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American Women's Club of Hamburg

A Stunning Display at the Retrospective Glorious Technicolor Section

This year’s retrospective was a celebration of 100 years of color by Technicolor. The Berlin Film Festival featured thirty Technicolor films from its creation until 1953. A wide selection of films were chosen, from relative unknown features like Redskin (1929), La Cucaracha (1934), The Toll of the Sea (1922), to films that have been renowned for their Technicolor like Gone with the Wind (1939), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and The Wizard of Oz (1939). This allowed the festival to highlight the development of Technicolor from its beginning to its heyday.  
Technicolor was first developed in 1912, but it wasn’t until 1922 that it began to be possible to use it more extensively and it became popular in Hollywood. The Toll of the Sea was the first Hollywood feature to be filmed with its new two-color system, and was the first to not require a special projector to be shown. Originally thought lost in the great MGM vault fire of 1967, its nitrate was later found and restored in the ’80s to full color, giving it a better image quality. Redskin was also an early example of the two-tone system, and interestingly, due to budget constraints, only the Native American scenes were filmed in color, the result of which made the world of the white man seem particularly drab by contrast. Technicolor continued to struggle to get a foothold, primarily because there were not enough of the special bulky cameras needed to make the film. It wasn’t until its partnership with Disney which culminated in the resounding success of Snow White and Seven Dwarves (1937) using the three-color process that Hollywood really came on board. The Wizard of Oz, which was made in reaction to Snow White, was the turning point for Technicolor, and with its abrupt change from black and white to full garish color, it marked the beginning of an era. Technicolor continued to be popular throughout the first half of the twentieth century, particularly in musicals, melodramas, and adventure films.
The Retrospective section of the festival is always a highlight as it brings to light some of the most fascinating technical aspects of classic cinema. With the cooperation of the George Eastman House, the festival had access to some of the best and rarest examples of the varying Technicolor processes and gave audiences an almost unprecedented opportunity to see a range of examples not often shown. Here’s looking forward to what next year will bring!

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