Colonial Williamsburg in Association with Paramount Pictures Presents:

Williamsburg -- The Story of a Patriot


Photographed in VistaVision
Color by Technicolor
Sound by Todd-AO
Produced by William H. Wright
Directed by George Seaton
Written by Emmet Lavery
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Director of Photography - Haskell Boggs
Art Direction - Hal Pereira and Earn Hendrick
Costumes - Kate Drain Lawson
Special Photographic Effects - John P. Fulton, ASC
Set Direction - Sam Comer, Frank R. McKelvy
Assistant Director - Richard Moder
Edited by - Alma Macrorie, ACE
Makeup Supervision - Wally Westmore and John Hall, Jr.
Sound Recording by - Philip N. Mitchell and Fred Hynes
Assistant to the Producer - Don Roberts
Westrex Recording System

MPAA Certificate Number 18365


John Fry - Jack Lord
Anne Fry - Leora Dana
Madam Fry - Margery Maude
Robert Fry - Richard Striker
Caroline Fry - Karin Wolfe
Patrick Henry - Robert Carroll
George Washington - Charles G. Martin
Thomas Jefferson - Frederic Warriner
George Wythe - Francis Compton
John Randolph - Michael Laurence
Peyton Randolph - Ralph Sumpter
William Byrd III - Horse Jameson
Lord Botetourt - Clarence Derwent
The Reverend Mr. Price - John Goodbody
Richard Henry Lee - Orin M. Bullock, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee - Ferdi Hoffman
First Planter - John McGiver
Second Planter - Luis Van Rooter

Story of a Patriot, shot in 1956, premiered in April 1957 at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitors' Center in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA. The film was one of the earliest films photographed in Paramount's then-new 8-perf horizontal VistaVision process, making it a so-called 'high-fidelity motion picture.' The film was made specifically to be presented in the twin (identical) custom-designed 250-seat auditoria at the Visitors' Center. Each house was outfitted with twin VistaVision 8-perf projectors (which fed the film from the bottom of the machine to a take-up reel at the top), and two more were ordered as spares (for a total of six built for CW). Large 26' x 52' screens, curved at the edges, were installed, with three loudspeakers behind the screen to reproduce the panned dialogue, along with a pair of speakers at the edges of the screen for music, and five surround speakers were mounted in the ceiling, in line with the five front speakers, to reproduce the sixth soundtrack. A six-track 35mm mag sound dubber could be interlocked with the projectors in one of the auditoria in order to reproduce foreign-language soundtracks. The regular soundtrack was recorded on six magnetic tracks on the VistaVision print (which was made on stock with small, 'Fox Hole' perforations, to allow extra space for the mag tracks). Sixteen millimeter projectors (Eastman model 25s) were installed in each auditorium to show films about the various crafts demonstrated in CW.

No expense was spared in the production of Patriot: the finest directors and actors of the time were hired to take part in the production, and this effort clearly shows in the finished product, which holds up very well after having been shown to visitors for forty years. Changes have, of course, been made: in the 1960's, the original VV projectors were removed and replaced with Century JJ's, in order to show 70mm prints of SoaP, with the six-track mag soundtrack. Christie xenon lamphouses replaced carbon arcs in the 1970s, and Kneisley 2kw xenons were installed in the mid-1980's. Sound equipment has been upgraded to modern Crown 80-watts-per-channel stereo amps. Potts 70mm platters were also added to improve automation and lessen film handling.

Today, CW continues to show SoaP every day, with shows alternating between the twin auditoria. Although billed as a 'thirty-seven-minute film,' the movie lasts about 34:10, and is preceded by a 1:30 sound-only introduction. There is at least one 35mm 4-perf print of the film which contains the opening credits absent from the VV and 70mm prints. A complete (Eastman pink) VV print still rests in the booth, although the 8-perf projectors are no longer in place (and the spare ones haven't been located since they were stored in a warehouse years ago...the rumor is that they were sold to Wolk in Chicago and are now at Lucasfilm along with the camera used to film Patriot).

Unlike the 70mm and VV prints, the 16mm and some 35mm 4-perf prints have opening credits and the following title before the start of the film:

In the turbulent 18th century, Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia and an important proving ground in the movement for American Independnce. Today, this city has been restored to its early appearance by a nonprofit educational corporation known as Colonial Williamsburg.

All this work has been made possible by Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

This film, dedicated to the principles of liberty wherever and whenever they may be under challenge, was made entirely in restored Williamsburg and at nearby plantations. The story concerns the period of 1769 to 1776. Its principal figure, planter John Fry, is not found in any history book, but the leaders he meets and the events he witnesses are drawn from the records of the time.

I am still looking for a compete printing history of this film; in the meantime, I can offer the following:

Below are pictures and descriptions of the current installation:

The copyrights to all screen images are held by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; they are included here under the Fair Use provisions of the US Copyright Law. Actually, as I found out from a search at the Library of Congress, the copyright on Patriot was not renewed. Picture, sound recording, and screenplay are all PD. The musical score (titled "Williamsburg" is owned by Herrmann's estate, and is licensed through Famous Music Corporation in New York. Here is what the LoC says about the copyright status.

Click on each image to view a larger version:

[Frame from 70mm print] 70mm Frame

This is a (Eastman pink-faded) 70mm frame from one of the opening scenes of SoaP; it is identical to the prints currently in use. Inboard mag tracks are on the opposite side of the film, and thus aren't visible in this image.

[Frame from VistaVision print] VV Frame

This is a frame from an early-1960's horizontal 8-perf 35mm VV print of the film; again, inboard mag tracks aren't really visible (they appear as darkish bands, as they're on the opposite side of the film). Note extra image area under the mag tracks, not intended to be projected.

[Closeup of Fox Hole perfs from VistaVision print] [Closeup of Standard 4-perf 35mm Frame]

Compare the square 'Fox Hole' peforations (like those used on the original prints of early Cinemascope films) to the rectangular perforations on a standard 35mm print.

[Exterior of CW
Visitors' Center] Visitors' Center

The screen for one of the auditoria is just inside the large curving brick wall seen above the entrance.

[Screen Image] [Screen Image]

These vague screen images are time exposures of roughly one second which can merely attempt to reproduce the audience experience. Both were taken with a zoom lens set at the widest (~40mm) setting, in attempt to demonstrate the large screen size. The left image is from the same scene as the 70mm frame shown above. The right image shows the Wren Building (built in 1695) at the College of William and Mary in the background.

[70mm Platter] Potts 70mm Platter

This is the setup used for both auditoria (the other projection setup would be to the left of this scene). Three prints of the film are spliced together onto the platters; the film need only be reloaded for every third show (although gates are cleaned between every show). New prints are on ESTAR (polyester) stock, and last for upwards of 4,000 shows. The second projector is used as a backup, and projectors are swapped monthly for service.

[Century JJ] Century JJ

Closeup of one of the Century JJs. Note the radio-style 'cart' machine at the upper left of the projector head, which is used for the opening prologue. One button starts the automation system; at the end of the cart (an endless loop tape cartridge, much like an 8-track tape), a cue starts the projector running; foil cue tape on the film dims the house lights and opens the douser. At the end of the film, another foil cue tape brings up the house lights and closes the douser. Walkout music plays from mag tracks on the film.

[Mag Dubber] Foreign-Language Soundtracks

This original 1950's device interlocks with the movie projector by means of a selsyn motor to reproduce six languages of foreign language soundtracks. Two reels of soundtracks are used; they differ by one track: one reel has Portugese on that track, the other has Japanese. The other tracks contain: Italian, French, German, Spanish, and Greek dialogue tracks on both reels.

[Sound Rack] Sound System

Sound rack as it exists in 1997. New Crown stereo amps (three for the six film tracks, plus another for the foreign-language tracks). Also, equipment for hearing-impared listening devices. Incidentally, the entire Visitors' Center building was an early example of handicapped-accessible architecture; the theaters are accessible by ramps (instead of stairs)--very unusual for the 1950's.

[70mm Rewind Bench] Rewind Bench

Standard 70mm rewind bench, used for cleaning film by hand. Large 70mm splicer is not shown

[35mm Film Splicer] 35mm Splicer

'Antique' Bell & Howell 35mm film splicer.

[EK25 16mm Projector] Eastman 25 16mm

Eastman 25 16mm projector; one of the best ever built. This one is outfitted with 1kw xenon bulb. Various 16mm 'craft' films are shown throughout the summer in 16mm.

['Tombstone' Prop] Original Film Prop

This is the 'Tombstone' prop used in the scenes shown in the screen shot and 70mm frame shown above. It now sits at the entrance to the projection booth. Prop is made from wood and plaster, and is surprisingly realistic-looking.

[Williamsburg Theatre] Williamsburg Theatre

The local cinema serves as an alternate venue for SoaP when the Visitors' Center is in use for other programs. This theater is owned by the CW Foundation, and is equipped with twin Century SA 35mm projectors, a 30-foot screen, and a Dolby CP-500. The sound format on the 35mm prints is academy mono. The Williamsburg Theatre is currently closed for renovations, and is scheduled to re-open sometime in 2001.

[Sheep] Sheep

Descendents of some of the original "extras" in SoaP graze in a local field.

Thanks to everyone who provided information in response to my queries. Extra special thanks go to Mr. Earl Robinson at the CW Visitors' Center.
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