Home Entertainment Film & TV 100 Year Anniversary of Glorious, Sensational Technicolor

100 Year Anniversary of Glorious, Sensational Technicolor

When I hear the word Technicolor, I think of The Wizard Of Oz.

Dorothy’s reaction as she first lands in Oz and steps into a world of color pretty much echoes how most people react when being exposed to the visual treat of Technicolor.

Technicolor is a color process that was invented in 1916 to create full spectrum color photography for motion picture screens. The cameras shoot 3 strips of film simultaneously—to record red, blue, and green. For more on these much physically larger cameras, click here.

The Red Shoes, 1948 (Screenshot/YouTube)
‘The Red Shoes,’ 1948. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Martin Scorsese: “My first memories of movies are in Technicolor. Duel in the Sun was the first picture I ever saw, and it’s never left me—reds, blues, greens, yellows, deep blacks, lustrous golds. There doesn’t appear to be any blending of color in that picture—everything is primary, and everything is alive. It may be garish, it’s certainly unreal, and it’s far from subtle, but it’s alive. Alive… To me, that’s Technicolor.”

Check out the dye transfer process in this video below made by George Eastman House—it is really informative and rather incredible:

To celebrate the 100th year anniversary of Technicolor, The Museum of Modern Art in New York is screening a wonderful selection of American Technicolor films from 1922-1955. In 1955 in the U.S., they stopped making films using Technicolor.

Technicolor is amazing in many ways—one being that the film does not fade, and it holds its vibrancy, unlike other films that are known over time to fade to magenta.

This makes Technicolor films a huge source of reference for people who work in film restoration.

They are able to restore older films to how an audience once viewed them in the past because Technicolor color holds so well.

Sadly, all the machinery used for the dye transfer is no longer in use, and it’s too huge an investment to get working again. So technicolor prints are irreplaceable, with no way to re-create them. An absolute treasure from the past, in my opinion.

Joan of Arc, 1948 (Screenshot/YouTube)
‘Joan of Arc,’ 1948. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Quo Vadis, 1951 (Sceenshot/YouTube)
‘Quo Vadis,’ 1951. (Sceenshot/YouTube)

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, 1954 (Screenshot/YouTube)
‘Reap the Wild Wind,’ 1942. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The Yearling, 1946 (Screenshot/YouTube)
‘The Yearling,’ 1946. (Screenshot/YouTube)

For those of you who want to explore this a step further, there is a gorgeous 1934 Technicolor advert, Mrs. Mortimer Jones Prepares Dinner for Eight” preserved by the National Film Preservation Foundation. Click here to watch and support the work involved in preserving and restoring such films.

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Jessica Kneipphttp://www.jessicakneipp.net
Jessica grew up in the tropics of North Australia. She writes about films, and occasionally gets to write and direct them. She has a love of silent films, they are the closest she will ever get to "time travel." However, on some real travels she spotted a polar bear while visiting the Arctic, and has enjoyed the view of the Mongolian plains on a train from Russia to China. Her favorite fruit is pomegranate and her most memorable gift is a Super 8 camera from her husband, which she is keen to shoot some footage of Antarctic icebergs on one day.  

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