A Get Together in Dayton, OH
This article first appeared in
The 70mm Newsletter
David Page, Bristol, England. Pictures by: Thomas Hauerslev
Issue 49 - June 1997
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
Historical Wide Screen Gathering
This is Oyster Bay
Fred Troller Design
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.
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?.....
from Europe, Barrie Pick (l) and David Page (r) and Leonard Maltin in the
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.
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!!
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!.
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.
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
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.
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.
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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