The earliest confirmed 3-D movie ever screened for a paying audience was The Power of Love which premiered September 27, 1922 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. This was the first time that the red/green dual strip projection was used as well as the anaglyph glasses. The film despite the novelty of the 3-D effect failed to capture the interest of theatre owners and exhibitors and was shelved. Unfortunately, all copies of the film have been lost.

Classic Home Toys #22 - The Rebirth of 3-D: Part 2

James Russo

Classic Home Toys Installment #22
The Rebirth of 3-D: Part 2
Early 3-D Movie Systems

Author: James Russo

The earliest confirmed 3-D movie ever screened for a paying audience was The Power of Love which premiered September 27, 1922 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. This was the first time that the red/green dual strip projection was used as well as the anaglyph glasses. The film despite the novelty of the 3-D effect failed to capture the interest of theatre owners and exhibitors and was shelved. Unfortunately, all copies of the film have been lost.

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Despite this setback, the 3-D systems found a home with Laures Hammond (inventor of the Hammond organ) and William F. Cassidy who unveiled the Teleview system in December of 1922. Teleview was the earliest alternate-frame sequencing form of Projection. Through the use of two interlocked projectors, alternating left/right frames were projected one after another in rapid succession. Synchronized viewers attached to the armrests of the seats in the theater open and closed at the same time, and took advantage of the viewer’s persistence of vision, thereby creating a true Stereoscopic image. The only theater known to have installed this system was the Selwyn Theater in New York. Only one show was ever produced for the system, a group of shots and the only Teleview feature The Man From M.A.R.S. (later re-released as Radio-Mania) on Dec. 27, 1922 in NYC.

In 1923, Frederick Eugene Ives and Jacob Leventhal began releasing their first Stereoscopic shorts made over a three-year period. The first film entitled, Plastigrams, which was distributed nationally by Educational Pictures in the red/blue anaglyph format. Ives and Levental went on to produce the following stereoscopic shorts in the “Stereoscopiks Series” for Pathe Films in 1925:, Zowie (April 10), Luna-cry (May 18), The Run-Away Taxi (December 17) and Ouch (December 17)..

The late 1920’s to early 1930’s saw little to no interest in stereoscopic pictures, largely due to the Great Depression, In Paris, Louis Lumiere shot footage with his Stereoscopic camera in September 1933. The following year, in March 1934, he premiered his remake of his 1895 film, L’Arrivee du Train, this time in anaglyphic 3-D.

With World War II starting in Europe in the late 1930’s and then with the U.S. becoming involved in 1941, movie companies didn’t have the money to experiment further with the 3-D process. Musicals and Movietone News dominated the local cineplexes and many moviegoers were just not in the mood for the frivolity of 3-D pictures. This feeling would remain prevalent in the United States until around 1952 which ushered in what aficionados consider the “golden era” of 3-D with the release of the first color stereoscopic feature, Bwana Devil, written by Arch Oboler. The film was shot in Natural Vision, a process that was co-created and controlled by M.L. Gunzberg. Gunzberg, who built the rig wit hthis brother, Julian, and two other associates, shopped it without success to various studio before Oboler used it for this feature, which went into production with the title, The Lions of Gulu. The films stars Robert Stack, Barbara Britton, and Nigel Bruce.

As with practically all of the features made during this boom, Bwana Devil was projected dual-strip, with Polaroid filters. During the 1950’s the familiar disposable anaglyph (or stereoscopic) glasses made of cardboard were utilized. These glasses were cheap to maker and easy to hand out to audience members by theater ushers.

These cardboard glasses were so successful and so endearing that the glasses or some variation of them is still being used to view 3-D films in theaters and on home DVD today.

Related Links:  Wikipedia.org


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