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70 mm Grandeur film, also called Fox Grandeur or Grandeur 70, is a 70mm widescreen film format developed by Fox Film Corporation and used commercially on a small scale in 1929–31.



The 70mm Fox Grandeur cameras were manufactured by Mitchell Camera Corporation, and were based on the Mitchell standard 35mm camera, enlarged to accommodate 70mm 4-perf film. The cameras were designated as Mitchell Model FC cameras, the FC designation most likely standing for Fox-Case, as the technical specifications and orders for the cameras were submitted to Mitchell by the Fox-Case Corporation, pioneers of the Movietone Sound on Film system. The first Fox Grandeur production cameras were delivered to Fox-Case New York in May 1929. An additional four Grandeur cameras were delivered to MGM in 1930, and one additional camera was delivered to Feature Productions, also in 1930.

A small number of shorts and features were produced in 70m wide Fox Grandeur. These included several issues of Fox Movietone News called Fox Grandeur News first shown May 26, 1929. Features shot in Grandeur include Fox Movietone Follies of 1929, the musical Happy Days (1929), directed by Benjamin Stoloff, Song o’ My Heart (1930), a musical feature starring Irish tenor John McCormack and directed by Frank Borzage (Seventh Heaven, A Farewell to Arms), and the Western The Big Trail (1930), directed by Raoul Walsh, in which John Wayne played his first starring role.

Song 'o My Heart was double-shot in both conventional 35mm and Fox Grandeur, with all action and singing performed separately for the two processes. Production began in November 1929, and the 35mm version debuted on March 11, 1930, in New York. The Grandeur version, however, shipped from the labs on March 17, 1930, was never released and may no longer survive, according to film historian Miles Kreuger.[1]

Filming of The Big Trail began in April 1930. The film was shot simultaneously in Grandeur and conventional 35mm movie film. Both versions survive, and differ significantly in composition, staging and editing. When the film was released, the only theaters equipped with the Grandeur projectors and screen were Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles and the Roxy Theatre in New York City.

The Fox Grandeur process was one of a number of widescreen processes which were developed by the major Hollywood studios alongside sound in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Grandeur proved financially unviable for an industry still investing in the switch to talking pictures.[2] Other theatres were resistant making the large investment necessary, and the onset of the Great Depression put paid to the system's prospects.[3] The widescreen aspect ratio did become established by the early-1960s, Fox used the Grandeur name again. A re-release of The King and I was advertised in “Grandeur 70” as a Todd AO compatible 70mm reduction of the original CinemaScope 55 negative.

Unlike the later Todd-AO system (which printed onto 70mm film), Grandeur did not use the same perforations as 35mm film, but instead had larger perforations on a longer pitch of 0.234 inch (5.95mm) compared to the 0.187 inch (4.75mm) pitch used by both 35 mm film and modern 70mm film. Although Grandeur used a four perforation pulldown (i.e. each frame occupied the height equivalent to four perforations on the film) rather than the five of Todd-AO, because of the longer pitch the height of the image, at 0.91 inch (23.1mm), was slightly greater than that of the 0.816 inch (20.73mm) Todd AO image. The image width was 1.84 inch (46.74mm) giving an aspect ratio of 2:1 and providing enough space for a Fox Movietone variable-density optical soundtrack of approximately double the width of that used on a 35mm print.[4]

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  1. ^ [1], where Kreuger lays out an interesting history of early sound film recording techniques, and the audio advantages of Fox Grandeur.
  2. ^ Silver, Charles (August 10, 2010). "Raoul Walsh's The Big Trail". Museum of Modern Art. New York City. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  3. ^ Bandy, Mary Lea; Stoehr, Kevin (2012). Ride, Boldly Ride: The Evolution of the American Western. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press. p. 88.
  4. ^ Lobban, Grant "Preserving Wide Film History", , Journal of the BKSTS, 67:4, April 1985

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