Altered Images: Colorization

 

About thirty-five years ago the top bosses of my then-employer, the American Film Institute, got us into a real jam with our funders. Taking a stiff-necked, self-righteous pose, AFI impulsively issued strong statements and held an urgent press conference in support of a new artists’ rights movement headed by longtime board members and all-around AFI pals Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Saying yes to them must have seemed like a no-brainer. What, after all, could be controversial in 1980’s Hollywood about backing Steven and George? And they had allies; the film directors’ guild, as well as groups of film critics and other intellectuals, were coming out in force against a new media technology that they sternly called a mortal threat to America’s film heritage.

The new technique, supposedly so dangerous to preserving American culture on screen, was called colorization, using video technology to allow hand-coloring of black-and-white films and TV shows. In retrospect, it was one of the most overblown film controversies of the mid-Eighties. But the way it worked out set business precedents that still guide media law to this day, and shape the battleground over censorship and online cancel culture. Withdrawing Song of the South from general circulation, or turning police guns into walkie-talkies in E.T., cutting a Donald Trump cameo appearance out of Home Alone 2 or removing Kevin Spacey from All the Money in the World, —they were all affected by what happened in courtrooms and offices in the nearly-forgotten Colorization War of now-distant 1986.

The studio bosses, the guys who in fact ultimately paid AFI’s paychecks, were solidly on the other side of this new technical issue and resented AFI’s well-intentioned meddling. Ted Turner was pissed with us, man. “They’re my movies, and I’ll do what I want with them”, he snapped. Disney and Paramount weren’t happy either. Once AFI got the word it did some frantic, face-saving back-pedaling. We hadn’t intended to bite the hand that could strangle us.

The basic idea of colorization goes back to the earliest days of film. Rows and aisles of retouching artists, generally women, sat at flat, glowing glass tables equipped with big magnifying glasses. They used sable brushes to paint colors directly onto each frame of film. It was a crude process, but it delighted the audiences of 1907. By the ‘20s, movie photography began to include color, though rarely, and the paintbrushes were put away.

The vast majority of old movies continued to be black and white until the ‘50s. Then increasing the proportion of color films gave the theater screen something that early television couldn’t compete with. By 1965, after a half-billion-dollar effort, television caught up with color, and basically everything had to be made in color from then on. That left Hollywood with a huge inventory of black and white titles, feature films, and TV series, that were now worth far less money. Film companies couldn’t sell nearly as many of the “b&w”s to local television or basic cable—almost their sole markets—as they could sell even mediocre color programming. On Mannix, they still use dial phones and record players. Every adult seems to smoke. Women wear mini-skirts. Quaint! But to casual viewers of MeTV or AntennaTV, because it’s in color it’s instantly accepted as part of our everyday world in a way that (black and white) M Squad or Peter Gunn can never be. Rapid depreciation of black and white meant less studio equity, less collateral for loans. They took the hit on their books, wrote off the loss, and moved on.

Decades later, at the dawn of the ‘80s, the studios were offered a chance at partial recoupment of that loss, at a price. New analog technology allowed video frames to be painted and stored electronically, one at a time. Emerging digital technology was capable of much more, such as auto-following a colored-in shape from frame to frame, and a more subtle, deeper color palette. The new media tech was now accompanied by one of capitalism’s most unmistakable cues, the sound of big money hitting the table.

Then the guilds threw a fit and everyone ended up in court. (Why, exactly, did the Writers Guild have any sort of standing? Did their members really think they had a legal right to have their words read aloud in black and white rather than color?)

After the expensive legal wrangling, a consensus formed around two points:

First, the big picture: The studios won, make no mistake about it. They outright own the material and can do what they want with it, provided all existing contracts are observed and all profit participants paid. The grandly European concept of artists rights beyond the contractual, the goal of the arts guilds, was largely ignored or legally rejected, though Congress did give the complainants a fig leaf to hide their defeat, a requirement that colorized video should bear a notice that the original work was in black and white.

Second, the artists lost, but the studios admitted that artists’ rights mean something, as long as that “something” was abstract and didn’t cost major money. In case of alterations of library content, whether by censorship or by more routinely commercial reasons, the studios voluntarily promised that the original version would be saved in the archives, so a decision, say, to colorize or censor, can be changed or reversed, years later. This is essentially a handshake deal. There’s no real enforcement mechanism, but nobody wants to be that one schmuck who breaks a deal and faces the wheel. As of the time you’re reading this. the original negative and soundtrack of Song of the South are sitting, peacefully intact, in Disney’s film vaults, and a few miles away in Burbank, the original B&W, non-colorized version of Yankee Doodle Dandy is kept by Warners.

That was the truce between art and commerce. That truce line assumed that artists would always be on the side of freedom, and companies would always be on the side of censorship. Bluntly, it was a parent/child relationship and for most of a century, it basically worked. The system wasn’t set up for a situation where art and commerce went to the same colleges, read the same magazines, and essentially thought alike.

So what happened to colorization? It’s there today, it works better than ever, but it’s still rarely used, even as black and white film prints—and our memories—fade. Contrary to Martin Scorsese’s fears, the studios holding rights to historically significant black and white films didn’t knock themselves out in a mad rush to offend purists by colorizing classic films that only purists would pay to see anyway.

Nobody’s even rushing to colorize classic old TV shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show, Sgt. Bilko, or The Honeymooners. Fifty, sixty years after they first aired, people know how old they are, and are accustomed to them in their original form. One minor exception has been very specific, two ABC shows of the early ‘60s, Combat! and Twelve O’ Clock High. Some episodes of both shows were colorized, the rationale being they were World War II shows with a lot of stock footage that already defined them as part of the past.

One episode of I Love Lucy has been colorized twice, giving us a look at how much the artistry behind the technology has improved. IMHO, the outstanding example of what intelligent colorization can do for a movie is They Shall Not Grow Old, which used a variety of novel techniques to turn World War I footage, and our faded memories into a new-for-the-first-time vivid sense that these weren’t mere flickering, herky-jerky shadows on the screen, but men as they actually lived, people once as real as you or me.

Make no mistake about it, turning World War One imagery into color is adding something that wasn’t there to begin with. But paradoxically, it restores an image to a lifelike, if imprecise, and better impression of reality.

Altered Images (aside from being the name of an ‘80s band) will be a short series of posts revealing how, well, motion picture images are altered, with a specific emphasis on changing reality. The next post in the series is likely to be about image smoothing, or frame rate adjustment, and why this seemingly obscure, subliminal technique is going to be important to the way we see the past. Soon we’ll get to how films as diverse as Citizen Kane, In the Line of Fire, and Zelig use these techniques on once-real, now-altered footage.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Excellent piece, Gary. I expected the content owners to colorize everything in the vaults. Would The Third Man work in color? Could it? Maybe the rise of color production brought about the end of film noir. For certain it changed the cinematography that made the genre so iconic.

    • #1
  2. Bob Armstrong Thatcher
    Bob Armstrong
    @BobArmstrong

    Percival (View Comment):

    Excellent piece, Gary. I expected the content owners to colorize everything in the vaults. Would The Third Man work in color? Could it? Maybe the rise of color production brought about the end of film noir. For certain it changed the cinematography that made the genre so iconic.

    Blade Runner certainly packed a heap of noir into its color frames.

    • #2
  3. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    When you look at The Longest Day, Darling, or Dr. Strangelove, you’re seeing the glorious monochromatic sunset of black and white. You could imagine film noir in color, but it wouldn’t nearly be the same. 

    When black and white is beautifully done, it’s a dreamlike world that’s not like the one we live in. But colorizing a film, if you can still turn down the color and see it as the original, if you want, shouldn’t be a big moral issue. Culture gives us a lot to worry about. Whether Bogie’s polka-dot bow tie was ruby red or maroon isn’t one of them.  

    • #3
  4. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Will they ever colorize Paper Moon?

    • #4
  5. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Will they ever colorize Paper Moon?

    Very doubtful. Peter Bogdanovitch made a big deal out of shooting b&w for The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon. It was very unusual by the early 70s. It would have been easier, even by then cheaper to just go along with color. This is well known in the industry and film buffs, so I think the studio would think twice or three times.

    • #5
  6. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    I don’t think Dick van Dyke gains much by being colorized.

    • #6
  7. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Gary McVey: They outright own the material and can do what they want with it, provided all existing contracts are observed and all profit participants paid.

    And that’s the truth.  But what the studio does to the creators matters too.

    The original must be preserved.  In particular the old, non-digital originals, because we don’t know what technology will be available to produce a version we want (that’s the important word) in the future.

    But the studio owns the content. Period. So you have to depend on management for how they deal with your content.

    Warner Media decided on its own to release on theatrical and HBO Max (a terrible brand, it makes me think of cable TV) and pissed off their talent.  A decision no doubt mandated by ATT.

    Be like Sony Pictures.  Be talent friendly.

    But I am biased.

    • #7
  8. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Bob Armstrong (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Excellent piece, Gary. I expected the content owners to colorize everything in the vaults. Would The Third Man work in color? Could it? Maybe the rise of color production brought about the end of film noir. For certain it changed the cinematography that made the genre so iconic.

    Blade Runner certainly packed a heap of noir into its color frames.

    Yep, I don’t argue with that. Ridley Scott is one of the most designer-y of film directors. Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973?) is also distinctly noirish even though it’s in color. And of course, no glittering strumpet of 40s noir would have kicked Sonny Corleone out of bed. I make a case that even The Godfather should be considered noir, or at least noir-adjacent. 

    • #8
  9. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    I don’t think Dick van Dyke gains much by being colorized.

    But The Three Stooges do…I’ll Never Heil Again” being one of their better ones. It’s helped by the pseudo-Ruritanian pomp of the costumes and settings. Why, I bet Columbia had to spend $1.50 on those sets. 

    And there’s also Reefer Madness, which was apparently colorized as an after hours pet project. 

    Yankee Doodle Dandy isn’t a comedy per se, but it’s a buoyant patriotic musical, which also lends itself to colorization.

    • #9
  10. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: They outright own the material and can do what they want with it, provided all existing contracts are observed and all profit participants paid.

    And that’s the truth. But what the studio does to the creators matters too.

    The original must be preserved. In particular the old, non-digital originals, because we don’t know what technology will be available to produce a version we want (that’s the important word) in the future.

    But the studio owns the content. Period. So you have to depend on management for how they deal with your content.

    Warner Media decided on its own to release on theatrical and HBO Max (a terrible brand, it makes me think of cable TV) and pissed off their talent. A decision no doubt mandated by ATT.

    Be like Sony Pictures. Be talent friendly.

    But I am biased.

    He is…but he’s right. Sony will sell to anyone, so talent knows their work won’t be underpaid as a sweetheart deal with the studio’s in-house streamer. Sony is also the right size for an integrated media conglomerate: ridiculously overwhelmingly big, but not to the Palpatine Empire-like degree of Disney or Warners. 

    As Clavius points out about Warners, all of a sudden they’ve trashed a fifty year record of having excellent talent relations. There’s a reason why Kubrick made it his home studio and Clint Eastwood still does. That reason is emphatically gone. The loss in goodwill has been breathtaking.  

    • #10
  11. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Just on Saturday, the Wall Street Journal published an article in its Review section by Cass Sunstein titled “Can government regulate Deepfakes?”  Just a taste of what’s coming. 

    • #11
  12. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Just on Saturday, the Wall Street Journal published an article in its Review section by Cass Sunstein titled “Can government regulate Deepfakes?” Just a taste of what’s coming.

    That’s what this series will be about, and it’s interesting that it’s taken this long. There are endless ways to manipulate real footage, but most of them are straightforward and could be done even back in the low tech era. Even today, AFAIK there’s been no political campaign that’s won by using CGI. Not to be vulgar, but if today’s wizards can convincingly do anything, don’t you think the non-existent “pee tape” would surface? 

    It means, even 28 years since Jurassic Park, creation of flawlessly realistic artificial people is still not there yet. Instead of a synthetic, artificially generated Donald Trump, the smart way to influence history would be by using imagery that was real, but repurpose it. For example: It’s really Trump, all right, in 4K, but the background of the Miss Universe pageant event he’s speaking at has been digitally repainted as a mass execution. That, too, is a possibility that could happen, is certainly going to happen, but to my knowledge hasn’t happened.

    I suspect deepfakes are going to have an impact on the future that’s more like mosquitoes than like B-29s; pervasive and annoying, swatted away. Deepfakes are not likely to push an enraged country to suddenly declare war. Not yet.

    • #12
  13. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Will they ever colorize Paper Moon?

    Very doubtful. Peter Bogdanovitch made a big deal out of shooting b&w for The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon. It was very unusual by the early 70s. It would have been easier, even by then cheaper to just go along with color. This is well known in the industry and film buffs, so I think the studio would think twice or three times.

    Sorry. I should have put a sarcasm marker on it. 

    From what I can remember, Bogdanovich didn’t want in color because the scenery was too green and took away from the depression bleakness look and feel he wanted to convey.

    • #13
  14. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Will they ever colorize Paper Moon?

    Very doubtful. Peter Bogdanovitch made a big deal out of shooting b&w for The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon. It was very unusual by the early 70s. It would have been easier, even by then cheaper to just go along with color. This is well known in the industry and film buffs, so I think the studio would think twice or three times.

    If I have the story correct, Young Frankenstein was filmed in color but released in black & white. Mel Brooks saw dailies in black & white and decided it fit the movie better.

    • #14
  15. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    With its new Xbox Series X/S consoles, Microsoft introduced an “auto-HDR” software program by which games of past-generation Xbox consoles receive largely automated upgrades from SDR (Standard Dynamic Rangel color palettes to HDR (High Dynamic Range) color. Typically, use of HDR emphasizes contrast of darkness and brightness, rather than enriching colors mid-spectrum. 

    Though the visual contrast is automatically upgraded by software, the results for each game are reviewed before approval. Unsatisfactory results can be run through the software again with different parameters. Photo editing software by Adobe and Corel offer a wealth of similar options, if you are faimilar with those. 

    Such software improves every year and increasingly benefits from AIs / machine learning.

    Gradually, after learning from failed attempts, colorization will become available as an automatic and cost-efficient process. Eventually, black-and-white films will be colorized in mere days or hours using standard algorithms and relying on an ever-growing image library for reference material. 

    • #15
  16. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    It seems obvious to me that from a legal standpoint, the owner of a work is entitled to do whatever they want with it, including altering it in any way.

    As for whether it should be done, I think it has to be a case-by-case judgment call. For a work of art that was designed from the outset to be presented in black and white, colorization is likely to be a bad idea, although arguably it should just be thought of as creating a new, derivative work. Something like Citizen Kane, whose black-and-white cinematography is so striking, would certainly have been made differently had it been planned as a color film. Could you make something worthwhile by colorizing it? Maybe, but it would certainly be a new and different thing.

    But there are many cases where the black-and-white medium didn’t really factor into any artistic decisions. Most documentary footage would fall into that category, and I agree that They Shall Not Grow Old is the gold standard of how such footage should be presented. It is a disservice to the past to perpetuate the impression that life was less real then.

    And of course there are plenty of movies and TV shows where “artistry” is less of a concern. When I was a kid in the ’70s, I never saw the first season of Gilligan’s Island because those episodes were in black and white (and thus rarely shown in syndication). My understanding is that those episodes have now been colorized, allowing them to stand alongside the rest of the series. I don’t think anyone lost any sleep over that decision.

    That the budget exists for colorizing Gilligan’s Island, but not for a proper HD remastering of Babylon 5, is a cosmic injustice I am not prepared to comment on.

    • #16
  17. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Reagan
    GLDIII Temporarily Essential
    @GLDIII

    Gary McVey: As of the time you’re reading this. the original negative and soundtrack of Song of the South are sitting, peacefully intact, in Disney’s film vaults, and a few miles away in Burbank, the original B&W, non-colorized version of Yankee Doodle Dandy is kept by Warners.

    Are you telling me that in a vault somewhere in California that it still shows that Hans shot first? 

    Well Heavens to Murgatroyd….

    • #17
  18. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    As I recall it, a big part of the controversy over colorizing in the 80s was that it was done badly.  It wasn’t really that the colors were wrong, it was that they were inhuman and unnatural.

    Remember this was the dawn of the VHS age, when hundreds of previously unavailable films and TV series were coming back to life.  Previously you had to wait for some local art house theater to screen an old classic, or for PBS to dredge something out.  Suddenly stuff that my parents hadn’t seen in 20 years was available again at the local video store to rent.  The colorizing stirred up resentment from people like my parents who wanted a chance to see things as they had been, and not find their childhood and young adult memories already rewritten.  It was like finding out that a long beloved book was back in print, but with new chapters inserted by the author’s idiot son in law – sure the original book may not have been some major work of art, but it had value as it was originally.  At that time, Turner was threatening that he wouldn’t give people the choice of what version was out there – colorized (badly) or lump it.

    • #18
  19. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    I suspect deepfakes are going to have an impact on the future that’s more like mosquitoes than like B-29s; pervasive and annoying, swatted away. Deepfakes are not likely to push an enraged country to suddenly declare war. Not yet.

    I suspect these will be malarial mosquitoes, carrying all sorts of toxins. 

    It’s like the QAnon stuff – most people would reject it outright if they knew for certain what they were seeing, just like they’d swat away mosquitoes if they knew they were malarial.  But the various meme wars and fakery going on there already has shown that you don’t need to fool everyone, and you don’t need to fool anyone fully.  You just need so sow doubt, and administer poison gradually.  They don’t have to be overt, just subtle.  They do not need to convince, just suggest and demoralize.

    • #19
  20. Midwest Southerner Member
    Midwest Southerner
    @MidwestSoutherner

    This was so fascinating to read! As the director of a film education nonprofit, I thoroughly enjoyed the history you shared. 

    • #20
  21. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Midwest Southerner (View Comment):

    This was so fascinating to read! As the director of a film education nonprofit, I thoroughly enjoyed the history you shared.

    Thanks for your kind words, Midwest Southerner! There’s a lot of history that’s rarely told. 

    • #21
  22. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    When you look at The Longest Day, Darling, or Dr. Strangelove, you’re seeing the glorious monochromatic sunset of black and white. You could imagine film noir in color, but it wouldn’t nearly be the same.

    When black and white is beautifully done, it’s a dreamlike world that’s not like the one we live in. But colorizing a film, if you can still turn down the color and see it as the original, if you want, shouldn’t be a big moral issue. Culture gives us a lot to worry about. Whether Bogie’s polka-dot bow tie was ruby red or maroon isn’t one of them.

    So true. There’s also a certain wonderful whimsy in imagining for yourself what the colors are, like picturing what a character in a novel would look like. 

    Excellent piece. 

    • #22
  23. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    As I recall it, a big part of the controversy over colorizing in the 80s was that it was done badly. It wasn’t really that the colors were wrong, it was that they were inhuman and unnatural.

    I think I can remember seeing a version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” that was colorized. It was horrible and I tried to forget it. I never have had a problem with seeing black and white movies and have never avoided them. Remakes are often worse, but then for a host of reasons.

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):
    There’s also a certain wonderful whimsy in imagining for yourself what the colors are, like picturing what a character in a novel would look like. 

    I do that too. Also plays. especially Shakespeare and Ibsen, are great for that. 

    • #23
  24. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Clavius: If I have the story correct, Young Frankenstein was filmed in color but released in black & white. Mel Brooks saw dailies in black & white and decided it fit the movie better.

    No. That’s what the studio wanted and Brooks was adamant. He knew if he filmed in color the studio would release in color. It was always intended to be a black and white movie.

    The problem with colorization is that you cannot adhere to anyone’s vision. The truth is that white doesn’t really photograph all that well. Those vast Art Deco sets in Astaire-Rogers musicals were actually painted with pale greens and pinks. 

    • #24
  25. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Clavius: If I have the story correct, Young Frankenstein was filmed in color but released in black & white. Mel Brooks saw dailies in black & white and decided it fit the movie better.

    No. That’s what the studio wanted and Brooks was adamant. He knew if he filmed in color the studio would release in color. It was always intended to be a black and white movie.

    The problem with colorization is that you cannot adhere to anyone’s vision. The truth is that white doesn’t really photograph all that well. Those vast Art Deco sets in Astaire-Rogers musicals were actually painted with pale greens and pinks.

    Oh well, it was a good story, anyway.

    • #25
  26. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    I remember an episode of “Sanford and Son,” where Fred was excited about getting a color TV, so he could “find out what color the Waltons are.”

    • #26
  27. Snirtler Inactive
    Snirtler
    @Snirtler

    Gary McVey: That was the truce between art and commerce. That truce line assumed that artists would always be on the side of freedom, and companies would always be on the side of censorship. Bluntly, it was a parent/child relationship and for most of a century, it basically worked. The system wasn’t set up for a situation where art and commerce went to the same colleges, read the same magazines, and essentially thought alike.

    Wise observations here.

    • #27
  28. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    Hang On (View Comment):

    I think I can remember seeing a version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” that was colorized. It was horrible and I tried to forget it.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but my recollection is that that film was the one that really kicked off the colorization debate. It also brought attention to the strange legal status of that film, which was in the public domain at the time (allowing colorization, or any other alteration, without permission from anyone). Once the studio managed to reassert their copyright ownership, the colorized version vanished.

    Although there is one available now, presumably authorized by and supervised by the studio that owns the movie. And presumably much better than the old one.

    • #28
  29. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    EJHill (View Comment):

    No. That’s what the studio wanted and Brooks was adamant. He knew if he filmed in color the studio would release in color. It was always intended to be a black and white movie.

    The problem with colorization is that you cannot adhere to anyone’s vision. The truth is that white doesn’t really photograph all that well. Those vast Art Deco sets in Astaire-Rogers musicals were actually painted with pale greens and pinks.

    Kenneth Branagh’s neo-noir film Dead Again (a fun movie, by the way) tells two interwoven stories: one present-day (1990s) and the other in 1949. The movie was shot entirely in color, but at test screenings, audiences were confused, so it was decided to print the 1940s sequences in black and white to better distinguish the two plotlines. The costume and set designers were unhappy about this, because if they had known from the outset that those sequences would be in black and white, they would have chosen different colors.

    • #29
  30. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):

    No. That’s what the studio wanted and Brooks was adamant. He knew if he filmed in color the studio would release in color. It was always intended to be a black and white movie.

    The problem with colorization is that you cannot adhere to anyone’s vision. The truth is that white doesn’t really photograph all that well. Those vast Art Deco sets in Astaire-Rogers musicals were actually painted with pale greens and pinks.

    Kenneth Branagh’s neo-noir film Dead Again (a fun movie, by the way) tells two interwoven stories: one present-day (1990s) and the other in 1949. The movie was shot entirely in color, but at test screenings, audiences were confused, so it was decided to print the 1940s sequences in black and white to better distinguish the two plotlines. The costume and set designers were unhappy about this, because if they had known from the outset that those sequences would be in black and white, they would have chosen different colors.

    The film worked, though.  

    • #30