions), Dennis Furbush, David Joachim (Eyewitness News), and Thomas "Mr. 70mm" Hauerslev spending a couple of hours in the local diner. What did we talk about? What do you think we talked about!?

Barrie and I left the US a couple of days later. Unwilling to go, but happy. Thank you to all those we met. Thank you to Larry and his staff at New Neon - may you long continue to be there, 'cos I'll be back. Thank you to John and Betty; Fred and Beatrice (and their families) for being there. Thank you to Louis. I hope we meet again real soon. Finally - because you always leave the best till last - thank you John Harvey. Words here are inadequate, so just 'thank you' will do.

Finally, I'll leave the last words with Leonard Maltin. He is reported to have said, several days after arriving home from his 3 days at New Neon, "I'm still in Cinerama afterglow!". Well, I know what you mean, Leonard. I know exactly what you mean.
 
 
   
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Updated 17-12-17