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"GONE WITH THE WIND" in 70mm Wide Screen and Stereophonic Sound

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Gerhard Witte, Berlin (Germany) in winter/spring 2021 Date: 11.07.2020
"GONE WITH THE WIND" (USA, 1939) – in 1967, moviegoers had experienced for the very first time all the scenes and the sights of this spectacular love story in 70mm and Stereophonic Sound. (Advert from "Motion Picture Exhibitor" dated 19.10.1966 – in the section: MGM Lion Power! Entertainment Energy for 1966/67)


"Wide Screen" had been The Word back then, and these were typically major films and presented in Cinerama (from 1952), CinemaScope (from 1953), Todd-AO
(from 1955) and other film formats. This had, of course, also "required" the enlargement of the great, epic classic "Gone with the Wind" (USA, 1939) …

Now presented in 70mm Wide Screen, Metrocolor and Stereophonic Sound.

In 1939, David O. Selznick's epic "Gone with the Wind" had been photographed with a bulky Technicolor camera in the old 3-strip method of color photography in which three black-and-white separation 35mm (cellulose-nitrate) negatives were exposed simultaneously behind their respective red, green and blue filters. For the film's new 70mm re-release, they were converted to the vastly larger 70mm negative through the wizardry of technicians at the MGM laboratory in Culver City, Los Angeles (California).
It had been a challenging process on the part of MGM's technicians. For nearly two years, they had toiled on the film's technical re-fit. Placed in charge of the visual and laboratory aspects of the conversion were MGM Laboratories, Inc., General Manager Alan Jackson and Assistant General Manager Walter G. Eggers. Assigned to work miracles in adding stereophonic expansion to the soundtrack were MGM Sound Department Head Frank Milton and his staff of audio-electronic experts.

An important first result of all the time, skill and effort devoted to re-registering the three original black-and-white separation negatives of "Gone with the Wind" had been a 35mm single-strand Eastman Intermediate Positive printed in full color with Eastman dyes. It then served as a basis for the production of the film's new 70mm version.

Of course, throughout the years, considerable wear and tear had accrued to the three original separation negatives, and they were marred by scratches and cinch marks. The material was exposed using the so-called "liquid-gate" printing process in order to suppress the scratches, cinch marks and a little bit the surface grain too. However, more critical had been the fact that all three original negative strips had shrunk at varying degrees, so the registration was significantly off and required a complex re-registration step.
More in 70mm reading:

• All Gone with the Wind releases in the USA until its seventh release in 1967 – now in 70mm!

• Gone with the Wind in 70mm Wide Screen and Stereophonic Sound

Gone with the Wind in 35mm and some of its premieres back then

Grant's Blow-Up Blog

Gerhard Witte's in70mm.com Library

in70mm.com's list of films blown up to 70mm

An announcement advert taken from the trade magazine "Motion Picture Herald".

At the time, the MGM Laboratory had designed a key piece of equipment known as "Metro-movement" – a special projector movement for an optical printing machine, which could be adjusted to accommodate various degrees of shrinkage so that the three negatives were accurately re-registered.

The next major problem, however, was to reconcile the incompatibility of this original frame shape (1.37:1) to the 2.2 to 1 aspect ratio required for 70mm wide screen printing. In converting a 35mm image, which approximated a square, to 70mm, it would be necessary to lop off a portion of the top and bottom of the original picture.

That meant that the composition of every scene as visualized by producer David O. Selznick, as illustrated by William Cameron Menzies, as directed by George Cukor, Victor Fleming and Sam Wood, as captured by cinematographers Ernest Haller, Ray Rennahan (back then cameraman-adviser supplied by Technicolor) and Lee Garmes, would be sacrificed on the altar of size. Lee Garmes had nearly worked two months on the film, after which he had differences of opinion with Selznick and was replaced.

More information on the creation of the film's new 70mm wide screen version and the film's new sound (technicians had isolated portions of the original monaural sound track in order to get a stereophonic rendition) is available in the report's attached PDF file: "Gone with the Wind" in 70mm Wide Screen and Stereophonic Sound (32 pages).

Finally, nearly two years after the passing of the film's producer David O. Selznick in June 1965, and shortly before the passing of Vivien Leigh in July 1967, MGM re-released "Gone with the Wind" for the big-screen era for the first time in Australia in March 1967.
A faded 70mm film snippet of "GWTW" with magnetic sound tracks.

The result was a tribute to the riveting appeal of the story and its stars back then. This new 70mm re-release (in fact a spherical "blow-up") of "Gone with the Wind" continued to attract huge audiences. At the time, the advertising made an unalloyed virtue of the change, trumpeting the expanded scope of the film – and there is no denying that the film had an increased visual impact in this new dimension.

The majority of cinemagoers found the new and bigger movie entertaining and some even overwhelming. In re-release the movie led Variety's list of box-office hits week after week, and the film had been a huge ticket seller back then.

But quite a few people didn't like the visual and aural changes of the film's new 70mm version. They were of the opinion that the changes would harm the film, and I confess that they were not entirely wrong. A lot of critics were not enthusiastic about this new version too. One critic wrote:

"Cropping the film's image in order to get the wide screen ratio has clobbered the film's visual beauty – sometimes less would be better than more, bigger isn't always better!"

My report consists of three PDF files:
A) BONUS PDF file: All Gone with the Wind releases in the USA until its seventh release in 1967 – now in 70mm! – (13 pages)

B) PDF file: Gone with the Wind in 70mm Wide Screen and Stereophonic Sound – (32 pages)

C) BONUS PDF file: Gone with the Wind in 35mm and some of its premieres back then – (24 pages)

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Updated 21-01-24