Elephant Ear VistaVision Camera

Mitchell VistaVision camera no. 6

From the sets of Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”, we are delighted to present this complete Mitchell VistaVision camera package. This “Elephant Ear” VistaVision camera, MVV-6, was masterfully restored by my friend Mark Mervis, who collected, restored, and documented this historic camera package. VistaVision was a widescreen motion picture film process developed by Paramount Pictures in the early 1950's. During that era, all of the major studios were in a race to improve the quality of the images they put on screen. Paramount's John R. Bishop and Loren L. Ryder built the prototype VistaVision camera, dubbed the "Lazy-8", by modifying an old Fox "Natural Color" camera built in the 1920's by the William P. Stein Company. The Stein camera was designed to move 8 perforations of film per each pull-down cycle, which resulted in two pictures, one on top of the other, for this color process. Bishop and Ryder removed the divider that seperated the top and bottom frames of the original "Natural Color" system and, turning the camera on its side, now had 8 perforation pull-across for each film frame photographed. The original Stein VisionVision camera was fitted with Leica lenses, and after some testing, was used to film the holiday classic "White Christmas". After the success of "White Christmas", the first film shot in the new VistaVision format, Paramount Pictures committed itself to the VistaVision format for its entry into the widescreen realm. In 1954, Mitchell Camera Corporation was commissioned to make a smaller, more user-friendly VistaVision camera. This iteration of the VistaVision camera came to be lovingly referred to as the "Elephant Ear".

This camera, MVV-6, was sold to Paramount Pictures in December 1954. It was delivered to Paramount, then promptly shipped to Egypt, where it was used as one of the principle cameras on the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille classic, "The Ten Commandments". An article about the making of the film appeared in the November 1956 issue of American Cinematographer magazine, and includes two pictures that clearly show MVV-6 on the set with the director, lead cinematographer Loyal Griggs, and star Yul Brynner. Additional research shows that MVV-6 was also used as a principle camera on the 1957 Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece "Vertigo". Mark's research at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Margaret Herrick Library turned up camera reports and script notes showing that MVV-6 worked more days of principle photography than any of the other cameras on this show.

What makes this collection so remarkable is Mark's dedication to finding and restoring all of the appropriate bits and pieces that would have been part of an "Elephant Ear" VistaVision production shooting package. Even though some of the pieces are from different serial number cameras, it is very rare to have all of the proper pieces in one place at one time.

The camera comes complete with:
1. MVV-6 camera body, body lift handles, magazine cavity caps, in the original aluminum camera case
2. matte box, iris rods, in a wooden case from MVV-20
3. 30VDC 24fps or 30fps crystal-controlled motor with variable speeds, power cable, buckle trip pigtail, case
4. top mount Mitchell viewfinder with partial set of mattes from MVV-3, Selsyn remote focus motor and hand control, aluminum AKS case from MVVHS-2
5. 2 sets of 2000’ magazines, 1 set in aluminum case, 1 set in wooden case
6. 1 set of 1000’ “air” magazines
7. VistaVision geared head with hand wheels (The hands wheels are usable, but bent and in need of repair.) Case is not original and not fitted.
8. blimp with sunshade and lens port window cap from MVV-21 (no case)
9. 85mm Summarex f1.5 lens in VistaVision Master Mount
10. Todd-AO stomp up hydraulic tripod/dolly
$54,000 Item #C12071

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