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Visit biografmuseet.dk about Danish cinemas


Walter Siegmund remembered
26.08.1925 - 26.06.2012

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Thomas Hauerslev, Mark LyndonDate: 06.07.2012

Karlsruhe 2008

Paul and Walter Siegmund in the Schauburg kino in Karlsruhe, October 2008

It is with great sadness I must report the passing of Walter Siegmund, one of the pioneers and engineers of the Todd-AO process.

Walt's principal tasks were the design of the curved Todd-AO screen and the
Distortion Correcting Printing Process.

I first met Walt in May 1997 during the Historical Wide Screen Gathering in his home in Pomfret, CT, USA. We sat around his kitchen table while Lois, his wife, made sure we had enough to eat. Suddenly Todd-AO history came alive with Brian O'Brien, Jr., Walt, Dick Babsih (Cinerama/Cinemiracle) and Bill Shaw (IMAX) around the table. It was fantastic for me, after reading about it for so many years. Here they all were - the engineers who made the processes!!

Walt was extremely kind and helpful, and always referred the "days of Todd-AO" to be among the happiest days of the working life. Walt had a great sense of humour, and I still hear his laugh when I think about his "Oklahoma!" story and the rectified Todd-AO print, which he seriously wanted to throw into the river from the George Washington Bridge on his way to the Rivoli theatre in New York, since he truly felt the print wasn't really very good.
More in 70mm reading:

Todd-AO Epilouge

Walter P. Siegmund, a small bio

Walter Siegmund Interview

Historical Wide Screen Gathering

Garrett Brown meets Walter Siegmund

How Todd-AO Began

Distortion Correcting Printing Process

Mark III printer principle

Walter Siegmund Obituary (PDF)

Internet link:

Smith & Walker

German Projectionist Forum

Walt talking with Orla Nielsen, Denmark

Walt was very happy to talk about Todd-AO and with the help of Dick Whitney, American Optical Company, we spent a full excursion day at AO in Southbridge, CT., where Todd-AO was developed in 1952 - 1958. It was Walt's first visit since he left the company in the early 1960s. After Walt left AO, he pursued a career in fiber optics where he was a leading engineer with at least 55 patents in his name - including establishing his own company TaperVision.

In June 2002 Walt and Lois visited Copenhagen en-route on a cruise in the Baltic sea. They spent an afternoon in our house, and it gave me the opportunity to interview Walt about "The Early Days of Todd-AO". He enthusiastically related anecdotes, and in the late afternoon I even showed him the 70mm clips he had kindly donated to me. This was the first time he saw "Distortion Corrected" Todd-AO in 50 years. Just imagine his enthusiasm sitting between my model of a screen and the DP70, witnessing that moment! It was THRILLING for me.
Walt talking about the Mark III printer in Karlsruhe

Seeing Todd-AO again on my curved 2-foot screen must have caught Walt's enthusiasm for the old format he co-developed so many years ago. Bill Lawrence and I were delighted that he and Lois accepted our invitation to come to Bradford in 2005 to be with us to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Todd-AO. I proudly interviewed him on stage - but in reality I was only the moderator. Walt didn't need questions, he simply enjoyed talking about the past to the audience - and he did it so well.

I often called Walt, mostly on his birthday, but also on other occasions to talk to him about our mutual interest for the Todd-AO history. He occasionally sent me small bits and pieces of Todd-AO memorabilia from his collection, including the 64 degree lens, a view finder for the Bug-eye lens, optics for the distortion correction printer and various other treasures - which for most people are worthless pieces of iron. But Walt kept it for more than 50 years simply because his loved this story. And now it is safe in Copenhagen.
One of my favorite images of Walt sitting next to the DP70 Todd-AO projector in Karlsruhe

The last time I saw Walt was in 2008 when he enthusiastically accepted Herbert Born's invitation to come to Karlsruhe for the 4th Todd-AO Festival. This time he travelled with his son Paul, and although Walt needed to rest every day, he was with us to give a talk about the Distortion Correcting Printing Process. Uniquely Todd-AO, and almost forgotten today.

Walt was born in Bremen in Germany and was very happy to be back and see Todd-AO for a final time in Germany. He amused his audience by telling the "secret" story of the Todd-AO lenses which were in fact Zeiss lenses re-tooled for the Todd-AO cameras. Only the 128 and 64 degree lenses were made by American Optical. Walt amused everyone of the mainly German audience in the Schauburg cinema by the fact that most of "Oklahoma!" was in fact filmed with German quality lenses. Walt was the star of the weekend, and many guests made him feel very welcome.
Walt and the Todd-AO projector

I will miss Walt, his enthusiasm and sense of humour, and look back at the four times we met in his home, my home, Bradford and Karlsruhe with great affection.

Walt was surely IN THE SHOW WITH TODD-AO!

Thomas Hauerslev, editor in70mm.com
Another happy moment for Walt in Karlsruhe with fans of his work and Todd-AO: Francois Carrin, Robert Valkenburg, Walt, Orla Nielsen, Paul Siegmund, Maria and Thomas Hauerslev


Bradford 2005

Walter Siegmund with Mark Lyndon

I had the enormous good fortune of meeting and spending some very valuable time in the company of Walt Siegmund and his wife Lois back in 2005 at the Widescreen Weekend of the Bradford Film Festival.

In that vintage year, we were all very fortunate to have been educated about his role in the creation of Todd AO. As well as Todd-AO, he was a great pioneering scientist in the field of fibre optics, a technology that has transformed all our lives, as the famous picture of him in Life magazine will testify. I will remember him with great admiration and fondness.

All the best,
Mark Lyndon
I met Walter Siegmund when Lois and he visited the Widescreen Weekend in Bradford. They were a lovely couple and I enjoyed every minute I spent with them. Walter was old school: charming, warm, intelligent, a great and easy communicator. He loved his subject and the worked he had done. With a twinkle in his eye and a passion in his heart he would talk animatedly about optics and film and captivate even those for whom the subject meant little. He gave me a prism that he had developed for reading text as he got older. A small piece of glass, that gives fantastic magnification, held in a beautiful little royal blue pouch with a gold draw-string. It is on my desk now and becomes more useful with each passing year. I always think of Walter with pleasure and great memories and I always will. A great man.

Bill Lawrence,
Halifax, England

Copenhagen 2002


Pomfret 1997

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