Gottschalk and Wallin incorporated such devices
into their anamorphic lenses and linked them to the focus ring,
so that as the distance and focus setting were changed, the prisms
would rotate, adjusting the degree of anamorphic squeeze to suit
the focus distance. It is said that when Gottschalk first demonstrated
his anamorphic lenses at a special screening for senior MGM executives,
the entire audience stood and applauded at the end of the screening.
Gottschalk patented this device and kept it secret for as long
as the patents lasted.
There were many others from all over the world
who aspired to manufacture anamorphic lenses, most of them using
a fairly simple cylindrical lens made by a small manufacturer in
Japan. Put behind an off-the-shelf 10:1 zoom lens, they didn't
look too bad - it was probably the failings of the zoom lens that
hid the shortcomings of the rear anamorphoser. Put behind a good
prime lens, they weren't too good.
Few attempted to design and manufacture a fixed-focal-length
lens with a cylindrical front anamorphic element. It was the battle
between Fox and Panavision for the domination of the anamorphic-lens
market that was the most bitter and hard fought.
Fox became very upset when Panavision took out
full-page advertisements in the leading trade papers showing a
fat-faced actress photographed, it said, with an "ordinary" anamorphic
lens, next to a glamorous picture of the same actress that was "photographed
with a Panavision anamorphic lens." Panavision engineers also
gave hard and gritty lectures and demonstrations at the ASC and
at SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) conferences.
On more than one occasion, senior Fox executives wrote to the SMPTE
and ASC presidents to complain that Gottschalk "and MGM had
been allowed to use [your] forum to spread damaging propaganda
about CinemaScope." They noted that it was "unfair to
show comparisons of the lenses at close range because that was
not the way CinemaScope lenses were used." In a letter to
the president of the SMPTE, Sol Halperin, ASC, head of the camera
department at Fox, wrote that CinemaScope lenses had "not
been designed to photograph anything at a distance closer than
seven feet [2.1 meters]."
Actually, it seems as though Fox foresaw that
there would be a problem with close-ups, because in an article
published in the March 1953 issue of American Cinematographer,
while The Robe was still in production, it was noted: "Although
close-ups are reproduced dramatically... few may be needed because
medium shots of actors in groups of three or four show faces so
clearly...." An accompanying illustration showed such a setup.
Eventually, Panavision won out, and the day came
when Fox ordered Panavision anamorphic lenses for a Fox production.
It is an interesting fact that very many years later, after Gottschalk
had died, one of the senior Bausch & Lomb lens designers came
to work at Panavision and was mortified to discover that some of
the "superior" Panavision anamorphic lenses that had
caused his previous employer so much grief were, in fact, Bausch & Lomb
originals that had been remounted, rebarreled and modified with
the addition of Gottschalk's secret astigmatic attachment - and
no one at Bausch & Lomb knew!
In hindsight, Fox's introduction of Cinema-Scope
proved to be every bit as momentous as the introduction of sound,
and the cinema has benefitted from the continued development and
perfection of an imperfect original invention. The fidelity of
the sound in The Jazz Singer (1927) is a long way from the
sound we experience in the cinema today, and so it is with anamorphic
lenses. Chretian, Skouras, Sponable and Gottschalk would not believe
the image quality we see on our screens today.
In 1964, Samuelson Film Service Ltd., owned by
the author and his brothers, became Panavision's sole overseas
representative. Among the early Panavision productions serviced
by the London company were Oliver!, Fiddler on the Roof, Star
Wars and Superman.
The author would like to thank Stephen Huntley
for information culled from Earl Sponable's collected personal
documents on deposit in the Rare Book and Manuscript library of
Columbia University, New York, and published in the Film History
Journal of September 1993. Thanks also to Kevin Brownlow and Photoplay
for the Napoleon pictures.