89 years ago, the silent film, The Toll of the Sea, opened in New York City. While this film was not the first feature length color film (that honor goes to With Our King and Queen Through India from 1912) or the first Technicolor film (that honor goes to The Gulf Between from 1917), it was a real breakthrough as the first general release film to use Technicolor. Up to that point, previous color films required special projectors with near-constant attention from a technician to make viewing possible. The Toll of the Sea became the first film to use the two-color Technicolor process, allowing film to be shown on a standard film projector.
Through the early 1920′s films like, Wanderer of the Wasteland and Douglas Fairbanks’ The Black Pirate, showcased that Technicolor Process 2 could be commercially viable. This was further cemented by the used of Technicolor for color sequences in such major motion pictures as The Ten Commandments (1923), The Phantom of the Opera (1925), and Ben-Hur (1925).
Although the Technicolor process was invented in 1916, it took many years of continual improvements before it became the Hollywood standard. In the late 1920′s and early 30s, Technicolor Process 3 of using dye-transfer technique was introduced around the same time as sound-on film; thus, The Viking (1928) became the first Technicolor film with synchronized score and sound effects. Technicolor film, On with the Show! (1929) became the first all-talking color feature, followed by other talkies like, Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), The Show of Shows (1929), King of Jazz (1930), and many more.
Technicolor’s success reached a new height in 1938 when Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs became the top-grossing film of that year. Using new methods and improvements made over the previous years, Technicolor began attracting serious attention from studios who had remained reluctant to use the technology.
When you are looking at the best color films through the early days of Hollywood, from Gone With the Wind to Fantasia to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – they are all shot in Technicolor. Until 1952 when Eastmancolor from Eastman Kodak would become more popular, Technicolor was the standard used in Hollywood. In recent years, there has been a reintroduction of Technicolor and the dye transfer process in general film production. Classic films like, Rear Window, Funny Girl, and Apocalypse Now Redux, have been restored using the technology and several big-budget Hollywood films have used it on actual production. These include Bulworth, Pearl Harbor, and Toy Story.
Technicolor now focuses on both archival work in preserving our treasured Hollywood films and reinventing yet another way for people to experience film via 3D. This month, The Golden Closet is pleased to feature wardrobes from classic Technicolor films to celebrate their contributions in bringing cinema to life.