Williamsburg: the Story of a Patriot
, an orientation film produced by Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...
and the Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg is the private foundation representing the historic district of the city of Williamsburg, Virginia, USA. The district includes buildings dating from 1699 to 1780 which made colonial Virginia's capital. The capital straddled the boundary of the original shires of Virginia —...
Foundation in 1957, has the distinction of being the longest-running motion picture in history, having been shown continually in the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center for over five decades.
A museum is an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, cultural, or historical importance and makes them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary. Most large museums are located in major cities...
orientation films go, Williamsburg: the Story of a Patriot
is a landmark, both because of its high production values and structure. Whereas the usual 35mm flat-screen 1.33:1 ratio cinematography would have been considered extravagant for an orientation film, Williamsburg: the Story of a Patriot
was filmed and exhibited in VistaVision
VistaVision is a higher resolution, widescreen variant of the 35mm motion picture film format which was created by engineers at Paramount Pictures in 1954....
, a high definition widescreen process with approximately the same negative size as 35mm still photography. It was a unique VistaVision film in that it was shown with six-channel stereo sound, where as most films in that process were either shown in mono or in Perspecta
Perspecta was a directional motion picture sound system, invented by the laboratories at Fine Sound Inc. in 1954. As opposed to magnetic stereophonic soundtracks available at the time, its benefits were that it did not require a new sound head for the projector and thus was a cheaper...
sound. The music for the film was composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann
Bernard Herrmann was an American composer noted for his work in motion pictures.An Academy Award-winner , Herrmann is particularly known for his collaborations with director Alfred Hitchcock, most famously Psycho, North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo...
, who was at the time best known for scoring several Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...
films shot in VistaVision. Moreover, where previous museum orientation films (and many present day examples) are simple travelogues, with little or no narrative content, Williamsburg: the Story of a Patriot
told the story of Virginia's role in American Independence (up to the point of voting to propose independence at the Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...
), from the point of view of John Fry (played by a young Jack Lord
John Joseph Patrick Ryan , best known by his stage name Jack Lord, was an American television, film, and Broadway actor. He was known for his starring role as Steve McGarrett in the American television program Hawaii Five-O from 1968 to 1980. Lord appeared in feature films earlier in his career,...
), a fictional Virginia planter elected to the House of Burgesses
The House of Burgesses was the first assembly of elected representatives of English colonists in North America. The House was established by the Virginia Company, who created the body as part of an effort to encourage English craftsmen to settle in North America...
. While it was filmed almost entirely in and around the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area, and points out a number of the historic buildings by name, it is overwhelmingly a dramatization of history, rather than a travelogue.
By the 1990s, the film was showing its age, with severe fading problems in the original negatives, and differing shrinkage rates in the separation masters that had been made as a backup. As a result, even new prints looked no better than a 16mm orientation film would have looked. In the early 21st century, an extensive digital restoration effort was begun, the result of which debuted (in relatively conventional 70mm DTS prints) in 2004. This is generally regarded as coming as close as present-day technology permits to replicate the clarity of the film as originally shown in the late 1950s. It is estimated that despite the 35 minute running-time of this film, the restoration required enough digital storage to hold several feature-length films.
Clearly, Williamsburg: the Story of a Patriot
has had influence on subsequent museum orientation films, most notably, the California State Railroad Museum
The California State Railroad Museum is a museum in the state park system of California, USA, interpreting the role of the "iron horse" in connecting California to the rest of the nation. It is located in Old Sacramento at 111 I Street....
's Evidence of a Dream, which contains several dramatic sequences, is shown on very large screens, and is anything but a simple travelogue.
As of 2007, Williamsburg: the Story of a Patriot
has been released on DVD, available from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.