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Cue Lowell Thomas
It may be difficult to imagine now, with so many talking heads clamoring for our attention, but once the voice of Lowell Thomas was the single most famous in the world. He was the country’s second news commentator. His radio and television career lasted 28 years including his long service as the voice of Fox Movietone Newsreels.
A constant traveler with an insatiable curiosity to see new places and people, he was raised in the gold fields of Colorado where his father was a surgeon. The endless parade of prospectors, saloons and cathouses sowed the seeds of his love of the colorful. He would become famous for his egalitarian courtesy, and counted among his friends everyone from the Dalai Lama to the doorman of his Manhattan apartment building. One of his most important friendships was with T. E. Lawrence, the Englishman who fought so hard for Arab independence during WWI. Thomas discovered him by chance while on a trip to Egypt and recognized instantly a great story. He single-handedly built Lawrence into one of the 20 th century’s great icons with his book and lecture series. Without Lowell Thomas, Lawrence of Arabia would have been but a footnote in history.
Lowell Thomas knew both Hazard Reeves and Fred Waller and had produced a Broadway show with Mike Todd. There are various
versions of which got the other to join Cinerama. Upon seeing the Cinerama demo for the first time, Thomas knew that this could provide him a success even bigger than Lawrence had been.
Todd, dissatisfied with the 16mm he’d used at a recent show at Madison Square Garden, called it “the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. We must get control of it,” and came onboard as producer.
When the Lowell Thomas prestige attracted new financing, Mike Todd had his son reshoot the roller coaster in color, then took off for Europe with a small crew. Todd had charmed the IA into granting “experimental” status to the project, freeing it from all union requirements.

cinema technology - december 2002 page 33


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Copyright ©2002 Greg Kimble, HTML Transcription Copyright ©2003 The American WideScreen Museum