Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Cinerama, a three-camera widescreen process designed essentially to pry filmgoers away from their TV screens in the early 1950s, was rooted in the "Triptych" process invented by director Abel Gance for his 1927 epic Napoleon. Most American theatre managers of the 1920s couldn't be bothered with the bulky equipment and huge, curved screen necessary for Gance's Triptychs, but by 1953 they were willing to try anything that would improve business. The first Cinerama effort, appropriately titled This is Cinerama, thrilled audiences with its peripheral-vision shots of roller coasters and auto races. The second feature film, Cinerama Holiday was essentially a travelogue. Number three in the Cinerama series, Search for Paradise (1957), was distinguished by its breathtaking aerial and underwater shots. Lowell Thomas narrated the film, while Dmitri Tiomkin supplied most of the stereophonic-sound musical score. In the early 1960s, Cinerama ventured into "story" films with How the West Was Won and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. These were successful financially, but only when the Cinerama people abandoned the three-camera technique (and those irritating "creases" separating the three screens) in favor of a single wide-gauge camera would the process be aesthetically satisfying (vide It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and 2001: A Space Odyssey).