The Retrospective is showing some 30 spectacular Technicolor films, in some cases in laboriously restored versions. The selection dates from the early days through 1953 and includes six British films. Among them you’ll find a great wealth of creative ideas for colour composition in a variety of genres, ranging from the zesty, exaggerated use of colour in musicals such as The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, USA, 1939) to scenic natural backdrops in earthy tones such as in John Ford’s western She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (USA, 1949), all the way to the arresting high-contrast, yet simultaneously almost documentary qualities of Technicolor in the epic drama An American Romance (King Vidor, USA, 1944).
Brookline, Massachusetts. November 18, 1915. The story as told by its author. A man stands at his bookshelves and his eye roams the spines. The man is Herbert T. Kalmus. He is casting about for a name for the new colour film technique he’s developed, a process that will take the American movie industry by storm in the 1930s. His attention falls on the desk, where an imposing book with an artfully embossed cover lies. It is the 1904 yearbook from his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, titled “Technique MDCCCCIV.” Kalmus lingers on the word “technique” and reflects on its meaning, until he visualises the name – TECHNICOLOR, “a beautiful name, a meaningful word, easy to remember, hard to forget, and possessing a full measure of significance for a company aiming to revolutionize the motion-picture world.” At least, that’s how Kalmus remembers it in his autobiography. And his vision would come to prove itself. Even today, “Technicolor” stands for spectacular colours and movie-going experiences.
“Color by Technicolor.” That slogan stood for the ground-breaking inventions of the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation, founded in 1915 by Herbert T. Kalmus, Daniel Comstock and W. Burton Wescott. Technicolor No. I was a two-colour system that used a beam splitter and two filters, a red and a green, to expose the film strip, as well as to project it. The resulting spectrum of colours onscreen was accordingly narrow, and blue, for instance, could not be reproduced at all. But the doubts of cinema operators combined with their own ambition led Kalmus and his team to make constant improvements over the years and decades to follow, from the two-colour systems Technicolor No. I through III, to the celebrated three-colour system, Technicolor No. IV. Technicolor No. V, introduced in 1952, was a lab system solely for processing film, not shooting it.