When some fifty of America's leading orchestral artists cheer a recorded
version of their own performance, that's news. Yet that is precisely what happened
after each recording session of the score for This Is Cinerama, the film that
introduces to the world a thrilling new motion picture experience.
The man that developed Cinerama's remarkable sound system was obviously a gifted engineer. If Reeves' gifts were limited to engineering we probably would have never heard of him.
In addition to his engineering skills, Reeves was a highly successful businessman and during his lifetime he founded over 60 public companies. The Reeves Sound Studios, founded in the early 1930s, was one of the more well known of the group and one of its first major productions was coverage of the abdication of the Duke of Windsor. Another company, Audio Devices, developed a "Pyrolac" record blank that allowed people to make their own disc recordings. As Reeves said, "Once again as so often happens in business a small sideline struck pay-dirt. We sold thousands of copies of a book entitled 'How to Make Your Own Recordings' and of course mentioned our product on every other page. Reeves Sound Studios was now a proud parent, and from these children would come grandchildren and great grandchildren as the company broadened and diversified like a family tree." The firm even sold cactus phonograph needles which, it's reported, were excellent for dulling the scratch noises in the old shellac records. Reeves would earn many millions from companies that got their seed money from $1,500 borrowed at 25% interest in 1930.
Reeves was an immensly practical man. In 1943, band leader Fred Waring had established a company to make a home appliance but materials shortages had prevented him from doing anything other than sink money into the project. When Reeves saw it he liked the idea and immediately put up a $15,000 down payment with another $250,000 to be paid after the war, along with a small royalty. Thus the Waring Blender Company came into being.
Reeves Sound Studios had benefitted from the record industry becoming lethargic with the widespread acceptance of radio, thinking that their days were numbered. Before long, work involved in the technology of producing phonograph records soon evolved into recording sound for motion pictures and later television. Following the end of the Second World War, Reeves put significant resources into further developing magnetic recording which had been introduced by the German propaganda machine. Reeves Soundcraft made equipment for simplified field recording of sound on a magnetic tape. Soundcraft was a major force in magnetic recording from the late forties through the seventies. Among hundreds of other products, both the Soundcraft and Audio Devices divisions manufactured magnetic recording media, Soundcraft primarily supplied the commercial market and Audio Devices the consumer market. Audio Devices was sold to EMI - Capitol Records.
Waller's three strips of film won him an Oscar® in 1954 for the year of 1953. Though Cinerama debuted in 1952 it did not play in the Los Angeles area until 1953, a requirement for Academy nomination. Waller was ill at the time of the ceremonies and was unable to accept his statuette. He passed away a few days later.
Reeves Soundcraft won a class 2 Oscar® for the invention of a method of applying magnetic oxide stripes to motion picture film, benefitting CinemaScope, Todd-AO, and all other single film stereophonic systems that followed. Hazard Reeves' Academy Award acceptance speech was surely one of the shortest in history, "On behalf of Reeves Soundcraft Corporation I want to express our appreciation for this honor."
April 1954, Fredric March presents Hazard Reeves with the AMPAS Class 2 plaque for figuring out how to stick rust to acetate, something that Reeves was exceptionally good at.
Kinoscope © AMPAS