Color tends to be a subconscious element in film. It has an emotional
appeal which often suggests mood of the film or characters in it. At
its most effective, complimentary characters are dressed in
complimentary colors--antagonists are dressed in contrasting colors to
their protagonists. Characters can match or contrast their settings and a
whole host of other useful symbols can be created with color.
The first Technicolor
film was THE GULF BETWEEN (U.S., 1917), a five-reeler made by
Technicolor Motion Picture Corp. in Florida mainly for trade showings in
eastern cities, to create interest in color movies among producers and
exhibitors. It did not receive nationwide distribution. A lost film
today, only a few frames survive.
The first two strip
Technicolor feature made in Hollywood, and the first to receive
nationwide distribution, was the costume drama THE TOLL OF THE SEA
Another silent movie filmed entirely in two strip Technicolor was the swashbuckler THE BLACK PIRATE
(U.S., 1926), produced by and starring Douglas Fairbanks.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
(Cecil B. DeMille's epic, 1923) THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
(1925) BEN-HUR (1925) and KING OF KINGS
(Cecil B. DeMille, 1926) used color as a gimmick or in parts.
The first all-talking Technicolor feature was the Warner Bros. musical ON WITH THE SHOW
of the color films up to this point were two-color processes, which
could capture only two of the three primary colors of light.
1932, Technicolor perfected a three-color motion picture process (also
known as three-strip Technicolor, because three negatives were employed
in the camera, one for each primary color of light -- red, green, and
It was introduced with the Walt Disney cartoon FLOWERS AND TREES
(1932), which won the first Academy Award for Animation. Walt Disney kept a monopoly on 3-color technicolor from 1932-1935.
The first feature-length movie in three-strip Technicolor was the costume comedy-drama BECKY SHARP
Technicolor used a three color system: red, blue, green (these colors therefore are most vivid)
color was used as an expression (expressionism) of the director’s or
cinematographer’s story, and so early films with color tend to be ones
that are formalistic, artificial, or exotic. Color was often not used
for “realistic” movies.
Warm colors: red, yellow, orange (brown)
Cool colors: Blue, green, violet (white)
Phantom of the Opera Masquerade Scene
During the 1930's, technicolor was still expensive. It was still being used as a movie gimmick as seen here. The Women
(1939); here's the trailer
Gone With the Wind
The Wizard of Oz