On this Day in Movie History, April 9, 1953: House of Wax Released

On this day, April 9, 1953, Warner Brothers, the first of the major Hollywood studios to introduce 3-D motion pictures, premiered “The House of Wax” at the Paramount Theatre in New York City. The stage show preceding the movie was headed by singer Eddie Fisher. The film’s stars, Vincent Price, Phyllis Kirk and Frank Lovejoy attended the premiere.

A remake of Warners’ Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) without the comic relief featured in the earlier film, it was directed by André de Toth. The film was the first 3-D color feature from a major American studio, and premiered just two days after Columbia Pictures’s Man in the Dark, the first 3-D feature released by a major studio. House of Wax premiered nationwide on April 10, 1953 and went out for a general release on April 25, 1953.

Stereoscopic 3-D was an alternative technology (like Cinemascope and Cinerama) used by 1950s studios attempting to compete with the new threat of television. Just over 50 titles were released in the 3-D process during its 2½ year heyday.

House of Wax was always shown in dual interlocked 35 mm projection with polarized glasses. The film was re-released in the period of 1975 through 1980 in both single strip 35mm Stereovision 3-D and in Stereovision’s pioneering (first commercial success) 70mm 3D process, where it played in major venues like Grauman’s Chinese Theater, in Hollywood, and the huge Metropolitan Theatre in Boston (seating 4300 patrons). This effort pre-dated the first IMAX 3D (also on 70mm film) by nearly 12 years.

House of Wax, originally titled The Wax Works, was Warner Bros. answer to the 3-D hit Bwana Devil, which had been released the previous November. The film is ultimately a remake of the studio’s 1933 film, The Mystery of the Wax Museum, which in itself was written and based on Charles Belden’s three-act play, The Wax Works.

Ironically, the director de Toth was blind in one eye, and unable to experience stereo vision or the 3-D effects. The stereoscopic era of motion pictures began in the late 1890s when British film pioneer William Friese-Greene filed a patent for a 3D movie process.

If you think that 3D is something new because everything Hollywood releases today seems to be 3D, think again. The stereoscopic era of motion pictures began in the late 1890s when British film pioneer William Friese-Greene filed a patent for a 3D movie process. That’s the 1890s, over a hundred and thirty years ago!

1898 – Paul Robeson (singer: Ol’ Man River; actor: The Emperor Jones, Show Boat, Othello, Porgy and Bess, The Hairy Ape, King Solomon’s Mines, Song of Freedom; died Jan 23, 1976)

1903 – Ward (Wardell) Bond (actor: Wagon Train, Gone with the Wind, Drums Along the Mohawk, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Maltese Falcon, Mister Roberts, Rio Bravo, Tall in the Saddle, The Time of Your Life; died Nov 5, 1960)

1933 – Jean-Paul Belmondo (actor: Casino Royale, The Brain, Is Paris Burning?, Swashbuckler, Le Magnifique, Love and the Frenchwoman)

1942 – (Andre) Brandon De Wilde (actor: Shane, Hud, In Harm’s Way, The Member of the Wedding, Goodbye My Lady, All Fall Down; killed in car crash July 6, 1972 [Denver CO: while en route to act in a stage play])

1954 – Dennis Quaid (actor: Dragonheart, Wyatt Earp, Postcards from the Edge, Everybody’s All-American, The Right Stuff, Jaws 3, The Long Riders, Breaking Away, September 30, 1955, Switchback, Frequency, Traffic; songwriter, actor: The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, Tough Enough, The Big Easy; brother of actor Randy Quaid)

1966 – Cynthia Nixon (actress: Let It Ride, Tanner, The Manhattan Project, Tattoo, Amadeus)

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