Media Monday: Windjammer (1958)
This one's for the film buffs AND the sailing buffs! Today's Media Monday post features the 1958 film Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich. Filmed aboard the Norwegian three-masted bark Christian Radich, "Windjammer" was filmed in the groundbreaking (and short-lived) Cinemiracle wide screen process. Long before IMAX, Cinemiracle was a strikingly immersive film experience for 1958, and Windjammer was the only feature-length film ever produced by this process.
Based on a book written by Allan J. Villiers, the film follows a crew of young Norwegian men on a sail training mission aboard the Christian Radich. The film covers a journey of 17,500 nautical miles from Norway to Madiera, the Dutch West Indies, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston before heading back to Oslo across the North Atlantic and around Scotland. Although the young crew of the vessel (some as young as 14) are numerous, the storyline focuses on only a few, including one boy training to be a concert pianist. The entire film runs about 2 hours and 30 minutes (including prologue and intermission).
It premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood April 8, 1958, and on April 9, 1958 premiered at the Roxy Theater in New York City on a curved, 40 foot high by 100 foot long screen. It needed three film projectors to synchronize the wind screen format. The screen size and curve (nearly identical to Cinerama) made the viewer feel as if they were immersed in the film. And as you'll see below, the film started out in standard format, the screen flanked by theater curtains, which were then drawn back to expose the enormous wide screen.
The film was later converted to Cinerama, which required only one projector, not three. It went on to be nominated for several awards, and was so popular in Norway that in 1959 it was seen in Oslo more times than there were people in city. You can watch the restored trailer below.
No Cinemiracle or Cinerama theaters survive today, but the Christian Radich does. Built in 1937 specifically as a sail training vessel for Norway, she remained at that post until the 1990s. Today, she is operated as a private vessel that offers sightseeing tours of coastal Norway and sail training for young people - as she originally intended.
Windjammer is available for streaming purchase on Amazon Prime. If you want to learn more about Windjammer, including the technical process, screenings, interviews with cast and crew, etc., visit here.
And if you're curious about historic sailing vessels, be sure to check out our upcoming 2022 exhibit, "A New Age of Sail: The History and Future of Sail Freight on the Hudson River," Opening May 1, 2022!
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This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
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