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July 5 - 11

Technicolor Dreams

Hollywood's long-time quest for a stable color process was finally realized with the introduction of the three-strip Technicolor process in 1928. Technicolor was invented not in California, but rather in Cambridge, Massachusetts by two MIT graduates, Herbert Kalmus and Daniel Comstock, who named the process after their alma mater. A complex photographic procedure in which three separate color film strips, or matrices, are created – one each for blue, red and green – and then layered during printing, 3-strip Technicolor resulted in truly glorious color effects that quickly became the gold standard for "quality" studio productions. As an additive method in which organic dyes are added in the final printing stage, 3-strip Technicolor results in remarkably brilliant, saturated colors that are as durable and timeless as stained glass windows or illuminated manuscripts.

Although Technicolor remained an extremely expensive process in its early years, reserved for only the highest budgeted pictures during the 1930s, after the Second World War the technology became somewhat more affordable. As lower budgeted productions turned to Technicolor, the company loosened its once rigid requirement that Kalmus' wife, Natalie, serve as each film’s "color consultant." While films under Nathalie Kalmus' direction, such as The Adventures of Robin Hood, share a predilection for intense greens and reds – especially in women's lips – postwar films like Slightly Scarlet and, even more notably, Don Siegel's Madigan, often explore subtler yet equally striking color palettes.

To celebrate the art and artistry of studio-era Technicolor cinematography, the HFA presents a selection of great Technicolor pictures from the 1930s through the late 1960s, combining excellent quality vintage and newly restored prints.

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Saturday July 5 at 7pm

robin hood posterThe Adventures of Robin Hood

Directed by Michael Curtiz.
With Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone
US 1938, 35mm, color, 102 min.
Print from Warner Bros. Classics

Considered one of the greatest 3-strip Technicolor films, Robin Hood defined Errol Flynn as the ultimate swashbuckler – by turns insouciant, brave and charming. The outstanding Technicolor cinematography by master lensmen Sol Polito and Tony Gaudio has helped rank the film high among the most memorable and enjoyable of all Hollywood adventure pictures. A bright and dreamy color palette defines the mood of the film with creamy yellows and brilliant greens that reference the classic illustrations of Arthur Rackham and look like a gorgeous storybook come to life. "Only the rainbow can duplicate its brilliance," boasted Warner Bros. publicity for the film. Unlike many of the pretentious and precious costume films of the 1930s, the brisk pace, sparkling screenplay and marvelous cast of Robin Hood keep it as fresh and lively as it was in 1939. Come and experience this masterpiece of color cinematography in a newly restored studio print.

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Saturday July 5 at 9pm

La Cucaracha

Directed by Lloyd Corrigan.
With Steffi Duna, Don Alvarado, Paul Porcasi
US 1934, 35mm, color, 20 min.
Print courtesy of UCLA Film and Television Archive

When a Mexico City nightclub dancer angers his singer girlfriend she sabotages his audition for an important impresario, upstaging him with a spirited rendition of the title song. This lighthearted trifle was designed to highlight the expressive potential of the then-new 3-strip Technicolor process with its is larger than life musical "South-of-the-Border" exotica and vibrant color. La Cucaracha’s popularity helped persuade Hollywood to begin investing in feature-length Technicolor films. Print courtesy of UCLA Film and Television Archive. Preservation funded byThe Film Foundation, American Movie Classics, and YCM Laboratories

cobra woman posterCobra Woman

Directed by Robert Siodmak.
With Maria Montez, Jonathan Hall, Sabu
US 1944, 35mm, color, 70 min.
Print from Universal Pictures

Maria Montez is principally remembered today for starring in a string of medium-budget adventure films for Universal in the mid-1940s. She came to be know as the Queen of Technicolor, and both her persona and the sublime ridiculousness of her films would later be a major inspiration for underground filmmaker and performance artist Jack Smith. The most fanciful Montez vehicle of all is Cobra Woman, which features the siren in a dual role:as Tollea, a South Seas island maiden, and as her evil sister Naja, the despotic leader of a jungle kingdom whose citizens are selected for sacrifice during her frenzied "Cobra Dance." As usual in these films, Montez' co-stars are Jonathan Hall and Sabu, who come to Tollea's rescue when she is kidnapped by her sister. A unique touch of kitsch is provided by the gorgeous photography of the great Technicolor veteran Alfred Greene, who had been shooting the color process since its earliest 2-strip versions in the early 1920s.

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Sunday July 6 at 3pm

band concert stillThe Band Concert

Directed by Wilfred Jackson.
US 1935, 35mm, color, 9 min.
Print from the Harvard Film Archive Collection

Jules Verne's tale of the brooding Captain Nemo and his mysterious
submarine was given the big-budget treatment by Disney in this relatively faithful retelling of the original novel, in which Nemo, ahead of his time, is ostracized for his genius and becomes a kind of mad scientist living under the sea. For its most ambitious liveaction feature to date, Disney hired an all-star cast led by James Mason as Nemo and Kirk Douglas as the captain's foil, a combination of everyman and hero. The film's design and special effects have always garnered attention, and they are ably served by the luminous cinematography of Franz Planer (Letter From an Unknown Woman). Under Fleischer's skillful direction, these elements combine to make a film enjoyed by children and adults.

submarine20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Directed by Richard Fleischer.
With James Mason, Kirk Douglas, Paul Lukas
US 1954, 35mm, color, 127 min.
Print from the Harvard Film Archive Collection

Justly celebrated as one of the best of the Disney "Silly Symphonies," this cartoon features Mickey Mouse as a bandleader trying to get through an open-air performance of the William Tell Overture during a sudden storm. Walt Disney was quick to grasp the potential of color for animation and signed an exclusive contract with Technicolor once the 3-color strip process was completed, locking out his competitors. The Band Concert marks the color debut of both Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

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Sunday July 6 at 7pm

quiet man posterThe Quiet Man

Directed by John Ford.
With John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald
US 1952, 35mm, color, 129 min.
Print courtesy of UCLA Film and Television Archive

John Ford presents an idealized portrait of a mythical rural Ireland, where the key visual elements are the emerald green grass and the fiery red hair of Maureen O'Hara. O'Hara plays Mary Kate Danaher, the headstrong colleen courted by American Sean Thornton (Wayne), a disgraced boxer who has come to Ireland in search of his roots. The film's cinematographer is Winton C. Hoch, who shot several of Ford's color films, including The Searchers (1956) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), for which he won an Oscar. Little remembered today, Hoch is one of the Hollywood cinematographers most closely associated with Technicolor. Straight out of Cal Tech, he began his career working for Technicolor, where he helped invent the 3- strip process. From there he went to work as a director of photography in Hollywood, without ever having shot a black-and-white feature. Print courtesy of UCLA Film and Television Archive.

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Sunday July 6 at 9:30pm

woman screamingSlightly Scarlet

Directed by Allan Dwan.
With John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, Arlene Dahl
US 1956, 35mm, color, 99 min.
Print from the Harvard Film Archive Collection

Film noir master cinematographer John Alton makes brilliant use of Technicolor in Allan Dwan's alternately acerbic and operatic late studio era crime film. Considered to be one of the only color film noirs, Slightly Scarlet bathes the criminal underworld in sublime shades of rose, grey and, of course, scarlet. Backed by a superb cast of character actors – Ted de Corsia, George E. Stone – John Payne stars as a street smart private eye whose plan to play the mob against the latest crop of reform minded politicians runs into female trouble.

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Monday July 7 at 7pm

rancho notorious posterRancho Notorious

Directed by Fritz Lang.
With Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy, Mel Ferrer
US 1952, 35mm, color, 86 min.
Print from Warner Bros. Classics

Fritz Lang's last and wonderfully perverse Western is generally considered his best work in the genre that so fascinated him. The underrated Arthur Kennedy plays a rancher, out to avenge his fiancée's death, who stumbles into a community of outlaws led by Marlene Dietrich in one of her great post-war roles. While neither Lang nor cinematographer Hal Mohr are known for their work in color, the film uses the Western's palette intelligently, as a muted color scheme against which bright colors (especially red and green) are set off dramatically.

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Monday July 7 at 9pm

madigan posterMadigan

Directed by Don Siegel.
With Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Inger Stevens
US 1968, 35mm, color, 101 min.
Print from the Harvard Film Archive Collection

Shot by the talented veteran cinematographer Russell Metty (Written on the
, Touch of Evil) Don Siegel's lean and relentlessly tough police procedural film uses Technicolor to achieve a notably restrained color palette dominated by a gun metal grey. In his hard-hitting and influential prequel to Dirty Harry, Siegel refuses to glamorize the life of a police detective by focusing instead on the daily frustrations, anxieties and dark temptations faced by a city cop. Co-written by blacklisted screenwriter Abraham Polonsky, Madigan is considered by many – including LA Police Chief William Bratton – to be one of the more realistic and uncompromising depictions of modern law enforcement.

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Friday July 11 at 7pm

gene tierney in leave her to heavenLeave Her to Heaven

Directed by John Stahl.
With Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain
US 1946, 35mm, color, 110 min.
Print from 20th Century Fox

Gene Tierney plays Ellen Brent, the ultimate femme fatale in this tale of a ruthless and calculating young woman whose extreme beauty masks a deep paranoia and jealousy. Nice guy Richard Harland (Wilde) is no match, and no sooner have they met than Ellen has taken over his life. Leon Shamroy was Fox's leading cinematographer at the time, and his masterful use of color mirrors the brooding, tempestuous Ellen. Just as Ellen's beauty conceals her pathological jealousy, so is Shamroy's Technicolor photography edged with somber hues and threatening shadows. Leave Her to Heaven's intelligent cinematography matches its sinister noir story with a brightly lit companion piece that remains as distorted and disorienting as the black-and-white shadowy films that have defined Hollywood film noir.

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Friday July 11 at 9:15pm

the professionals posterThe Professionals

Directed by Richard Brooks.
With Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan
US 1966, 35mm, color, 117 min.
Print from Sony Pictures Repertory

When Maria Grant (played by Claudia Cardinale) is kidnapped
by a Mexican revolutionary, her Texan millionaire husband hires four gunmen to rescue her in this important step in the evolution from the classical Western to the genre's later, post-heroic incarnation. Just as The Professionals would be unthinkable without the early work of Sam Peckinpah, Peckinpah would acknowledge the debt to Brooks’ epic adventure with The Wild Bunch. The western’s evolution in the 1960s included an aesthetic shift from the Technicolor brilliance of the 1940s and 1950s to dustier and more muted colors, evoking a more realistic vision of the frontier and its moral ambivalences. Master cinematographer Conrad Hall displays a genius for the postclassic color tone of the modern western.

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