The Shane Showdown --- Part Two
Another participant in Shane's ratio debate was Bosley Crowther, chief film critic for The New York Times. Crowther filed a 5/3/53 report on the Music Hall's premiere of the film ( ... on a screen of enlarged and slightly altered proportions ..., said Crowther), comparing this event with a preview screening he had earlier attended. The critic minced few words: Let's not be secretive about it: "Shane" on the Music Hall's large screen looks not one whit better to this viewer than it did on the screen of a preview room. For purposes of comparison, we caught the film first in a preview where its handsome display of western drama filled the whole end wall of the small room. And then we saw it in the theatre, where the ratio of the screen was slightly changed --- not quite as tall as usual in proportion to the width --- and we've got to confess the grandeur of it was slighter, if anything.
Crowther went on to address what he called the "critical question": Does the moderate enlargement of the screen and the slight alteration of its aspect ratio really do anything to improve the pictorial magnificence and dramatic qualities of such a fine film as "Shane"? It is the opinion of this viewer, based on studious observation, that it does not. If anything, the fractional narrowing of the shape of the screen cuts it down. It's worth noting again that Bosley Crowther saw both the full-frame and widescreen versions of Shane in 1953 and posted what was, based on his expertise and experience, an informed comparison of the two. His concluding words should be heeded sixty years later as Shane is prepped for Blu-Ray release: Many of its separate compositions are in the up-and-down vertical plane --- just as many are in the horizontal --- so the post-imposed narrowing of the frame detracts just that much from the harmony of the vertical images.
George Stevens stepped to the plate on 5/8/53, speaking to Variety in
|11/21/66 Was The Date. Anyone Have a Transcript?|
I understand now that Woody Allen has spoken to the Shane matter in a letter to Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells, the latter crusading for several weeks in favor of the film's Blu-Ray release in full-frame. Greenbriar is in agreement with Mr. Wells, as well as archivists Bob Furmanek and Robert Harris. The latter two are also on record for Shane in 1.37, and have done research to back their positions. Furmanek and Harris are lifelong historians and gilt-edged reliable. My own past with Shane amounts to stills/ad art collected, and a banged-up 16mm syndication print treasured from summer 1975 for being IB Technicolor, making its wear and splices tolerable. I would sure have hated losing blue skies from that, and like it or no, sky is part (but only part) of what we will lose if Shane goes out in cropped format. Given that outcome, lots will be crying "Come Back, Shane!" to discarded DVD, laser-discs, VHS, and for myself, that worn 16mm having rode off years ago to a collector who's luckier than I'll be once this proposed Blu-Ray comes out.