One remembers the 1960s as a decade in motion picture history that witnessed a huge generational shift. Hollywood began to experience the breakdown of the traditional studio structure, with power shifting to actors and directors, along with their agents, thereby breaking free of long-term employment contracts that severely limited their mobility and power of self determination – a major theme of the overall cultural shift that quickly enveloped that turbulent decade. The evolution of motion pictures in the 1960s is also clearly reflected in Technicolor’s legacy of re-invention…a core value of the corporation throughout its illustrious century-long history.
For Technicolor, 1960 marked the retirement of Dr. Herbert T. Kalmus, a founding partner of Technicolor in 1915, a professor of chemical physics at MIT, and the business visionary who guided Technicolor through its first two decades of trial and error before the industry fully embraced the company’s supremacy in the realm of motion picture color.
By 1960, color televisions began to proliferate in homes around the United States, which arguably helped elect a new and very youthful John F. Kennedy to the White House. Early in that decade, Twentieth Century Fox sold off its back-lot, which quickly morphed into Century City. MGM, a studio that dominated the industry for nearly four decades, also elected to sell off much of its real estate holdings in Culver City, while ramping back production, over the course of the decade, of the musicals that had dominated the industry since the end of World War 2. By the end of the decade, Columbia pictures sold its Hollywood property, soon relocating the studio to the Warner Bros lot in Burbank. Today, Technicolor’s corporate headquarters are located on the same ground that formerly housed Columbia’s marketing department.
The 1960s also witnessed the emergence of an Italian “new wave” led by directors Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini, Sergio Leone, Michelangelo Antonioni and Bernardo Bertolucci – all whom worked through Technicolor’s Rome lab that was created in the late 50s. By the middle of the decade, the US market (and culture) had experienced the British “invasion” – led by the Beatles and more generally British film and music culture. The first major modern film franchise was launched in that decade by producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and actor Sean Connery, with their global smash hit James Bond franchise — that continues to this day. Saltzman was so financially successful with the Bond films that later in the decade he was able to parlay that success into a controlling interest in Technicolor. But it also should be noted that Saltzman’s control over Technicolor was rather short-lived…ending in the early 1970s.
Bonnie and Clyde
Considering the great films of that decade one immediately thinks of films from the end of the decade that clearly indicated a different and much more personal sensibility, such as: Bonnie and Clyde (1967); Rosemary’s Baby (1968); Easy Rider (1969), Performance (1970), and Stanley Kubrick’s monumental 2001: A Space Odyssey – all of which embraced an emergent youth culture, and all of which were finished at Technicolor.
The 60s also gave rise to the generation of filmmakers whom matriculated at university graduate film programs in LA and New York. The American Film Institute was created by President Lyndon B. Johnson and through an act of Congress in 1965. The first class at the AFI’s Conservatory, located at the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, started in 1969. This generation of filmmakers included Martin Scorsese, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, all of whom were personally close to arguably the most famous film school graduate director/writer of that era: Francis Ford Coppola. All these filmmakers were key clients of Technicolor’s Hollywood lab, and later Technicolor’s newly acquired laboratory in New York City on 44th Street.