Keith Swadkins Passed Away
04.10.1938 - 19.04.2017
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The 70mm Newsletter
|Written by: Bill Lawrence||Date: 28..04.2017|
|Mr. Keith Swadkins in March 2003 in Bradford. Picture by Thomas Hauerslev.|
It is with sadness that we received the news that Keith Swadkins had passed away. Keith had long been a great champion of Cinerama, passionate fan of the format and films, and a friend to fellow enthusiasts around the world. Many will have met and developed a friendship with him at the Widescreen Weekend in Bradford each year, as Keith and his wife Brenda turned up to renew old acquaintances and impress newcomers with his knowledge.
I first got to know Keith when I started work at the National Museum of Photography Film & Television and we were still 18 months away from starting screenings of "This is Cinerama" on three-strip and on a louvred screen. This was a culmination of Keith’s energy and doggedness in pursuing the revival of the greatest 1950s widescreen format.
It was in October 1985, in Christchurch, New Zealand, a group of movie enthusiasts got together and formed the International Cinerama Society. Keith took on the task virtually single-handedly to search out all the remaining films, information, personal and equipment that still remained. It was rapidly disappearing. This was not a simple task, there were no Google searches, no internet even. In fact, Keith never engaged with the internet or email and remained a pen, paper and stamp man to the very end. He became the clearing house of information from every corner of the globe as it came into him by post. Keeping everyone up to date he developed the Cinerama newsletter that he typed, edited, posted to similarly minded enthusiasts.
The International Cinerama Society
• Go to Newsletters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 & 22.
• Go to Cinerama Theatres: TICS's List, issue #18
• Go to PDF: Swadkins' Home Cinema, 1985
So when the Museum was building a new cinema and the suggestion was made, why not install Cinerama, it was a film museum after all, then Keith was the man to advise. In June 1993, Keith saw his dream, as Lowell Thomas uttered the magic words, “Ladies and gentleman, This is Cinerama …”, the curtains opened and the audience plummeted into a roller-coaster ride.
|More in 70mm reading:|
Speech for Keith Swadkins 2003
Movies Are Never What They Seem
To Split or not to Split ... That is the Hollywood Question!
The Passing of Doris Waller
The Passing of Howard Rust
Widescreen Weekend, Bradford, England
• Keith at BBC
• Keith at BBC
• Opening of Cinerama at Pictureville
|Mr. Keith Swadkins accepting the 2003 Academy of the Widescreen Weekend certificate from fellow academy members John Belton, Howard Rust and Thomas Hauerslev. Picture by Paul Rayton.|
But this was not the end for Keith’s ambitions and dreams. While a regular visitor to the Museum to watch "This is Cinerama", the interest in the form was still building and screenings where being talked about at the Cinerama Dome and a new revived Cinerama theatre in Seattle. Memories were being stirred in the States and Dave Strohmaier and Randy Gitsch were planning their "Cinerama Adventure" documentary on the history of the format. Again Keith was the man to turn to and he became major advisor on the film. Dave Strohmaier says,
“He always encouraged me personally to keep moving forward on Cinerama Adventure documentary project - which eventually would lead to the restoration of all the films he loved so much.”
Indeed without Keith, how much of the Widescreen Weekend, or the great archive of knowledge and memory of Cinerama, or the films that so many have seen restored in cinemas across the world (admittedly not all in the 3 strip), of the sheer joy people have had in just talking about Cinerama in the past 30 years would have been lost? The contribution he made is immeasurable.
It was not difficult to honour Keith, in 2003, with admission to the Academy of the Widescreen Weekend. It’s arguable he should have been the first, but there were logistical issues in setting up the Academy, and opportunities with overseas visitors that were taken. Given it was the UK, then Keith should have been the first, for many he was the first champion of Cinerama.
Keith leaves his wife, Brenda (who many will remember from the WSW) and his four daughters Vreli, Heather, Dawn and Samantha.
Thanks from the family
|Keith Swadkins with friends in Bradford.|
I just wanted to drop you a line to thank you for all your help and support after dad's passing.
The tributes and cards have been overwhelming and his funeral was just as he would have liked it with the final curtain closing to the Cinerama exit music, thank you Bill.
On the day there was a great turn out and sadly we didn't get to meet and thank everyone because there was limited time at the chapel and many of his colleagues didn't join us at the wake afterwards. Please could you pass on the family's gratitude to all who were with us in either body or spirit and we hope to have the opportunity to share stories with you all in Bradford in October.
We are all doing OK and appreciated the links that you have also forwarded to us. In the weeks to come we will enjoy watching and reading them.
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