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April 3, 2023

Audience Members Sport 3-D Glasses During the First Screening of ‘Bwana Devil’ (1952)

In the early 1950s, when Milton Gunzburg, a scriptwriter at MGM, and his brother Julian, a Beverly Hills ophthalmologist, developed a process that would allow moviegoers to watch the dominant entertainment medium of the age in what came to be called “3-D,” they figured Hollywood studios would leap at the chance to take advantage of their brainchild.

Audience members sport 3-D glasses during the first screening of “Bwana Devil,” the first full-length, color 3-D movie, November 26, 1952, at the Paramount Theater in Hollywood. (Photo by J.R. Eyerman/Life Pictures/Shutterstock)

But movie studios, broadly speaking, are notoriously cautious creatures, and only one person—the remarkable and now largely forgotten screenwriter, director, producer and radio pioneer Arch Oboler—showed enough interest in the Gunzburg’s “Natural Vision” process to actually use the technology in one of his productions. When his 1952 movie, Bwana Devil, was released (a based-on-true-events story about man-eating lions written, produced and directed by Oboler himself), Natural Vision was a huge part of the promotional campaign.

“The World’s First Feature Length Motion Picture in Natural Vision 3-Dimension,” Bwana Devil posters proclaimed. The movie’s tagline, meanwhile, offered the striking, near-poetic promise of “A LION in your lap! A LOVER in your arms!”


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