George Eastman House is going all-out to Technicolor on its 100th birthday. If you make the trek to Rochester, New York between now and the end of April you can see original 35mm prints of films that made exceptional use of the process, including The Adventures of Robin Hood, Duel in the Sun, and The Yearling, to name just a few. (If you’ve never seen true “IB” dye-transfer Technicolor projected on a screen you don’t know what you’re missing.) The film series is augmented by an exhibition of cameras, equipment, posters, photos and unique artifacts in the Eastman House collection. But don’t despair if you can’t attend in person: you can explore an online exhibition HERE that offers many fascinating facts and illustrations charting the history of this historic color process.
Finally, Eastman House has published an impressive new book called The Dawn of Technicolor: 1915 —1935 by James Layton and David Pierce, edited by Paolo Cherchi Usai and Catherine A. Surowiec. Years in the making, this weighty coffee-table tome is the ultimate chronicle of this subject, drawn in part from the Technicolor Corporate Archive, which was donated to the Rochester museum in 2009. Where other histories have reveled in the company’s glory years, beginning in 1935, this one focuses on its early days of experimentation, failure, and the first flicker of success. (Did you know that the first official Technicolor feature was made in Florida in 1917? I didn’t.)
One of the book’s highlights is an extensively annotated filmography of every film produced in two-color Technicolor from 1917 to 1937, compiled by Crystal Kui and James Layton (with the collaboration of Almudena Escobar López, Daisuke Kawahara, and Catherine A. Surowiec). Many entries are accompanied by frame enlargements from surviving prints or fragments of prints—from an image of Gloria Swanson in Stage Struck to a title card for Clara Bow’s Red Hair. For many film buffs, this section alone will make The Dawn of Technicolor a must.
Few technologies in movie history have struck a chord with the general public like the brand name Technicolor. That wasn’t accidental: it was heavily promoted by the studios and was seen as a box-office asset. Even today the name has tremendous allure for film buffs and scholars. I wish I could transport myself to Rochester to see the centenary exhibition, but I’m glad to have a copy of the book that goes along with it; I’ve enjoyed browsing and I’m sure I will consult it for years to come. You can purchase a copy through the George Eastman House HERE.