Let's Talk Technicolor: 2-Strip, 3-Strip, Everyone Strip

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by EVOLVIST, May 3, 2022.

  1. EVOLVIST

    EVOLVIST Kid A Thread Starter

    In other news, I was thinking, what is the worse sin about Gone With the Wind (1939), the intertitles that leads the viewer down a stupid path, or the burning of Atlanta, where one-of-a-kind nitrate films were burned and lost forever to recreate the Atlanta fire?
     
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  2. AppleCorp3

    AppleCorp3 Forum Resident

    It looked great whatever it was, hopefully they used the new 4K restoration. I’ve caught a few of these and it’s always amazing to me what is lost on the small screen no matter how good the resolution.
     
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  3. EVOLVIST

    EVOLVIST Kid A Thread Starter

    I wrote this late last night, when I was having a difficult time sleeping, but when I looked at it again, this morning, I realized that it's probably not a topic we want to touch.

    The burning of all that film, though!
     
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  4. Bob Casner

    Bob Casner Senior Member

    Location:
    Venice, California
    EVOLVIST,
    Congrats on your scoring of the MoC GANG’S ALL HERE ( COVER GIRL, too!) I’m ALL IN for every Busby Berkeley on disc: years ago I bought THE BUSBY BERKELEY DISC (bonus disc from the dvd only box set collection) - it’s the dance numbers ONLY from 9 different of his B&W films, “all killer no filler”(!) But Busby in 3-strip: THE GANG’S ALL HERE and Warner Archive’s recent MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID with that mind boggling sequence in the huge water tank - a trapeze, ramps down into the tank used like a “slip ‘n’ slide” only STANDING UP, colored SMOKE, lit SPARKLERS coming up out of the water - BEYOND spectacular!

    By the way, I’ve noticed that with scenes from 3-strip features with highly saturated reds, greens, or blues it seems like you get only two out of the three (plus maybe yellow) at the same time - another dictate from the heavy-handed “color consultant” Natalie Kalmus, or just my imagination?
     
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  5. unclefred

    unclefred Coastie with the Moastie

    Location:
    Oregon Coast
    I'll vote for that. Terrible!
     
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  6. EVOLVIST

    EVOLVIST Kid A Thread Starter

    I really need to get Million Dollar Mermaid (1952), but I'm kind of waiting on a sale. I've never seen it! I've seen bits of the parts you're talking about, though, but that's not experiencing the entire film. I really like Esther Williams. She's charming.

    I still have Lullaby of Broadway (1951) sitting on my stack, unopened. I get sidetracked. For example, I found Down Argentine Way (1940) on Amazon Prime in 1080p, which will probably be the first film I watch this weekend. Don Ameche, Betty Grable and Carmen Miranda. What a cast! But who knows; it might suck.

    Natalie Kalmus? I'm still trying to figure out her methodologies. You're probably not imagining things.

    You know, she gets dogged a lot, and anecdotal evidence supports that her dictatorial stance didn't set well with directors, set and prop designers, art department, wardrobe, DPs, etc., but I feel that the lady knew her stuff. When talking color theory, Kalmus' name still comes up today. She only had cursory art experience, from basic art school, yet she had a natural eye, and she made a science out of it.

    It's weird, that some films she let the bright colors fly, and some she didn't. Novice that I am, I thought that the first three-strip Technicolor films would be like The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Wizard of Oz, but no. Take the first 5 three-strip films, and only the first, Becky Sharp (1935) has that bold look. The rest look more "natural," more subdued. That was surprising. It doesn't kill the three-strip effect - actually, I think they look very interesting - yet the colors don't pop off the screen. The phototagrapy does, though.
     
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  7. Bob Casner

    Bob Casner Senior Member

    Location:
    Venice, California
    DOWN ARGENTINE WAY I think of along with other 3-strip films of similar vintage, they tend to feature:
    Either Betty Grable or Alice Faye
    Don Ameche, John Payne or Cesar Romero
    (Somewhat) exotic locations
    (Often) Carmen Miranda

    The films:
    DOWN ARGENTINE WAY (bonus - the amazing Nicholas Brothers!)
    WEEK-END IN HAVANA (I don’t know why they hyphenated “Weekend”!)
    SPRINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES
    THAT NIGHT IN RIO
    SONG OF THE ISLANDS
    MOON OVER MIAMI

    I bought them all years ago, DVD only - if any are redone in blu-ray I’ll upgrade. All fun, for ME anyway!

    More early boldly colored 3-strip I mentioned way up ^ the thread:
    Technicolor short “Starlit Days at the Lido” from 1935 (YouTube). One of several on Warner Archive’s DVD only set “Classic Musical Shorts from the Dream Factory.”

    Now I’m breathlessly awaiting the Warner Archive announcements for their AUGUST releases!
     
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  8. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Sorry to be THAT guy but, how do we KNOW what the first IB Tech films looked like? Anyone ever seen a 35mm nitrate print of "Trail Of The Lonesome Pine?" No, nor any of those others, I'm bettin'. All we have are some pieced together, less than perfect, examples of dupes or recreations or 16mm blow ups.

    In 1987 I got to see the first live action Technicolor film when the Academy projected it once. Nitrate 35mm of 1934's "La Cucaracha" and nothing I've seen on that thing looks like that print did. It was just breathtaking. So much so that when it was over, the entire audience rose to their feet to applaud.

    Can't judge what Natalie was going for if we can't see the end results in their original form.. Over and out.
     
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  9. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Sorry to be Mr. Bringdown but be wary of any 20th Century Fox "color" restoration. Most (if not all) of the original Fox 1930's-1950's Technicolor parts were dumped in the 1950's when the stuff was duped over to DeLuxe Color.
     
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  10. mBen989

    mBen989 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scranton, PA
    "Why do we need those three negatives when we have this new lovely Eastman stock?"
     
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  11. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Exactly, I've even seen the original destruct order. Stuff like that hurts but what can ya do?
     
  12. mBen989

    mBen989 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scranton, PA
    Pray for separations?
     
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  13. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Yeah, sometimes we get lucky. I have a Criterion "HEAVEN CAN WAIT" that seemed better than most. At least it didn't have that gross purple tinged look that the usual Eastman dupes had. Might have been a print or some British discovery, don't know. But it looked pretty good..
     
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  14. Manapua

    Manapua Forum Resident

    Location:
    Honolulu
    I've been hoping for a BR of Blue Hawaii for years and now we're getting a 4K at some point this year from Paramount. If you have access, it's supposed to be up on Itunes.
     
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  15. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    One day, hopefully there will be a Blu-ray of M-G-M's "Northwest Passage" (1940) with Spencer Tracy. That should (key word "should") look darn beautiful if they have any original elements. Shot on location under great hardship, it was quite a flick.. Good book as well..

    1939's money losing loss leader was "The Wizard Of Oz." 1940's was "Northwest Passage."

    Here's a really bad Eastman dupe of a dupe of the original IB Tech trailer:

     
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  16. EVOLVIST

    EVOLVIST Kid A Thread Starter

    Yes, you're right; there's no way of knowing what they looked like originally without getting to the source, and even at that, there are some pitfalls. However, in context of Natalie Kalmus, I think we're talking about the overall color palettes in a film, even in the presence of faded or innacurate tints. Like Northwest Passage, above, I would say that its copious use of earthen tones would never look like Elizabeth and Essex, simply because their palettes are so different. A brown thatched roof will still be brown, though how deep or light that brown is might be lost to us forever.

    Does that make sense?

    Another aspect of that - and I don't know if it works for or against the viewer (maybe both) - that the brain begins to fill in what it wants to see, based on experiences. All of our minds work that way. So a budding student of Technicolor might not have that perceptual information that longtime viewer might have. On the flipside, that opens us up to subjectivity, which is an inescapable byproduct of the way the mind works.

    So, yeah, you're spot-on, because unless we move together, closer to the source, the less subjectivity there is, the more we are seeing closer to the same things.

    This is what I get for reading. :) The sucky thing is, I'll probably never see a nitrate IB print in person, but maybe I will. The chances are slim. If I did, though, I'm sure that it would color my perception for good. As-is, I'm sifting through the ashes. It's fun, though.
     
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  17. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Can we chat about the most crucial element in the processing of real Technicolor back in the day?

    The Lily.

    What the heck is that, you ask? A white Lily or in most cases, a white piece of paper pasted on cardboard that was held up to the camera right after the "marker" for every single shot ever filmed in real IB Tech.

    This was crucial! The only way to calibrate processing was adjusting for neutral white. Otherwise they couldn't do it by eye as well.

    I have seen pics of Judy Garland holding the Lily before a take while filming THE WIZARD OF OZ. You wouldn't know what it was by looking at the thing but once seen, can't be unseen.

    The lack of information on this out there is shocking.

    In this pic you can see a modern version of the Lily. They continued the practice well into the Eastman Color era. Jacques Demy, Catherine Deneuve right before a take on set of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg/ Les Paralpluies de Cherbourg (1964).

    And second pic: Here is George Reeves holding the "Lily" during the filming of the first season of SUPERMAN in color. If the Lily registered white during printing, you were In Like Flynn, everything else fell into place. Even in this later Eastman color era, they needed the same thing. This is one of my favorite photos. Ironically, I don't have time to color correct it. The crappy Kodak Ektachrome trans. has faded to red. That would have NEVER happened with Kodachrome.

    para9.jpg superman lily.jpg
     
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  18. EVOLVIST

    EVOLVIST Kid A Thread Starter

    Down Argentine Way (1940) ~ It's a small musical. Very compact. While just a smidge less colorful than 1943's The Gang's All Here, it looks good, like a first gen dupe to Eastman stock. The negatives were perfectly aligned when this transfer was made. It's a 20th Century Fox film, so the transfer was done in the '70s, or earlier?

    I'll tell you, Don Ameche is the essence of 1940's cool. Betty Grable does a good job strutting her stuff.

    The songs and dance are extremely good. The only issue I have is that they milked the hell out of the title track, reprising it in nearly every conceivable way. I don't like that in musicals. It's cheating. They didn't have enough good tunes to carry the entire show. The story is nice, though.

    That makes this film the inverse of The Gang's All Here, which has a weakish story, yet the scale is much bigger than Down Argentine Way, and the songs don't repeat in Gang's.

    It seems to me that it's Cover Girl (1944) that set the template for the major 1950s and '60s musicals, but then again, I have a limited scope, because I need to see more 1940s musicals to get a handle on it.

    Recommended? Sure! The Nicholas Brothers are the joint in this flick! Big props to Gene Kelly for inviting them to perform in The Pirate (1948), because if I were Kelly, I'd be scared.

    I've got to watch Stormy Weather (1943) now. Only after I watch Giant, which will be tonight.
     
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  19. EVOLVIST

    EVOLVIST Kid A Thread Starter

    Giant (1956) - WarnerColor - Wow, the state of this film was not worth putting it out in UHD. I've never seen so many dupes and soft shots in one film before. It makes Marnie (1964) look like a Jacob van Loo painting. Of course I sit pretty close to the screen, so maybe if you're sitting on the moon with Stanley Kubrick, then this might look good from a longer distance. As-is, if every restorative team has an achilles heel, WBs would be the way that they manipulate opticals and dupes. I don't like their technique at all.

    Thinking about it, they release Giant when Gone With the Wind, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Ben Hur (1959) are in 4K purgatory.
     
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  20. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sydney
    I thought those screenshots I saw were a bad omen and I am glad I've cancelled my preorder. It is a shame you don't get a lot of information on why a movie that is relatively newer looks worse than much earlier works like Wizard. I don't think Gone with the wind will look stunning sharpness wise but that one I will get for sure unless it gets sanitized, I am sure you will have to sit through half an hour of forced warnings on how the views of studio are not represented by the movie.
     
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  21. Bob Casner

    Bob Casner Senior Member

    Location:
    Venice, California
    I’m still thinking we’re good for ROBIN HOOD 4K next year: Warner seems to be keen on commemorating anniversaries, and 2023 is its 75th.

    Speaking of cool - check Cab Calloway’s number in STORMY WEATHER, decked out in a white zoot suit, a high point for me! Also the gorgeous Lena Horne singing the title track, Fats Waller singing “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and the phenomenal acrobatic dancing of the Nicholas Brothers. My copy is the OOP Twilight Time blu-ray I bought when it was still available new.
     
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  22. EVOLVIST

    EVOLVIST Kid A Thread Starter

    Here ya go, Steve. A lily in The Garden of Allah.

    [​IMG]

    BONUS: I saw this in Down Argentine Way. What is this Satanic business that Betty Grable's wearing?

    [​IMG]
    Or at the very least its some type of Pagan symbol. I'm not passing judgement, but it leapt out to me while watching the movie.
     
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  23. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    It's a good question what you could do in film printing, but in digital restoration, we can give you anything you want. What's generally an issue is neither the director nor the cinematographer wants anything to distract you from what you're supposed to be looking at. If the lead character is dressed in bright yellow, and they've got a big scene in which they're the primary focus, you don't want a big blue light or a bright magenta flare happening on the other side of the frame.

    It's similar to the art of music arrangement, where they'll specifically choose certain instruments in certain ranges to avoid any conflict with the lead singer. You'll always be able to understand the lyrics, and there won't be (say) a trumpet playing the exact same note in the exact same place. There are a lot of parallels between sound and color.

    BTW, Natalie was mainly the "on-set color supervisor" for more than 400 films and shorts, but the truth is that she just specified that they avoid clashes between certain paints and fabrics, and made sure that everything was well-exposed. There were some combinations of light and color that revealed issues with the Technicolor process, and she made sure that never happened. If you do the research, you'll find out that Natalie kind of got a bad rap for arguing with directors and DPs as to what kind of lighting and color choices they could make, but I think the reality is she actually had pretty good taste, which was a big part of why many of the early Technicolor films looked so good.
     
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  24. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Nat had great taste, yes. Her "associates" did all the on-set work, she got the credit. Until much later when they would list the associate as well.
     
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  25. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    A LILY! Very nice, thanks..
     
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