The 1950s was a decade of huge change for Technicolor and the entire entertainment business. And if there was a pivotal moment in that decade (for Technicolor) it was 1954 – the year that witnessed the “retiring” of the Technicolor 3-strip camera in its traditional format. At about that time, the industry pivoted around the introduction of Kodak’s first 35mm motion picture color-negative stock, that by 1952, was refined to the point that it was quickly embraced as a less expensive, easier to use alternative to the bulky Technicolor camera and more costly dye-transfer printing process.
The Quiet Man
But, true to form, and as they had done with the introduction of sound, Technicolor had anticipated the challenge from Kodak, and created the means of extracting the necessary 3 camera records, black and white matrices, from the Kodak color negative, thereby allowing filmmakers to continue printing for theatrical release in the much preferred dye-transfer process number 5 that featured the most beautiful color-rendition available.
Technicolor retooled its laboratories in Hollywood and London and didn’t drop a beat in the process – while also anticipating other, even more significant changes afoot, including the emerging broadcast market. The new laboratory model created by Technicolor was one that allowed for the new color process to thrive while the front-end negative processing aspect of the labs was geared towards Eastman color negative that by decade’s end was the principal means of production for many television series that culminated in the final transition to broadcasting in color by the end of the 1960s.
The advent of the electronic “telecine” process further facilitated that rapid transition to full color transmission.
The further advancements of Technicolor were witnessed in the films by some of the greatest filmmakers in motion picture history, including directors like John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock. Films like Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
, The Quiet Man
, and The Searchers
, or Hitchcock’s Rear Window
, To Catch a Thief
, The Man Who Knew Too Much
and North by Northwest,
were all masterworks that exemplified the very best of mid-century color filmmaking.
Further, it was during the 50s that Technicolor greatly expanded its global operations to include Rome and even Paris for a short time. While the color rendition of Technicolor remained the state of the art, it too was embraced by filmmakers in a much more nuanced mature fashion. This was a by-product of the work by filmmakers like Michael Powell, who, towards the end of 1940s, successfully pushed the laboratory model at Technicolor to evolve around the filmmaker’s creative directives and not a “de rigueur “ approach to color or the apparent limits of the technology.
And while Technicolor remained a mainstay of studio productions, it too found its way into more independently minded features of filmmakers like Douglas Sirk and Nicholas Ray.