Artist Captures Film History
Rockaway Playland’s Atom Smasher Roller Coaster made cinema history in May of 1950 when Mike Todd Jr. shot it on color film scraps with a budget of $33 as part of the world’s first surround film, “This Is Cinerama!”
The 1938, six-story wooden coaster at Beach 97th Street was chosen because of its spectacular view of the surrounding Rockaways and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as a heart-thumping ride that had thrilled millions of New Yorkers for more than a dozen years.
Todd bolted a special threeheaded 35mm camera to the lead car to capture the coaster’s extreme, high-speed, 78 degree dips over its 3,000 foot run. When the producers saw the resulting footage, they included it as the opening of the Cinerama demonstration film, which debuted on September 30th, 1952 at the New York Broadway Theatre.
This Is Cinerama had a three year run in New York City, and immortalized Rockaways’ Playland and its famous Atom Smasher for all time.
Recently, artist Norman Lunde was inspired by a Cinerama photograph taken during test shots by Brooklyn inventor Fred Waller on a standard camera.
His painting, Atom Smasher! is on view at the Rockaway Artists Alliance’s Mixed Media exhibition through March 23th at Studio 7 in Fort Tilden.
Eighty-seven year old Norman “Grandpa” Lunde paints in the primitive style of Grandma Moses. He has painted historic scenes from the Rockaways, and has illustrated his daughter's children's books. Lunde has been a gunslinger, metal worker and a concierge. He is a World War II Veteran and has lived in Rockaway most of his life.