Henri Chretien and his "Cinerama" at the Expo 1937, Paris
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The 70mm Newsletter
|Written by: Alain
photo was taken from the book "3-D KINEMATOGRAPHY AND NEW SCREEN TECHNIQUES
from Adrian Cornwell-Clyne 1952 and the photo itself is from Jean Vivie|
Professor Henri Chretien, born in 1879 (Paris) is well known for his
telescopes as well as the Hypergonar lenses for anamorphic movies.
In December of 1952, 20th Century Fox Studios acquired this device and
created the name of "CinemaScope" (so called: "Poor Mans Cinerama").
However many years before a few anamorphic movies had been produced with
this Hypergonar lens in France. And, at the EXPO 1937-Paris,
Henri Chretien presented two movies with a similar concept to Cinerama
More in 70mm reading:|
A History of Widescreen
and Wide-Film Projection Processes
On the Trail of
The Trail Of The CinemaScope
I - A short history of the Anamorphic lens
Henri Chretien did not actually invent the Anamorphic lens but improved it
for cinematographic uses under the name of: Hypergonar.
In 1862, Sir David Brewster (from Scotland) did patent this anamorphic
In 1890, professor Ernst Abbe and the Zeiss Co. laboratory (Germany) developed a lens
with two cylindrical devices and gave it the name: "Anamorphot" with an aspect ratio of 2.50:1.
Using this lens a few French movies
were produced in the 50's under the name of: "Cinepanoramic". The first short movie
in this process was: "Marseilles"
shown at the Gaumont Palace (Paris) in
January 1954. The second short was: "Le French Can Can du Moulin Rouge" (Can
Can From Moulin Rouge), also shown at the
Gaumont Palace and Marignan (Paris). Those two shorts were with Stereo sound.|
In 1926, Henri Chretien patented the name of "Hypergonar", anamorphic lens
which, for film uses resulted in an aspect ratio of 2.66:1. Later this ratio
would be reduced
to 2.55:1 and 2.35:1 to accommodate the magnetic soundtracks and then the
addition of the optical track. The name of Anamorphoscope was also used by Henri Chretien.
In 1930, Dr Sidney H. Newcomer (U.S) also designed an anamorphic lens sold by
C. P. Goerz-American Optical Company under the name of
Cine-Panor for 16mm use.
In 1935, Paramount took an option on the Hypergonar but did not
pursue the use of it. Actually Hollywood and the public did not take any
interest until Cinerama came out on September 30th 1952.
Cretien is demonstrating his lens to 20th Century Fox management in Paris.
Image from 20th Century Fox|
December 18th 1952, 20th Century Fox (after witnessing the Cinerama
effect) bought the Hypergonar and took Jack Warner completely by
surprise as he fails to renew his option for this lens by one day! The
name of CinemaScope was given and the first two presentations were: "Aloha-Nui" (short documentary shot in Vistarama but similar to
CinemaScope) and "The Robe" (Premiered at the Roxy theatre, N.Y, September 16th 1953).
The lenses were manufactured by Bausch & Lomb.
MGM would be using for a while an anamorphic lens with a prismatic device
instead of cylindrical: the Gottschalk lens, which will be called later Panatar and then Panavision.
In 1967 20th Century Fox switched from CinemaScope lens to
as well, offering better performances.
II - Scope movies in Hypergonar before the Expo 1937
Cretien's Memorial in Paris, France. Image by Mario Beguiristain|
At the Opera (Paris) on April 7th 1927 took place the premiere of "Napoleon"
from Abel Gance. Henri Chretien was there and very impressed
by the three screen conclusion, in a process named Polyvision. He thought that Hypergonar was the answer to the
Polyvision complexity. At this premiere were also attending
George Melies and Nicolas Reisini who later will become the president of
In December 1929 the first anamorphic silent French movie: "La vie Merveilleuse de Jeanne d'Arc,
Fille de Lorraine" ("Saint Joan the Maid") was
directed by Marco De Gastyne (France) and produced by Pathe-Natan with a
duration of 125 minutes. Some sequences
were in widescreen with the original ratio of 2.66;1. Unfortunately this
movie is lost.
In December 1930, the second silent French movie: "Construire un Feu" ("To
Build a Fire") directed by Claude Autant Lara. Here there are
horizontal as well as vertical anamorphic pictures but on different reels, so
the projectors were fitted with the appropriate lenses. Also there were
some multi screens sequences but on standard 35mm film at the ratio of
1.33:1.This silent film was shown at the Studio de Paris with little
In 1931 came a documentary of 21 minutes: "Une Visite aux Merveilles de
l'Exposition Coloniale Internationale" (Paris-1931) (A Visit to the
International Colonial Exhibition). Film directed by Benoit and Pierre Levent. This film was composed of standard images as well as horizontal and
vertical anamorphic ones but all on the same reels. So the projectionist had
to move a sliding device to three positions:
vertical compression - standard (with just a filter to get the same
luminosity) - horizontal compression.
To make the transition easier the film
edited in such a way there was always a standard format sequence between the
In 1931 another French movie: "La Femme et le Rossignol " ("The
the Nightingale"), directed by Andre Hugon, (102 minutes) had
the unusual practice to be photographed with two separate cameras: one for standard
format and one for the scope one. This practice was repeated two times
later for "Oklahoma!" (Todd-AO at 30fr/sec and CinemaScope
at 24 fr/sec) and
World in Eighty Days" (Todd-AO at 30 fr/sec and Todd-AO at 24fr/sec).
What was happening in 1937 is explained in the next chapter.
In 1949, a short movie called in English "Launching of the Saint Clair vessel
at La Ciotat shipyard" (France), was sponsored by
La Ciotat shipyard. [By the way this French little town near Marseilles and
not far from Nice (where Henri Chretien was working) called
La Ciotat has the world's oldest cinema called: Eden. This Eden theatre did
operate from March 21st 1899 until now and is presently under renovation in
order to be fully operational again. In 1951.Henri Chretien might have
conducted some tests with his Hypergonar ,to be shown at the Congres
Technique International of Turin (Italy).
III - Henri Chretien makes his 2-strip Cinerama at the Expo 1937
For the Expo 1937 taking place in Paris, the front
facade of the building:
Palace of Light was equipped with a huge outdoor screen, slightly
concave 60m wide by 10m high (600 m2). This screen could be seen by 4000
spectators and Henri Chretien would have said:|
"Ladies and Gentlemen this is Hypergonar Widescreen:
This screen was receiving the projection from two half pictures (anamorphic
35mm) coming from two synchronised projectors. The picture framing
was composed to have an aspect ratio of 3.00:1.so the complete picture on
the screen was 6.00:1.
Actually there were three projectors (Simplex) working the following way: the
right projector was showing the left picture. The central projector
was playing the soundtrack . The left projector was showing the right
picture. The central projector was mechanically interlinking the left and
projectors in order to synchronised the sound and the two half films. During
the photography the two cameras had also been synchronised by an electric motor.
The two "projecting projectors" were consuming 250 Amp at a voltage of 70
Volt each and the distance between the projection booth and the
screen was 60 M. The lenses were of the type "Ultimatum" from Taylor Hobson
with an aperture of f/2 and at the front was the Hypergonar.
In order to smooth the vertical junction of the two pictures, two external
vibrating Gigolos were mounted one metre in front of the projectors and
adjusted manually by means of micrometer screws.
The soundtrack played by the central projector was using a Thomson Sound
Two films were presented this way like a "junior" Cinerama, two panels
wide and not yet three panels wide!
"Phenomenes Electriques" ("Electric Phenomenon")
Cartoon in Technicolor from Paul Grimault (France) and music from Jean
Wiener with a duration of 6 minutes. This film was sponsored by CPDE
(Compagnie Parisienne de Distribution Electrique)
"Panoramas au fil de l'Eau" ("Panoramas Along the River")
Film from Jean Tedesco (France) also sponsored by the CPDE. The duration was
11 Minutes 30 seconds.
This show with those two films were projected every day of the exhibition
from 9.39 AM (daylight projection) until midnight.
IV - Other Split-picture Processes
Many articles have been written already. Here is just a
1922 - Widescope
1926 - Widevision
1927 - Polyvision
1956 - Smith Carney
1956 - Aviorama (could have been the inspiration for the Imax Magic Carpet)
1959 - Arc 120
in the 80'S - Septorama and Ultra Toruscope. The Circular Processes are not shown here above
V- The Cinerama Equations
To add a pinch of fantasy, we could not resist to give you here under some
"Cinerama" equations from the imagination of the author.|
The Fred Waller Equation (FW) 11V + 5G = 3C
11 V : Vitarama with 11 projectors (16mm) supposedly shown (or not at the Expo) 1939
5 G : Gunnery Trainer with 5 projectors (35mm) first used at Pearl Harbour
in December 1941
3 C : 3-strip Cinerama premiering on September 30th 1952
The Henri Chretien Equation (HC) 2W + 3P = 2H
2 W : Widescope with 2 projectors in 1922 (from John.D.Elms and George
3 P : Polyvision with 3 projectors in 1927 (from Abel Gance).Ratio: 2.99:1
2H : Panoramic/junior cinerama in 1937 (from Henri Chretien) at the Expo
The George .W. Bingham / John.D.Elms Equation (B.E) 3C + 2W = 1NV
3 C : Initial Widescope with 3 cameras 35mm in 1918
2 W : Simplified Widescope with one camera and 2 lenses on top of each
other/2 films 35mm in 1922
1NV: Final camera using 57mm film with 2 half pictures under the name of
Widevision. Only one movie shown
to the public on November 9th 1926 at the Cameo theatre N.Y with the title:
"Natural Vision Pictures".
A complete listing of Henri Chretien works in various kind of fields
CATAPHOTE: reflector used for bicycles and others|
TELESCOPE using hyperbolic mirrors in association with GW. RITCHEY. By the
way the Hubble Space telescope was based upon this concept
Proposal to put side by side the 3 images for colour movies with
horizontal compression on 35mm film. Not yet with the Hypergonar
Similar proposal for 3D movies
Increasing of film stock sensitivity for colour process
Optical printer for combination of multiple images
Anamorphic lens for the turret of army tanks
After seeing Abel Gance's "Napoleon" in 1927, Henri Chretien did
improve the anamorphic lenses by Abbe and Rudolph (Germany) and named it
Proposal of projection screen in the shape of a cross in order to show
movies with Horizontal and Vertical anamorphic images
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