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Cinerama Pioneers' Bios.
Circa 1952

These Biographies of the men who launched Cinerama in 1952 were found in the original publicity files of Cinerama Inc. This sort of publicity material is typically loaded with substantial fluffery, but Cinerama was quite conservative. These men, and others featured in The Cinerama Adventure, accomplished much more than the official biographies tell us.

Hear Fred Waller speaking about Cinerama (49 seconds)
Streaming RealAudio

Courtesy of
John Caron

Fred Waller - Inventor of Cinerama Fred Waller, the tall bespectacled mechanical and photographic wizard, is a full time inventor with an extremely practical, well-timed sense of the sort of products the world needs. He's the father of such widely different devices as water skis, a wind direction and velocity indicator, a still camera to take a 360 degree picture, and the now famous Photo-Metric camera that measures a man for a suit of clothes in a fiftieth of a second. Most important of all, he invented the Waller Gunnery Trainer which averted many thousands of American casualties during World War II. Waller was head of Paramount's trick film department for many years where, working with wide angle lenses for special effects, he first got the idea of creating films with a multi-dimensional effect. However, it took many years for Waller to develop what is now called Cinerama, and it wasn't until 1937, when he was asked to make a projected picture display inside a sphere for the New York World's Fair, that he found the answer to his problem. Once Waller felt that he had the right idea, it didn't take him long to start work on the first incarnation of Cinerama. The first camera was an eleven-eyed monster which produced film for eleven matching projectors to throw on a larger than life curved screen. "It was crude," says Fred, "but it gave the audience a thrilling experience and I knew I was on my way." After a painstaking fifteen year development period Fred's process has been streamlined to three cameras and projectors, yet still maintaining the thrilling wraparound and participatory effect for the viewer.

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Hear Lowell Thomas speaking about Cinerama (52 seconds)
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Courtesy of
Lowell Thomas Archives

Lowell Thomas - Vice-Chairman of the Board of Cinerama Productions Corp. There is very little doubt that Lowell Thomas is one of the most popular commentators in the country today. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that his voice has been heard by more people than any other voice in history. And in his 22 years as a radio headliner, he has received every award that the radio industry has ever given to any star. As a young man, Lowell Thomas was a gold miner, a range rider, a mining camp reporter and an editor. With degrees from four universities, he was on the Princeton faculty working for his doctorate in Constitutional Law when World War I broke out. Accompanied by his own motion picture camera crew, he covered every front during that war - the only correspondent to receive such an assignment. It was during this period that he met Lawrence of Arabia on the Near East battlefront. His association with Lawrence led him to assemble the astounding film lecture presentation which toured the world in the early 1920's. The popularity of this presentation made T. E. Lawrence a household word and laid the groundwork for Lowell's career as a film maker, lecturer, news commentator and world famous personality. In his role of author, Lowell Thomas also wrote the biography of Count Luckner, "The Sea Devil," a history of the first world flight, and a shelf of 41 other books, among which were such well known volumes as "Back to Mandalay," "Pageant of Adventure" and "The Untold Story of Exploration." In 1945, he broadcast reports of the Second World War in Europe from a mobile truck behind the front lines. Upon his return, he set off on a round-the-world flight over "The Hump" and into Central Asia to assemble material on the Pacific War. In 1949, he and his son Lowell Jr., made their Himalayan journey to forbidden Tibet. The story of his adventurous trip is told by Lowell Thomas Jr., in his bestseller, "Out of This World." After seeing early demonstrations of Waller's Cinerama process, Thomas believed that audiences would flock to the new screen miracle and he wanted to be a part of it.

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Hear Merian C. Cooper speaking about Cinerama (56 seconds)
Streaming RealAudio

Courtesy of Rudy Behlmer

Merian C. Cooper - Cinerama Co-Producer Merian C. Cooper is well known in the motion picture industry for his long list of bold, successful pioneering ventures. Cooper, a man who could shoot films from the exciting pages of his own life, considers Cinerama the greatest and most revolutionary development in motion pictures since sound and Technicolor. Cooper started out as a "firster" when, with his then partner, Ernest B. Schoedsack, he was one of the first to produce natural films or documentaries such as "Grass" and Chang." Again with Schoedsack, he was the first to tie studio and wilderness locations together in "Four Feathers." He pioneered in aviation. Before Lindbergh flew the Atlantic, Cooper invested in Pan-American Airways. Along with Juan Trippe and John Hambleton he believed it was entirely sane for planes to fly the oceans with passengers. Most persons thought these young pioneers were crazy. When three-color Technicolor was young, he got C.V. and John Hay Whitney to bet a fortune on it. He persuaded David Selznick to try the three color process which resulted in the use of Technicolor for "Gone With The Wind." This forced the film industry to take up Technicolor. He staged the first radio show with film stars (1933) Constance Bennet, Irene Dunne and Dorothy Jordan. All producers fought him on this. Then in 1933, with Ernest Schoedsack, he produced "King Kong," a bold, imaginative film which brought miniature projection to the screen. At a time when people thought dancing was dead on the screen, he created a dance team, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Cooper was also the first producer to advertise a motion picture on the new medium of television. For many years, Cooper has been the producing partner of John Ford, one of Hollywood's most brilliant directors. Together, they have brought to the screen such outstanding motion pictures as "The Quiet Man," "The Informer," "Fort Apache" and many others. Cooper says, "Cinerama, invented by Fred Waller is the same kind of bold venture as were sound and Technicolor. Neither the stage nor motion pictures give a comparable feeling of being part of the action. The action bursts out of confinement."

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Hazard E. Reeves - Developer of Cinerama's Sound System Hazard Reeves, pioneer in the field of sound and electronics, was the man who developed the unique sound system for Waller's invention.He came to New York in 1928 with an engineering degree from Georgia Tech. After two years of rapid progress in the field of sound, he opened his own recording studio where he specialized in putting sound on film for motion picture producers and making recordings for recording companies. In a few years it became the largest in the East. In wartime, Reeves ran the Reeves-Ely Laboratories, manufacturing electronic products. His company won the Army-Navy "E" Award for merit four times, fulfilling contracts totaling many millions of dollars. Today, he is president of the Reeves Soundcraft Corporation and directs the operation of a number of companies manufacturing a variety of products from television to magnetic film. He is also president of Cinerama, Inc.

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Michael Todd - Cinerama Producer, Thomas-Todd Productions A well known name as a Broadway impresario, Mike Todd immediately saw the potential of Fred Waller's Cinerama process to thrill an audience. A success early in life, Todd, at a mere eighteen years old was president of a two million dollar a year construction company. His early accomplishments and business savvy lured him in to the world of show business where he eventually produced sixteen shows that grossed eighteen million dollars among them "The Hot Mikado," "Something for the Boys," and "Up in Central Park." Among his other successes as Broadway's most prolific producer were popular musicals with legends such as Gypsy Rose Lee and Cole Porter. Mike Todd has joined Lowell Thomas in a joint venture named Thomas-Todd Productions to produce the first Cinerama production which will premiere on Broadway.

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Paul Mantz - The King of Hollywood Pilots Paul Mantz has been flying since 1924, and has owned and operated the Paul Mantz Air Services for the past 23 years. Catering to well-known businessmen and motion picture people, he has taken more stars to Las Vegas, Reno, and Yuma to either tie or untie the marriage knot than any other pilot. He now has the largest individually owned airplane collection in the world and can provide authentic planes for any period in U.S. history. He has known and worked with many of the legends of the air, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, and General Jimmy Doolittle to name a few. Best known as a speed flyer, Mantz is the only pilot who has won the Bendix Trophy Races three consecutive years 1946, 1947, 1948. He holds numerous records, most of them made in the P-51 Mustang which he souped up with surplus plane material. He established the Los Angeles-to-New York record, 4 hours 48 minutes, in 1948. Equally well known for his spectacular stunt flying in many motion pictures during the past 23 years, Mantz has obtained what were thought to be impossible air shots for some of the biggest directors in the business. He is the first pilot all the newsreel agencies and now television studios think of when there is a "hot" story to be photographed from the air. Now Paul Mantz can add the thrill of flying for the massive Cinerama camera to his already extensive body of work.

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Harry Squire - Cinerama Director of Photography Harry Squire's 41 year career in film photography began when he worked with Thomas A. Edison. He joined the department of Public Information in World War I and later filmed many newsreel stories for Fox Movietone News. He traveled and photographed the Gatti Expedition in the Belgian Congo, Frank Buck's many jungle travelogues in 23 different countries, and gunnery training pictures for the U.S. Navy in World War II. A friend of inventor Fred Waller many years, Harry Squire is a valued addition to the Cinerama team.

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Copyright ©2000, C.A. Productions, all rights reserved. Created: 3/16/00 Updated: 5/17/00