Technicolor Firsts

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BECKY SHARP and DANCING PIRATE

Films Around the World, Inc. owns two historically important movies:  BECKY SHARP, produced by Pioneer Pictures and distributed by RKO, was the first 3-strip Technicolor feature film, produced in 1935.  DANCING PIRATE, also produced by Pioneer Pictures and distributed by RKO, followed a year later.

Both were re-released in the 1940s by Film Classics, which we now believe was founded by Films Around the World Inc.’s founder, Irvin Shapiro.  Because three-strip Technicolor prints were so expensive, Film Classics re-released them in Cinecolor, which used only two of the three strips, the red and blue strips.  Unfortunately, the third strip, yellow/cyan, for each movie, was lost, misplaced, or destroyed, and until the modern era, neither of these historic movies was seen again in their full Technicolor glory – not in theaters, not on video, not on television.

In the 1980s the UCLA Film and Television Archive restored BECKY SHARP, by assembling a complete high-quality Technicolor release print from used release prints in various archives, and then reverse-engineering it to recreate the missing yellow/cyan negative strip; when it was combined with our blue and red negative strips, the movie was fully-restored to its original “Glorious Technicolor.”  We assumed that the same could be done with DANCING PIRATE, and in anticpation of that, secured exclusive perpetual music synchronization rights for the Rodgers and Hart music and songs in the movie.  However, despite twenty-five years of searching, we were never able to locate a used Technicolor print of the movie until a famed collector, Wade Williams, working with another collector, Tom Cooper, located a print in a private collection in Australia.  Wade worked out a complicated swap which culimnated in Wade swapping the print for a Cinecolor movie which we owned.

The DANCING PIRATE print turned out to be an original nitrate 3-Strip Technicolor release print, in remarkably good condition for its age.  We have mastered the print in high definition, and begun the digital restoration process; the original colors were still vivid, and the sound track was almost perfect; the restoration has so far focused on removal of single frames with splices, and correction of some of the surface and emulsion scratches.  However, we found that there was embedded dirt in several seconds at the end of each of the reels, which appeared as white specks in the master – reminiscent of snow showers.  These can be digitally corrected as well, when we complete the restoration. This is a link to a snippet which we posted on YouTube, made from the new master; it illustrates the richness of the color palette, designed to look like an “old master” from the Dutch School:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YEhQEFqUDw

It is our hope that a major archive will apply for the funding necessary to restore DANCING PIRATE so that it can be theatrically exhibited in theaters, perhaps paired with the restored BECKY SHARP.

We will have exemplary high definition video masters for both of these historic gems, later in 2015, at which time we can decide whether or not to release them on home video, or license them for televison.

THE PATH TO 3-STRIP TECHNICOLOR (from Wikipedia)

“Technicolor is a color motion picture process invented in 1916 and then improved over several decades. It was the second major color process, after Britain’s Kinemacolor, and the most widely used color process in Hollywood from 1922 to 1952. Technicolor became known and celebrated for its saturated levels of color, and was initially most commonly used for filming musicals such as The Wizard of Oz and Singin’ in the Rain, costume pictures such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and Joan of Arc, and animated films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Fantasia….

“Technicolor originally existed in a two-color (red and green) system. In Process 1 (1916), a prism beam-splitter behind the camera lens exposed two consecutive frames of a single strip of black-and-white negative film simultaneously, one behind a red filter, the other behind a green filter….The near-constant need for a technician to adjust the projection alignment doomed this additive color process….

“Convinced that there was no future in additive color processes, [the founders of Technicolor] focused their attention on subtractive color processes. This culminated in what would eventually be known as Process 2 (1922) (called “two-strip Technicolor”). As before, the special Technicolor camera used a beam-splitter that simultaneously exposed two frames of a single strip of black-and-white film, one behind a green filter and one behind a red filter. The difference was that the two-component negative was now used to produce a subtractive color print. Because the colors were physically present in the print, no special projection equipment was required and the correct registration of the two images did not depend on the skill of the projectionist….

“Based on the same dye-transfer technique first applied to motion pictures in 1916 by Max Handschiegl, Technicolor Process 3 (1928) was developed to eliminate the projection print made of double-cemented prints in favor of a print created by dye imbibition. The Technicolor camera for Process 3 was identical to that for Process 2, simultaneously photographing two consecutive frames of a black-and-white film behind red and green filters….

“In 1931, an improvement of Technicolor Process 3 was developed which removed grain from the Technicolor film, resulting in more vivid and vibrant colors…. The new process not only improved the color but also removed specks (that looked like bugs) from the screen, which had previously blurred outlines and lowered visibility. This new improvement along with a reduction in cost (from 8.85 cents to 7 cents per foot) led to a new color revival….

“Technicolor envisioned a full-color process as early as 1924 and was actively developing such a process by 1929. Hollywood made so much use of Technicolor in 1929 and 1930 that many believed the feature film industry would soon be turning out color films exclusively. By 1931, however, the Great Depression took its toll on the movie industry, which began to cut back on expenses. The production of color films had decreased dramatically by 1932, when Burton Wescott and Joseph A. Ball completed work on a new three-color movie camera. Technicolor could now promise studios a full range of colors, as opposed to the limited red-green spectrum of previous films….

“[Technicolor co-founder] Kalmus convinced Walt Disney to shoot one of his Silly Symphony cartoons Flowers and Trees (1932) in Process 4, the new “three-strip” process. Seeing the potential in full-color Technicolor, Walt Disney negotiated an exclusive contract for the use of the process that extended to September 1935.Competitors such as the Fleischer Studios and the Ub Iwerks studio were shut out – they had to settle for either the two-color Technicolor systems or use a competing process such as Cinecolor. Flowers and Trees was a success with audiences and critics alike, and won the first Academy Award for Animated Short Film. All subsequent Silly Symphonies from 1933 on were shot with the three-strip process.

“The studios were willing to adopt three-color Technicolor for live-action feature production, if it could be proved viable. Shooting three-strip Technicolor required very bright lighting, as the film had an extremely slow speed of ASA 5. That, and the bulk of the cameras and a lack of experience with three-color cinematography made for skepticism in the studio board rooms….

“ Pioneer Pictures, a movie company formed by Technicolor investors, produced the film usually credited as the first live-action short film shot in the three-strip process, La Cucaracha released August 31, 1934. La Cucaracha is a two-reel musical comedy that cost $65,000, approximately four times what an equivalent black-and-white two-reeler would cost. Released by RKO, the short was a success in introducing the new Technicolor as a viable medium for live-action films….”

CREDITS, SYNOPSES

BECKY SHARP (rereleased as LADY OF FORTUNE) (1935)

C. 13 June 1935 Pioneer Pictures, Inc.  LP5609 (distributed by RKO)

Technicolor  83 Mins.  PD (restored and newly prefaced version by The Regents of the University of California  registered with the United States Copyright Office January 6, 1993/Registration PAu 1 701 807)

Director:                Rouben Mamoulian
Writer:                   Francis Edward Faragoh
Producers:            Robert Edmond Jones, Kenneth MacGowan
Cinematog.:          Ray Rennahan
Prod.Design:        Robert Jones
Composer:            Roy Webb
Editor:                  Archie Marshek
Choreography:    Russell Lewis
Story:                   “Vanity Fair,” by William Makepeace Thackeray
Cast:                    Miriam Hopkins, Frances Dee, Sir Cedric Hardwicke,
Burke, Nigel Bruce, Alison Skipworth, Alan Mowbray,
Colin Tapley, G.P. Huntley, Jr., Bunny Beatty, May Beatty,
Charles Coleman, Elspeth Dudgeon, William Faversham,
Will Geer, George Hassell, Olaf Hytten, Doris Lloyd,
Leonard Mudie, Ottola Nesmith, Pat Ryan, Tempe Piggott,
Charles Richman, James Robinson, William Stack, Colin
Tapley

Academy Award Nomination:  Miriam Hopkins, 1935, as Best Actress
(lost to Bette Davis, in “Dangerous”)
Venice Film Festival: 1935 Best Picture, Best Color (Rouben Mamoulian
and Ray Rennahan)

WIKIPEDIA

“Becky Sharp (Miriam Hopkins), a socially ambitious English young lady manages to survive during the years following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. In her efforts to advance herself, she manages to link up with a number of gentlemen: the Marquis of Steyne (Cedric Hardwicke), Joseph Sedley (Nigel Bruce), Rawdon Crawley (Alan Mowbray), and George Osborne (G. P. Huntley Jr). She rises to the top of British society and becomes the scourge of the social circle, offending the other ladies such as Lady Bareacres (Billie Burke). Finally, Sharp falls into the humiliation of singing for her meals in a beer hall. But Becky never stays down for long. It is based on the play of the same name by Langdon Mitchell, which in turn is based on William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair. The play was made famous in the late 1890s by actress Minnie Maddern Fiske. The screenplay was written by Francis Edward Faragoh. The film was considered a landmark in cinema as the first film to use the newly developed three-strip Technicolor production, opening the way for a growing number of color films to be made in Britain and the United States in the years leading up to World War II.

“The film recounts the tale of a lower-class girl who insinuates herself into an upper-class family, only to see her life and the lives of those around her destroyed. The ruthless, self-willed and beautiful Becky is one of the most famous characters in English literature.

“Becky Sharp was the first feature film to use the three-strip Technicolor process, which created a separate film register for each of the three primary colors….

“John Hay “Jock” Whitney and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney formed Pioneer Pictures specifically to produce color films, and signed a contract to release Pioneer films through RKO Radio Pictures. After producing “La Cucaracha,” “Becky Sharp,”  and “Dancing Pirate”  (1936), the Whitneys and David O. Selznick formed Selznick International Pictures. Two Selznick International films, A Star Is Born and Nothing Sacred (both 1937), were produced by Selznick, copyrighted by Pioneer Pictures, and released through United Artists rather than RKO.

“Lowell Sherman, the original director, had fallen ill while working on Night Life of the Gods before starting Becky Sharp, but had continued to work on the project; he finally died of double pneumonia four weeks into production on Sharp.Upon his death, Rouben Mamoulian was brought in to finish the film. Mamoulian would not use any of the footage shot by Sherman, deciding instead to reshoot the entire film.

“Pat Nixon (then Pat Ryan), later the wife of Richard Nixon and First Lady of the United States from 1969 to 1974, worked as a movie extra at this time, and can be seen as a walk on during the ball scene.”

DANCING PIRATE  (1936)
C. 22 May 1936  Pioneer Pictures  LP6422

Color 87 Mins.  PD (but copyrighted music is good copyright, and there is an exclusive synchronization license to FATW for the music)

Director:               Lloyd Corrigan
Writers:                Francis Edwards Faragoh, Ray S. Harris, Boris Ingster, Jack Wagner
Producer:            John Speaks
Cinematog.:        William Skall
Art Directors:     Wiard Ihnen, William Ihnen
Music Dir.:         Alfred Newman
Editor:                Archie Marshek
Choreography:   Russell Lewis
Story:                  Emma-Lindsay Squier
Cast:                   Frank Morgan, Charles Collins, Luis Alberni, Cyrus Q.
Kendall, Rita Cansino (subsequently Rita Hayworth) as a
member of The Royal Cansinos, Victor Varconi, Jack La
Rue, Steffi Duna, Eduardo Cansino, Nora Cecil, James
Farley, Mitchell Lewis, Vera Lewis, Ellen Lowe, William V.
Mong, Julian Rivero, Max Wagner, Harold Waldridge

Academy Award Nomination: Best Dance Direction, for Russell Lewis

Trivia: The dancers are a troupe called “The Royal Cansino Dancers; Rita Hayworth was born as Rita Cansino, and frequently danced in a nightclub act with her father, who had founded the troupe.  She is generally credited as being one of the dancers in the “Busby Berkeley” type dancing scenes; this is probable,  since principal photography most likely would have been completed in 1935, before she changed her name to Rita Hayworth and embarked on her own acting career in 1936, when the movie was actually released.  Pat Nixon is reportedly also one of the dancers.  Frank Morgan, who has a lead role as the Mayor of the Mexican Village that believes the hero to be a pirate, was the Wizard, in Wizard of Oz.  Steffi Duna, the romantic interest, was a Hungarian actress; she made a number of movies after coming to the United States, and her second marriage, which lasted 28 years, was to movie actor Dennis O’Keefe.

Review (Variety, June 24, 1936) :

This picture, the first full-length 3-strip Technicolor musical,  “has exploitation possibilities despite the fact it went haywire.  Save for potentialities that Charles Collins suggests, Pioneer’s ‘Pirate’ is too comic operetta to qualify as 1936 film fare.  Forepart is almost acceptable as Collins is shanghaied for a  piratical cruise around the Horn from Boston to Lower  California, but after he enlists the lassoing honest injuns to best the brigand Spaniards it’s a bit too much…. ‘Dancing Pirate’ is an old-time Shuberty musical comedy label and the story matches the tab…. On technic, the color pars Pioneer’s last attempt at 100% Technicolor in ‘Becky Sharp’ – the patterns were achieved at the expense of natural expressions…. Two  Rodgers and Hart songs are more or less incidental,  titled ‘When You’re Dancing the Waltz’ and ‘Are You My  Love?’ of which the former is the more prominent and the most likely.  Russell Lewis’ dancers are in the Spanish motif, with the usual musical comedy liberties for free ‘n’ easy introductions, such as when Collins gets a respite from the jail and the courtyard is suddenly filled with terping fandangoists in a cape routine or  Collins’ tap dancing on the scaffold with a noose ’round his neck.  Alfred Newman’s usually brilliant orchestrating is given fuller and colorful scope with the characteristic score.”

WIKIPEDIA

“Dancing Pirate is a 1936 American musical comedy film directed by Lloyd Corrigan. It is the third film shot in the three strip Technicolor process and the first musical in that format. Produced by the makers of Becky Sharp, the film was based on the December 1930 Colliers Magazine story Glorious Buccaneer by Emma-Lindsay Squier a serious and action filled romance that may have been inspired by the story of Joseph Chapman. The film features the debut of stage star Charles Collins and the cast includes Rita Hayworth as one of The Royal Cansino Dancers. Other dancers in the film were Pat Nixon and Marjorie Reynolds.

“Set in Boston the in 1820s, the film tells of dancing teacher Jonathan Pride, shanghaied by pirates and forced to be a slave aboard his own ship. Jonathan is able to join a provisioning party that lands on the coast of California, then a part of the Spanish Empire where he makes his escape; his only possessions being his umbrella and music box that he uses for his dancing lessons. He is seen by a shepherd who warns the nearest town whose excitable population transform Jonathan’s arrival into a full-fledged pirate invasion. The Alcade Don Emilio Perena leads the militia into shooting up their own town whilst Jonathan is later captured in the boudoir of Alcade’s daughter Serafina. Jonathan is sentenced to death. When Serafina and the women of the town discover Jonathan’s profession of dancing teacher, his execution is delayed until he teaches the waltz to the women of the town. Meanwhile, Serafina’s suitor, Don Balthazar a Captain of the Guards of the Presidio of Monterey and some of his soldiers visit the town to not only marry Serafina, but unbeknownst to the town has been cashiered from the Army along with his men who seek to loot the town. Don Balthazar also plans on secretly executing his rival Jonathan. Jonathan makes his escape and motivates the local downtrodden but peaceful Indians into an uprising through a teaching them a torrid war dance. The Indians use their only “weapons” their lassoes to capture the former soldiers now bandits. Don Balthazar challenges Jonathan to a duel with swords but Jonathan defeats and captures him with his umbrella and his dancing skills.”