Jean Negulesco’s Tales of Three: Woman’s World (1954)

July 28, 2017 | By

One of Fox’s early efforts to get in on the MOD Blu-ray bandwagon is this odd 1954 early CinemaScope fluff drama which did regular rotation on TCM, but took much longer to navigate to home video in a proper HD transfer.

The studio hasn’t put out many MOD titles on Blu, so I’m guessing this was a test, but a peculiar one, since Fox has been more than happy licensing their excellent transfers to indie labels who pack them (for the most part) with generous extras.

 

Even the poster’s pastel colours evoke a puff pastry.

 

Woman’s World may have been selected because someone in the assets division looked at the best selling ‘scope productions of the 1950s and noted several were directed by Jean Negulesco, and thought ‘Well, no one’s asked for this one, so why not?’

Less of a travelogue for the ‘scope format and far shorter than hits like How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), WW is pure fluff, packed with rather dated portraits of married women tagging along with their husbands to NYC for what’s essentially an upscale job audition by top auto manufacturer Gifford.

The review goes into the plot, the potent cast, and Negulesco’s late career / weird fixation on tales of three women and their love lives, but it’s strange that unlike Warner’s Archive series, Fox didn’t follow up with more titles beyond pre-‘scope productions Coney Island (1943), Sentimental Journey (1946), and the Clifton Webb babysitter classic Sitting Pretty (1948).

It’s a shame, because the Fox ‘scope archives are loaded with unseen gems and curios which, if they did make it to video, were often older transfers, if not full screen. I’m still waiting for Tender is the Night (1962), The Sun Also Rises (1957) with that goddamn gorgeous main theme by Hugo Friedhofer, In Love and War (1958), and many more (although I wish it was standard policy to include an isolated score track with each release).

Early ‘scope productions often mandated in addition of stereophonic sound, and any chance to hear the studio’s stellar orchestra booming music by its brilliant roster of composers is worth it, especially if its in uncompressed DTS.

Fox was super-smart in 1953 when they created the Fox CinemaScope Fanfare – that melding of the famous logo with a declaration of its new widescreen process, with extended music by Alfred Newman. When the full fanfare seemed passé and rarely used in post-‘scope productions (the process was retired by the late 1960s), George Lucas brought it back for Star Wars (1977), and it’s now the studio’s de facto logo music.

Hearing Newman’s original fanfare (which made its debut in 1933) seems abrupt, perhaps because there’s no sleek strings, plus that fat warm bass that blanketed audiences in the original 4.0 surround mix which Fox created and branded as Perspecta Sound.

WW isn’t in stereo – it’s meh flat mono – but the ‘scope cinematography is exceptional, capturing the best of sleek 1950s décor, design, and a gleaming NYC skyline; to small town inhabitants packed in the neighbourhood cinema that was lucky to be outfitted for ‘scope,  those aerial shots must have been jaw-dropping.

As the fact-packed Widescreen Museum details, In Like Flint and Caprice (both 1967) were among the last films produced in ‘scope before the process was retired and replaced by filmmakers with more popular brands like Panavision, but the name still holds magic.

Fox treated the process like a star, gave it a theme and its own standalone title card, whereas rival studios who licensed the process for their own films were obliged to include it in more standard title sequences.

The brand still held its magic: B movies like Dinosuarus! (1960) used a similar sweeping CinemaScope font design to distinguish it from surrounding text, and rival processes like RKO’s SuperScope also had a unique design, but only Paramount’s VistaVision echoed Fox’s snazzy extended titles, with the VV logo emanating from the mountain like a stylus needle and the great tagline “Motion Picture High Fidelity” – amusing, because VV wasn’t always used for very wide exhibition (the format did allow for 1.66:1, 1.85:1, and 2:1 versus CinemaScope’s standardized 2.35:1), and many blockbusters like War and Peace (1956) were mixed in flat mono.

In any event, there are still many Fox ‘scope productions awaiting a proper BR release, and maybe some of the aforementioned will get their due, ideally as special editions. It’s a major wallop seeing these gems in widescreen and surround sound after those first glimpses on TV as panned & scanned mono versions with orange hues and heavy grain.

 

Lauren Knows All. Do Not Lie To Lauren!

 

Coming soon: reviews of the CanCon classique (of sorts) Funny Farm (1983) from Code Red (plus a few related classiques, of sorts) + Sam Fuller’s nutbar noir The Crimson Kimono (1959) on Blu from Twilight Time.

 

Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com

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Category: EDITOR'S BLOG

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