Wednesday 1 July 2020

On the glory of Cinemascope - Marshall Deutelbaum analyses the use of rabatment in BELOVED INFIDEL, DADDY LONG LEGS and WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER?

Editor's Note: Marshall Deutelbaum (left) is Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana and the editor, with Leland Poague, of A Hitchcock Reader  which has been in print continuously since 1985.


Ages ago, artists discovered that every rectangle has two squares within it. Using either or both of those squares to organize the composition of a rectangular picture is called rabatment. Since the CinemaScope frame is also a rectangle, production designers knew they could use rabatment to define the proportions of movie sets for ‘Scope films.  All that was needed, then, was for the cameraman to put the camera in precisely the right spot to capture the composition on film and for the director to position actors to energize the frame. 
In these images, doorways, door frames, and the hard edge of a door clearly demarcate the interior verticals established by rabatment, though even soft curtains bunched together just right can serve the same design purpose. Rabatment encourages off-center compositions. Placing an actor on or close to one of the verticals enhances focus on him or her.

Beloved Infidel(Twentieth Century-Fox, 1959; production designers Lyle Wheeler and Maurice Ransford): compositions based on two rabatment squares. Sheilah Graham in her Malibu kitchen and John Wheeler at his desk in New York City.

Daddy Long Legs(Twentieth Century-Fox, 1959; production designers Lyle Wheeler and John De Cuir): composition based on two rabatment squares. The door to Julie Andre’s  college bedroom.

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1959; production designers Lyle Wheeler and Leland Fuller):  composition based on two rabatment squares. A view from the La Salle ad agency office.

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