Opening the company’s first oversees film laboratory, in West Drayton, London (near Heathrow Airport) in 1937, proved to be one of the great decisions made by Technicolor management once their success in Hollywood was well-established. Immediately, the U.K. lab started producing some of the most stunning images ever associated with Technicolor.
The Red Shoes – cinematographer Jack Cardiff conferring with actor Leonid Massine, and with director Michael Powell close at hand.
A young camera-assistant, Jack Cardiff, was hired as the company’s first British in-house photographer as local cinematographers were brought into the new process and prospect. Cardiff would carry a Technicolor camera, tripod, and lens/equipment box up the side of the Mt. Vesuvius volcano in southern Italy to capture the first travelogue-type images to run through Technicolor “soup”.
Cardiff, along with DoP’s Christopher Challis and Oswald Morris, and Hollywood Technicolor ace Ray Rennahan, piloted the nascent British 3-strip IB dye-transfer process that continued cranking out remarkable film prints until the late 1970s.
Giants of the British filmmaking industry like the Korda brothers and J. Arthur Rank incorporated Technicolor into their productions by the late 1930s. Probably the most celebrated filmmaker to emerge from the early days of British Technicolor was director Michael Powell, whom along with his writing-producing partner, Emeric Pressburger (partners in “The Archers” production company, with its distinctive “bulls-eye” target in blue, red, white and black, being pierced by an arrow) produced a string of Technicolor features arguably unmatched in all of motion picture history.
Hollywood beckoned much of British industry at one point or another – as some relief from the war raging in Europe through the first half of the 1940s.
Alfred Hitchcock relocated to Hollywood and produced a string of masterworks – many in Technicolor, and some of the most distinctive films in the post-war period.
Others, like director David Lean, stayed put and led the British industry out of the 1940s and into a truly expanded sense of visual spectacle in cinema with 70mm classics. And it should not be lost on anyone that James Bond emerged out of this same time period, the first half of the 1960s, also in British Technicolor.
The impact of British Technicolor was so pronounced that it was the Brits, (by way of Bond producer Harry Saltzman, partner to producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, whom together created the first modern movie franchise, along with actor Sean Connery, and the equally incredible talent found within the ranks of the entire London-based feature industry) who were able to parlay their success into control of Technicolor just after the retirement of company founder, Herbert Kalmus.
The company’s London lab was clearly competing with Technicolor Hollywood for the most impressive use of Technicolor anywhere in the world. It could also be noted that Stanley Kubrick, arguably one of America’s finest filmmakers, moved to London, in the late 1960s, where he worked and resided for the next three decades. Kubrick was known for his control of the most minute detail related to the entire process of developing, creating, and marketing theatrical features. He became one of Technicolor’s most cherished director-clients.
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