“During the past year, the field of natural-color cinematography has broadened appreciably. There has been a renewed interest in color on the part of producers, and side by side with this renewal of interest, mere than a few advances in the various phases of color-cinematography. These advances have been largely in the way of improvements of photographic and laboratory technique, and they give assurance not only of better technique, and consequently better color, but of a more consistent, commercial product.
During this period, a new process of color-cinematography, known as “Cinecolor,” has been placed on the market. It combines a number of well established features with several new and – to this writer, at least – advantageous methods of detailed procedure.
It is well known that present natural-color processes are divisible into two classes: the familiar “filter-method,” in which, by one means or another, two or more separate images are made through suitable filters, and later recombined in the printing process, and dyed, to form a single colored image; and the “bi-pack method,” using two films – an Orthochromatic emulsion incorporating a red filter analagous to the Wratten 23-A, and a standard Panchromatic film; these two are run through the camera with their emulsion sides in contact, and the “red-Ortho” nearest the lens, thereby securing two color-separation negatives perfect registration, which can be recombined in printing. The former method is undoubtedly superior in the degree of control allowed by the many possible filter-combinations, but it is often subject to fringing, or imperfect registration. The latter usually allows of less photographic control, though a great deal may be done by balanced processing of the two negatives; but it ensures perfect registration, and often greater speed.
Cinecolor utilizes either of these methods, depending upon the nature of the subject. For the straight run of Production negative, the bipack method is employed, while for special work, such as cartoons, the filter method may be used. Obviously, the filter method cannot be employed for action negatives unless a special camera, having twin lenses or suitable prisms (“beam-splitters”) to allow the Pair of images to be photographed simultaneously, is used. But in cartoons, there is no physical action between the pair of exposures, and therefore filters of the rotating type may be used, either before or behind the camera lens. By this method, unusual effects can be obtained because of the great number of filters and combinations of filters available.
Essentially, Cinecolor is a two-color, subtractive process, synthetizing the colored image from two separation-negatives representing, respectively, the blue-green and orange-red components. For production work, as has been said, the bipack method is used, while for cartoon and title work, the filter method is preferable. Neither of these methods is new; the advantages of the process are to be found, instead, in certain operative improvements in photography and processing.
In photography, perhaps the outstanding feature of the process is the fact that a systematic method of exposure-determination is employed. Cinematographers who have had the greatest experience in natural-color cinematography will themselves be the first to admit that in such work, the customary method – reliance upon the individual’s experience and judgment of light and reflective values – is far from perfection. Therefore, in the operation of the Cinecolor process, we have attempted to replace this somewhat inconstant factor with some more nearly scientific method. The method chosen is the one described by A. M. Gundelfinger and J. W. Stafford in the journal of the Franklin Institute (Vol. 215, No. 1, January, 1933). Essentially, this consists of the use of a gray chart, of known density and reflective value, which is held in front of the subject before making a scene. The brightness of this chart is measured by photometric means, and the factor thus obtained is translated into specific photographic terms by reference to a special nomographic chart. In this connection, the new photoelectric photometric exposure-meters should, if suitably calibrated, simplify this procedure very appreciably.
The usual method of photographing a developing-test is also eliminated. A gamma strip is made of each negative emulsion used; this is developed, and densitometric readings made. From this reading, the developing-time for the emulsion is calculated. Thus, providing the above-mentioned method of exposure-determination is used in photographing, a perfect negative will result. This system has been found to be so accurate that only one positive test is needed to determine printing density, although there may be any number of different camera set-ups. The positive test, incidentally, can well be made of a test-strip of the exposure chart, for even though this chart is monochromatic (gray), one may be sure that when it reproduces properly, as to tone and density, the colored portions of a correctly exposed and developed negative will likewise be satisfactory. This method, while a marked contribution to black-and white photography, is of especial importance to color – especially bipack, for the reason that when using eye-judgment in developing the two negatives, it is a simple matter to ruin the possibilities of obtaining balanced color positives by incorrect developing of either the back or front negatives, or both.
In using the filter method, the balance between the complementary pairs of negatives is obtained by balancing the filters, and by varying the camera shutter to each filter; the negative is, of course, developed as a whole, being on a single strip of film. In bipack developing two negatives being separate, different developing periods can be employed to obtain balanced negatives.
In making color positives, one has to consider making prints which will yield the greatest range of color values possible; with a two-color process, of course, the color-combinations are divided into two parts: in this case, those representing the orange-red end and the blue-green end of the spectrum colors. The Cinecolor laboratory employs double-coated or “duplitized” positive film, and special dyes and printing methods whereby densities ranging from yellow to deep red, and from the palest blue through into green are obtainable. With this combination, together with correctly exposed and developed negatives, a truly remarkable range of color value is possible – in some instances being truly as close to three-color results as is conceivable with a two-color system.
In addition, the laboratory has incorporated something of an innovation in its processing machine, which not only develops, but also colors the film at a single operation, on a single machine. It is a well known fact that silver images on a positive film will vary as to density with the varying temperatures of the drying compartment. This variation is negligible as far as black-and-white films are concerned, but when the film has to be colored, it is of considerable importance, since the color-values are a function of the density of the print. Combining the processes of positive development and coloring into a single operation reduces this hazard materially, while also reducing the difficulties of handling, exposure to air and dirt, etc. This, naturally, reduces the operations of producing a color-positive to the two operations, printing and processing; the print is made in the accustomed manner, the film is placed in the processing machine, and in remarkably short time it may be removed, developed, colored, dried, and ready for projection.”
(Crespinel, William T. (1933): As to Cinecolor. In: American Cinematographer, Vol. 14, pp. 355, 380-381.)
“The Film Daily Yearbook’s predictions about colour reflect the technological optimism of the film industry in the late transition-to-sound (but pre-Crash) period. The ‘transplanting’ of black and white by colour would not, alas, occur for another 25 years. It was not until 1955 that productions in colour outnumbered those in black and white; and it was not until the late 1960s – and the widespread diffusion of colour television – that colour would finally supplant black and white, as colour productions rose from 54 per cent in 1966 to 94 per cent in 1970.2 One of the most intriguing aspects about Film Daily’s speculations is just how far off the mark they are. What is fascinating for the historian of technology about the invention, innovation, and diffusion of colour within the industry is the relatively lengthy span of time that it took for it to occur. Like the development of widescreen cinema, the history of motion picture colour is a history of failures, setbacks, detours and delays. The perception of what would take place in the field of colour technology in 1930 is clearly clouded by the recent development of sound. Within a matter of four years, the industry had converted from an all-silent to an all-sound cinema. Driven by the economic interests of Warner Bros. and Fox, sound found a solid foothold within Hollywood from which it quickly spread to the rest of the studios. But it was not until the late 1950s that the studios began to invest in colour technology – in the form of colour laboratories at M-G-M, Warner Bros., and Twentieth Century-Fox.3 Until this period, companies involved in the innovation of colour remained independent of the studios; they were service providers in search of customers. From the vantage point of the present, it is clear that the advent of sound was not an accurate model by which to predict the future development of colour. The history of colour cannot be written according to the scripts developed for writing the history of sound – or of any other technology. The chief result of such a comparison can only be the realisation of just how different those histories are. Each technology exists within a different set of technological, economic-industrial, and socio-cultural determinants and constraints. And, as a result, the history of each technology takes a different shape. Yet the shape that the development of colour motion pictures takes and our understanding of that development necessarily exist within this comparative discourse with the development of sound – within the context of other technologies.
The following essay looks at the history of a ‘failed’ colour process, Cinecolor, and attempts to understand its limited success and ultimate failure by viewing the history of that process within the unique and complex field of forces which governed the uneven and erratic development of motion picture colour.
One of the colour processes mentioned by Film Daily in 1930 is Multicolor, a forerunner of Cinecolor. If Cinecolor is the direct descendent of the short-lived Multicolor Process, which was introduced in 1928 but went out of business in 1932, it is also related to Prizmacolor (ca. 1913-1928), which experimented with bi-pack negatives and Duplitized positive release prints (ca. 1919).4 The chain of developments leading to Cinecolor can be traced back even further to the development of Kinemacolor (1906-1914).5 Just before its demise, Kinemacolor developed an alternate frame colour printing process that eliminated the need for special filters placed in front of the projection lens.6 Features of this printing process seem to have been incorporated into the Prizma process, as well as processes for printing Multicolor and Cinecolor films.
One of the threads which links these various experiments in colour technology is William T. Crespinel, who first began to work for Kinemacolor in 1907 and was sent by Kinemacolor to the United States in 1912. Shortly after the demise of Kinemacolor in 1915, Crespinel joined Prizma, where he photographed sequences for Our Navy (1917) and The Gilded Lily (1921). Crespinel was the principal photographer for the first full-length motion picture filmed in colour (in Prizma), The Glorious Adventure (1922), produced by J. Stuart Blackton and starring Lady Diana Manners and Victor McLaglen.7 After leaving Prizma, Crespinel worked for Harriscolor. Crespinel’s patent for a ‘gate for multiple (i.e. bi-pack) films’ became the basis for Multicolor, which was formed in 1928, and whose patents became the cornerstone for Cinecolor (1932) after Multicolor went out of business.8
The chief objective in the development of colour film technology is the production of a three-colour, 35mm negative and print film. This goal was not achieved until the 1940s.9 In 1941, Agfacolor introduced ‘a negative-positive process for the production of … release prints’.10 This was a development of its 1937-1939 16mm colour reversal film.11 In 1942, Eastman, which had its own 16mm colour reversal film in 1935, introduced a three-colour negative, which it called Kodacolor.12 Eastman Kodak’s work during the war and post-war era on a 35mm negative-positive process culminated in the introduction of an Eastmancolor Negative Film, Type 5247, and a Print Safety Film, Type 5281, in 1950.13 At around the same time, Ansco was developing a colour negative-colour positive process.14 To a certain extent, then, the wide diffusion of colour in Hollywood was delayed by technological factors – the development of colour negative and positive film.
Prior to this development, companies such as Technicolor and Cinecolor made do with black and white film. They relied on colour sensitive black and white negatives and printing processes in which colour dyes were used in conjunction with sensitised black and white positive film stock to generate multiple release prints. The Cinecolor printing process, known as ‘dye toning’, involves treating the silver image in the emulsion (i.e. toning the silver) with mordants which enable the emulsion to hold dye. Cinecolor’s two silver images, once mordanted, are then dyed in complementary colours (blue/green and red/orange).15 Technicolor’s dye transfer and Cinecolor’s dye toning processes did work, but the former failed to meet the industry’s need for an affordable colour process. More importantly, the Technicolor process placed additional stress upon the industry’s already over-burdened production and distribution systems; Technicolor technology introduced delays in the production and distribution of studio films.
The viability of two-colour Cinecolor, as a process, lay in its ability to enable filmmakers to make films in colour cheaply and simply.16 Its chief competition during the 1930s and 1940s was with the three-colour Technicolor. Technicolor required filmmakers to lease its proprietary, three-strip camera and to work under the supervision of special colour consultants who set standards for set and costume design, set illumination, and other aspects of the production and pre-production process. Filmmakers were often forced to watch Technicolor rushes in black and white because it took Technicolor ‘several [four – Ed.] days to process and deliver color dailies.’17 Filming in Technicolor cost roughly 40 per cent more than filming in black and white. Technicolor films could only be processed and printed in Technicolor labs; these labs were regularly booked solid and the company was forced to turn business away.18
Cinecolor permitted filmmakers to shoot in colour using standard black and white cameras; the Cinecolor lab could deliver colour rushes within twenty-four hours; and filming in Cinecolor cost only 20-25 per cent more than filming in black and white. Its chief drawback was that it was a two-colour process, while Technicolor was a three-colour system.19 (Cinecolor did provide colour consultants, if a producer so desired, but consultants were not required.)20 Technicolor’s superior colour rendition enabled it to corner the market in ‘A’ film production; Cinecolor’s cost and flexibility secured it dominance in the ‘B’ film and short-film market. But it is Cinecolor’s historical association with ‘B’ films that will prevent it from ever securing a solid foothold in the ‘A’ market – a market that becomes increasingly important in the post-war era as Hollywood shifts to more and more big-budget filmmaking.
The most significant advance in colour technology during the 1920s was the shift from two-colour additive to two-colour subtractive processes. Additive processes, such as Kinemacolor, Prizmacolor and Technicolor Process Number One, produce colour by ‘adding’ two or more different colours to one another on the screen during the projection process. In Kinemacolor, this was accomplished by projecting successive frames of red then green-sensitive black and white positive film through a rotating shutter containing red-orange and blue-green gelatin filters. Through the phi-phenomenon (sometimes mistakenly referred to as ‘persistence of vision’), the two separate colours appeared to merge or combine on screen. Prizmacolor initially relied on rotating filters in projection but eventually developed a process of dyeing successive frames on positive prints, thus eliminating the need for filters in projection.21 This innovation would be crucial to the development of the Multicolor/Cinecolor processes.
Though Technicolor had shifted from an additive to a subtractive process in the early 1920s, it was not until 1928 that its two-colour subtractive technology was perfected through the advent of dye transfer, imbibition printing which secured two colour records on a single strip of black and white positive film. In 1928, Multicolor – which was reborn as Cinecolor in 1932 – introduced a two-colour subtractive process that relied on a bi-pack negative in filming and on toning and dyeing to generate colour release prints on duplitized film stock.22 ‘Duplitized’ stock featured two emulsions sandwiching a common base; in the Multicolor process, one emulsion contains the blue-green record of the original scene and the other the red-orange record. Multicolor dubbed its bi-pack negative the ‘Rainbow Negative’. A double magazine fed two films, emulsion to emulsion, to a special camera gate where they were exposed together. The ‘front’ negative was on orthochromatic stock and recorded the blue-green elements of the scene; the rear negative, on panchromatic stock, provided the red-orange record.23 Crespinel’s chief contribution to bi-pack technology was the discovery that an orthochromatic ‘front’ negative could be successfully combined with a panchromatic ‘rear’ negative to generate clear, sharp images on both negatives. He also developed a camera gate that held the two negatives in perfect register. The special camera gate, which could be installed in any standard black and white 35mm camera, relied on a series of rollers with crowned surfaces to hold the two negatives tightly together in register as they passed through the gate.24 Crespinel also patented, under the name of Multicolor, a method for placing soundtracks on colour prints, a film colouring machine, a ‘method of producing film in natural colour’ (a printing process), and a method of making coloured photographs (a filming process).25 Cinematographers Hal Hull and William Stull praised the Multicolor process, citing its ‘compatibility’ with black and white filming and processing techniques.26 It w as not only compatible with black and white cameras, but the ‘laboratory treatment of the twin negatives [was] exactly identical to that of black-and-white negatives.’27
‘… In this printing process, an amazing amount of control can be exerted over the qualities of the finished picture. Not only can the overall density of the print be varied, as with black-and-white, but the color balance as well . … The new Rainbow Negative … serves to improve the color rendition very noticeably, and increases the overall sensitivity of the process to exact equality with black-and-white. This makes it possible to handle Multicolor in exactly the same way as black-and-white. Anything that is possible in mono-chrome is equally possible in Multicolor with no other change than the use of Multicolor film and the adjustment of the camera gate to accommodate the two films [emphasis in original]. No additional lighting is required … every lighting effect used in normal production can be used unchanged in Multicolor. Extreme high-key and low-key lightings can be used exactly as in monochrome, as can every imaginable trick of artistic camerawork, including glass shots and front miniatures… .’28
Multicolor was the brainchild of producer-directors Rowland V. Lee and William Worthington (Lee’s father-in-law), who provided financial backing for Crespinel’s experiments. They set up shop in Paramount’s Real-Art film lab on Occidental Blvd. in Los Angeles.29 Late in 1928, Lee and Worthington sought additional financial backing from Howard Hughes. Hughes loaned them money and, as its chief creditor, acquired a 51 per cent interest in the company.30 Hughes spent $1.5 million building and outfitting a state-of-the-art colour lab at 7000 Romaine Avenue (the lab could routinely process 1 million feet of film per week and had a peak capacity of 3 million).31 The Multicolor process was used on a number of shorts and cartoons and on colour sequences in a handful of black and white features, including Fox Movietone Follies of 1929 (Fox, 1929), The Great Gabbo (Sono-Art, 1929), and Good News (M-G-M, 1930).32 Limbacher also lists the following Multicolor films: Married in Hollywood (Fox, 1929), Sunny Side Up (Fox, 1929), and a short, Goofy Goat (Fox, 1931 ).33 According to David L. Parker, Universal used Multicolor on a series of ten-minute shorts called Strange as it Seems, which were ‘based on John Hix’s newspaper feature documenting oddities of nature.’34 Thirty-nine shorts were released between August 1930 and May 1934.35 Brian Coe refers to Dolores the Beautiful (1932) as ‘the last Multicolor film.’36
In 1932, the Multicolor lab failed, unable to recoup the costs related to its construction. According to Crespinel, ‘It was rumored that auditors found it was costing 70 cents a foot to process film selling for 7 cents a foot.’37 Shortly after the closing of the lab, Hughes put up for sale all the lab equipment and, more importantly, all the patents owned by Multicolor. With his new partner, Louisville financier Alan McCormick, Crespinel bought most of the processing equipment and the basic patents underlying the Multicolor system.38
The Cinecolor process was essentially the same as the Multicolor process. As described by Alan Gundelfinger, Cinecolor’s Technical Director, in 1938, the
‘bi-pack negative consist[ed] of two separate negative films of distinctly different types, namely orthochromatic negative, sensitive to the blue and green portions of the spectrum and panchromatic negative, sensitive to the entire spectrum … . [The] orthochromatic negative… has impregnated on the emulsion surface an orange-red dye which prevent[ed] all but the orange and red portions of the spectrum from reaching the panchromatic negative emulsion. In this manner, … the blue and green valued objects [were] recorded on the front or orthochromatic negative and the orange and red valued objects [were] recorded on the rear or panchromatic negative.’39
A standard black and white camera was used, outfitted with a special gate to accommodate the bi-pack negative. Since the distance from the lens to the surface of the two emulsions differed some-what from that of the black and white system, ‘the lens focus [had to] be brought back 0.0045″ over that of black and white focus for maximum sharpness on each negative. To accomplish this, the ground glass used for focussing by eye [had to] be moved back by insertion of a 0.0045″ shim, or the lens [had to] be recalibrated to move the focus back 0.0045″.’40 Additional adjustments to the camera involved the removal of the ‘”stripper” shoe at [the] back of [the] main sprocket and replac[ing it] with [a] “cutaway” shoe’, as well as ‘locking off’ the clutch.41
The orange-red dye on the surface of the orthochromatic negative was removed after the negative had been developed, fixed, and washed by immersing it in a solution of sodium hydrosulphite and sodium bisulphite. The panchromatic negative was put through the same process – not to remove any dyes but to reduce ‘differential shrinkage between the two negatives’ (i.e. to shrink it to match the shrinkage of the ortho negative).42
To achieve proper exposure during filming, the cameraman was instructed to use a device called an Illuminometer, which was essentially a light meter equipped with a special set of filters and a photronic cell. Once the maximum illumination of the scene was determined, the cameraman then consulted a ‘curve sheet’ which provided settings for the correct lens stop and shutter opening to use with that illumination.43
Cinecolor also provided guidelines for the kind of make-up to be used on performers. The numbers refer to special make-up devised for Cinecolor by Max Factor.
Cameramen at studios using Cinecolor recommended that ‘make-up should be on the light side to avoid a red-orange or sallow appearance. Lip-rouge should be an orange-red, blue-reds photographing much too dark. We have found grease to be more satisfactory than pancake and no make-up is used above No. 25… . For men, a beard cover must be used; otherwise the beard comes through as a blue shadow. No make-up is used on children.’45
Since Cinecolor was only a two-colour process, its colour rendition was somewhat limited. Cameramen and art directors were advised to select original colours on the basis of the final colours desired. In a letter to Twentieth Century-Fox, Crespinel wrote that the following colours reproduced with reasonable fidelity (a colour rendition chart for Cinecolor can be found on the web at simplecom.net/widefilm/oldfilm/cinecolor2.htm):
‘All shades of blue, except ultramarine blue and violet blue. All shades of orange-red and warm yellow. All shades of brown, gray, and black. To obtain green, the best color to use is a bottlegreen. Bronze, silver, and gold reproduce quite faithfully. Pinks and magenta do not reproduce well. Neither do greens that have an excessive amount of yellow in them.’46
Cameramen at Hal Roach Studios reported that:
‘the successful use of two-color bipack requires the most careful selection of colors in both sets and wardrobes … . The use of pastel colors produce the best results. Excessive use of brilliant colors is to be avoided … Colors darker than the middle range of the scale should not be used … . This is because all dark colors tend to reproduce with a certain sameness, giving a monotone effect… . In general, grays reproduce with a greenish cast, yellow goes orange-brown, reds on the magenta side tend towards brown, orange-reds reproduce the brightest …’47
Cinecolor films were released on Duplitized film stock. Duplitized stock had emulsions on both sides. As a result, the emulsions were potentially subject to scratches. Scratches on normal film tend to damage the base; scratches on Duplitized stock damaged the emulsion – the image area. Part of the Cinecolor lab process involved varnishing the release prints in order to protect the image from the wear and tear of normal projection. The varnishing was known by the trade name of ‘Peerlessing’.
Cinecolor promoted this treatment of release prints. In December 1941, to accompany prints of a Cinecolor film called Evergreen Playland, for example, Cinecolor sent the following memo to the managers of film exchanges:
‘This print is made on Eastman Duplitized Film and has an emulsion on each side of the base. This print has been Peerlessed and waxed… . With proper care Duplitized prints will outlast black and white prints.’48
A few years later, worrying that Cinecolor prints had a reputation for scratching and eager to get testimonials on behalf of the durability of its release prints, Crespinel wrote to Jack Darrroch of Fox Movietone News to ask him for a letter commenting on Cinecolor print durability. Fox had been using Cinecolor on a series of shorts made in 1942, including L. C. Thaw’s India the Goddess and Gateway to Asia, Valley of Blossoms, Royal Araby, as well as Turkey Opens the Door. Included with the request was a report from a film exchange noting that Cinecolor prints that had been run more than 400 times were less scratched than black and white prints that had seen similar service.49 A few months later, in response to a request from Cinecolor, Sponable sent a note on Fox letterhead to Disney, testifying that ‘we find that Cinecolor prints stand up very well under release conditions.’50 Cinecolor started off slowly, competing with three-colour Technicolor for animation business. Cinecolor was used for some of the Color Classic cartoons produced by the Fleischers at Paramount in 1934 and for Pat Powers’ production of Ub Iwerks’ Comicolor Cartoons ca. 1935 (Disney had Technicolor locked up for colour animation).51 The ‘Merrie Melodie’ cartoons series at Warner Bros. also used Cinecolor in 1934, including titles such as Honeymoon Hotel and Beauty and the Beast (both 1934).52
With financing from G. Brashears & Co., Cinecolor slowly expanded its operations in the mid-1930s, though the process was still used only for short films. On 31 August 1937, Cinecolor signed a one-year contract with Warner Bros. for processing 828,759 feet of film for shorts and travelogues; Warners agreed to buy at least 75 prints of 13 total titles in Cinecolor.53
In 1939, Cinecolor opened a new colour laboratory in Burbank. Funds for the purchase of a 4.5 acre lot from actor Gene Autry were raised by a public offering of Cinecolor stock.54 The lot was only $10,000.55 But the building housing the lab, which occupied 45,000 square feet, cost $125,000, while the cost of laboratory equipment was over $150,000. The new, air-conditioned facilities, which included a patent research library, a technical library, a research room, dark rooms, a projection room, rooms for camera unloading, negative polishing, printing, inspection, positive cutting, waxing, optical printing, shipping, and a 14,000 square foot processing room, were capable of handling 2 million feet of film per week and processing 500,000 feet of colour positive a day. The basement, which was used for storing and mixing chemicals, contained ’50 vats, ranging in capacity from 1000 to 20,000 gallons.’ The plant had its own water and emergency power supply.56
With the opening of this new plant, Cinecolor launched its entry into feature film work, as well as its entry into the 16 mm colour market.57 It began with Monogram’s Gentleman from Arizona (1939/1940), the first of many Cinecolor Westerns.58 During the war years, Cinecolor realised that the Technicolor labs were working to capacity for the major studios and saw an opening for itself in the area of ‘B’ pictures and films for minor studios.59 (During the war The Film Daily often re-ported that the demand for Technicolor has ‘once again exceeded the company’s ability to supply it’.)60 Cinecolor’s low-budget strategy soon paid off. In 1942, Cinecolor did some work for Fox Movietone (see above) and a colour sequence in The Moon and Sixpence for United Artists; Cinecolor also did the colour on Paramount’s re-issues of two Phil Spitalny shorts, as well as a series of commercial films made by Castle.61 In 1943, the company worked on two-colour reissues of three-colour Technicolor films that had been sold to Film Classics by John Hay Whitney, their original producer. These included Becky Sharp (1935), Dancing Pirate (1936), A Star is Born (1937), and Nothing Sacred (1937). These two-colour versions could not come close to the colour quality of the Technicolor originals and unfortunately became associated with the Cinecolor name for subsequent generations of film buffs. In 1944, Cinecolour processed three Mexican films – Asi se Quiere en Jalisco, China Poblana, and The Adventures of Pinocchio.62 In 1945, Cinecolor provided the colour for The Enchanted Forest and Song of Old Wyoming for Producers Releasing Corp., doubling its capacity to meet demand.63 By 1946, Cinecolor had graduated from poverty row to the majors, providing the colour for an M-G-M ‘B’ Western, Gallant Bess (1946). That year, William T. Crespinel was elected president of the company, supervising its rise to financial prosperity. In 1946, Cinecolor signed a contract with the Hal Roach Studios, which, upon reopening after the war, had begun to produce all of its pictures in colour, for a series of colour comedies (short subjects).64 Cinecolor features released in 1946 included Caravan Trail( PRC), Colorado Serenede (PRC), Death Valley (Screen Guild), God’s Country (Screen Guild), The Michigan Kid (Universal), Romance of the West (PRC), and Wild West (PRC).65 In 1947, Cinecolor was used for features by Paramount (Adventure Island) and United Artists(Curley), among others. By 1947, Cinecolor was also busy striking 16mm colour prints of 35mm colour features for distribution to members of the armed forces by the Army and Navy, as well as doing 35mm colour blow-ups of 16mm films; the number of employees at the lab had also jumped from 28 at the end of 1941 to 145 as of 15 April 1947.66 In December 1947, Cinecolor CEO A. Pam Blumenthal told Film Daily that the company expected to process 45 features in 1948 – four for Columbia, eight-nine for Eagle-Lion, three for Pine Thomas, and one-each for several other low budget companies.67 In fact, Cinecolor only processed 19 features in 1948.68 Cinecolor did, however, develop a ‘latensification’ process in 1948, enabling filmmakers to shoot in lower light levels.69 By the end of the decade, Cinecolor had done colour work for Allied Artists, Columbia, Eagle-Lion, Film Classics, M-G-M, Monogram, Paramount, Producers Releasing Corp., Screen Guild Productions, Twentieth Century-Fox, United Artists, and Universal.70
Adrian Cornwell-Clyne lists, in addition, the following Cinecolor titles of films released during this period: Who Killed Doc Robbin (Hal Roach), Twin Sombreros (Columbia), Wild Fire (Screen Guild), Northwest Trail (Screen Guild), Trail to Alaska (Monogram), Scared to Death (Screen Guild), Yosemite (Screen Guild), Here Comes Trouble (Hal Roach), and Vigilantes Return (Universal).71
The post-war period proved to be Cinecolor’s most successful years. From 1945 to 1948, sales rose from $248,244 to $2,908,929, while profits climbed from a deficit of $25,607 to earnings of $266,204.72 The corporation paid no dividends to its stockholders until September 1947, when earnings per share were 12.5 cents; no dividends were paid after that.73 However, earnings fell from an all-time high of $398,351 in 1947 to a net loss of $373,144 in 1949 and its stock fell from $6 to $2.50 per share during the same period, in large part, as a result of Cinecolor’s acquisition of a low budget distributor, Film Classics in October 1947.74 Film Classics, referred to by Variety as a ‘reissue outfit’, had earlier brought some colour business to the lab through its 1944 reissue of Whitney’s three-colour Technicolor films (see above). Cinecolor purchased Film Classics for 80,000 shares in its own stock and loaned the company $100,000 to help it build its business.75 Cinecolor assumed Film Classics would bring in additional work for the lab, but its work as a producer-distributor proved to be low-budget, black and white product.76 At the same time, Cinecolor’s involvement with a production company violated one of the basic laws governing the relation of Hollywood labs and their customers. If labs and studios went into business together, the alliance could alienate rival studios, who feared prejudicial treatment. That’s one of the chief reasons that Technicolor never went into business with its clients (and it was one of the reasons that studios, such as Paramount, balked at having to lease processes like CinemaScope from one its rivals, Twentieth Century-Fox in 1953).77 Crespinel objected to the acquisition of Film Classics and, on 12 April 1948, retired from the company.78By 1949, when Cinecolor and Film Classics parted their ways, Cinecolor had lost money on its investment. The company continued to lose money until 1955.79 By that time Cinecolor Inc. had changed its name to the Color Corporation of America. By 1954, it was no longer involved in processing Cinecolor or Supercinecolor prints.80
The last major technological development at Cinecolor was the introduction of a three-colour subtractive process, Supercinecolor, in 1949/50. Appearing roughly at the same time as the introduction of Eastman’s three-colour negative and positive film, Supercinecolor finally enabled Cinecolor to compete in the three-colour marketplace, but it came too late to establish a solid foothold in the three-colour market which was just beginning to explode. Within a few years, every studio would be using Eastman colour negatives and positives, processing them in their own ‘proprietary’ labs, and marketing them as Warner Color, DeLuxe, Pathecolor, etc. (Metrocolor relied on Ansco Color negatives and positives).
The term ‘Supercinecolor’ referred to a new three-colour printing process; the negatives used in original photography were the new Eastman three-colour negatives.81 From this negative, three separation master positives were produced, bearing the blue, green and red records.82 The green and the red records were step-printed, along with the sound track, simultaneously on to opposite sides of the same sort of Duplitized positive film used for two-colour Cinecolor prints. After a cyan and magenta dye toning process similar to that used for two-colour Cinecolor, the blue record was then printed onto the side of the Duplitized positive that carried the red record and dye-toned yellow, producing a finished three-colour print.83 This two-stage printing process made Supercinecolor prints only slightly more expensive than regular Cinecolor prints and thus cheaper than most three-colour prints.84 Supercinecolor was one of the first processes used to print release prints from the new Eastman colour negative.85 The first film released in Supercinecolor was The Sword of Monte Cristo (1951), which was independently produced for Twentieth Century-Fox by Alperson Productions.
By 1951, 65 per cent of the lab was devoted to work in Supercinecolor, while 35 per cent remained devoted to the old Cinecolor process. Though the lab hoped to process 25 films in Supercinecolor and 15-20 in Cinecolor in 1952, it processed fewer than 15 features that year – most of which were in Cinecolor.87 Like Cinecolor, Supercinecolor was used primarily for ‘B’ pictures, ranging from Columbia’s The Redskin Parade, The Texas Rangers, The Barefoot Mailman, Hurricane Island, Sunny Side of the Street and Magic Carpet (all 1951) to Warner Bros.’ Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd and Jack and the Beanstalk (both 1952).
The expense of converting its Burbank plant to three-colour significantly depleted Cinecolor’s working capital; its establishment, in conjunction with Radiant Films, of a Cinecolor two- and three-colour lab in London in September 1950 also cut into its post-war profits; at the same time, the corporation’s earnings continued to fall, recording losses of $373,144 in 1949, $604,642 in 1950, and $354,097 in 1951.88 In 1952, Cinecolor issued $425,350 of debentures in part ‘to replenish its own working capital, which has been depleted by costs involved in the conversion of the Burbank plant to three-colour operations’.89 On 11 May 1953, Cinecolor changed its name to the Color Corporation of America – in part to ‘give producer[s] a chance to use [their] own brand name for [their] Cinecolor and Supercinecolor productions’.90 But the name change – knowingly or not – marked the end of Cinecolor as a viable force within the field of colour motion picture processing. In 1954, the Color Corporation of America purchased the Houston Fearless Corp. and, in 1955, it bought the Houston Color Film Lab. In May 1957, the Color Corporation of America changed its name to the Houston Fearless Corp.91
During the post-war era, as average weekly attendance fell from 90 million in 1948 to 60 million in 1950, Hollywood attempted to re-think the nature of the product it provided. Competing for customers with active leisure-time pursuits such as hunting, fishing and gardening and with passive entertainment forms such as television, Hollywood redesigned itself as a ‘participatory’ entertainment, engaging its audiences with Cinerama, 3-D, CinemaScope, stereo sound and colour.92 Colour became an important part of this re-design, differentiating the new product from the old and from black and white television programming.
Hollywood sank its fortunes more and more into big-budget colour spectacles. Though ‘B’ pictures continued to be made – often made in Cinecolor – they became increasingly marginalised during the 1950s, as studio ‘B’ production slowly moved into the production of television series, such as the ‘Warner Bros. Presents’ series (Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, Bronco, ca. 1955-1958). Cinecolor was slow to adapt itself to this new era. It continued to market its two-colour process well into 1953 (Invaders from Mars, Kansas Pacific, Sabre Jet) when the rest of the industry was beginning to rely more and more on the new Eastman colour process for three-colour production. Most importantly, in an era in which any studio could work cheaply and efficiently in colour, it could not provide producers with a unique product. Technicolor survived, in part, because it quickly adapted itself to process dye transfer release prints from the new Eastman colour negative and, in part, because its name had been and continued to be associated with prestige product. It was still ‘the greatest name in color’ and was identified with the sort of product that Hollywood wanted to make. Burdened with debts and with a ‘B’ movie past, Cinecolor tried to make itself over in the early 1950s with three-colour capabilities and a new name (‘Color Corp. of America’), but failed. A two-colour process in a three-colour world, it could not find a place for itself in an industry that had finally become interested in colour in a big way.
1 Jack Alicoate, ed. New York: The Film Daily, 1930.
2 Gorham Kindem, ‘Hollywood’s Conversion to Color: The Technological, Economic, and Aesthetic Factors’, The American Movie Industry: The Business of Motion Pictures, ed. Gorham Kindem. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982: 146.
3 Louis Pelegrine, ‘Color Progress’, The 1956 Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures, ed. Jack Alicoate. New York: The Film Daily, 1956: 115.
4 Ryan, Roderick T., A History of Motion Picture Color Technology. New York: The Focal Press, 1977: 92-93.
5 For a discussion of Kinemacolor, see Gorham Kindem, ‘The Demise of Kinemacolor’, in The American Movie Industry, ed. Kindem. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982.
6 Ryan, 27-28.
7 Ryan, 92. See also William A. Crespinel, ‘Pioneer Days in Color Motion Pictures with William T. Crespinel’, Film History 12, No. 1 (2000): 63-64.
8 See US Patent 1,927,887, ‘Gate for Multiple Films’. According to Ryan, bi-pack motion picture film was perfected by P. D. Brewster, ca. 1915-1917.
9 Prior to this time, three-colour reversal film had been developed, but it was difficult to generate multiple prints from this material. Technicolor and Cinecolor relied on black and white negative film and the use of dyes and black and white positive film in the printing process.
10 ‘Colour Cinematography’, The Focal Encyclopedia for Film and Television Techniques. Boston: Focal Press, 1969: 176.
11 Cornwell-Clyne, Adrian. Colour Cinematography. London: Chapman & Hall, 1951: 24.
12 Cornwell-Clyne, Adrian. Colour Cinematography. London: Chapman & Hall, 1951: 23, 24.
13 Ryan, 148, 152.
14 Louis Pelegrine, ‘Color Developments’, The 1950 Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures, ed. Jack Alicoate. New York: The Film Daily, 1950: 95.
15 Raymond Spottiswoode, Film and Its Techniques. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966: 217.
16 Cinecolor was a subtractive process. It should not be confused with a British two-colour additive process that was introduced ca. 1925; see Brian Coe, The History of Movie Photography, Westfield, NJ: Eastview Editions: 120. Paul Nash writes of a British process related to the film stock manufacturer, Ilford Ltd., called Cinecolor and praises its sharpness; see ‘The Colour Film’ in Footnotes to the Film, ed. Charles Davy, London: Lovat Dickson Ltd.: 1938: 125-126. It is presumably this process that is discussed in an internal Fox memo from R. M. Evans to E. I. Sponable and located in the ‘Cinecolor folder’ of the Sponable papers. On 3/3/31 (a year before Multicolor went out of business and before Cinecolor was named Cinecolor), Evans wrote: ‘They have a typical two colour additive process, using two pictures in each frame of standard film, with their axes vertical instead of horizontal, and project through two lenses, each covered with a colour-filter. Their present apparatus is quite crude, but the essential element, that of rotating the axes of the picture through 90 degrees in taking and projection, has been patented by them. The difficulty of course, is the same as with all additive processes, that it is almost out of the question to get enough light on the screen.’ Box 44, Sponable Collection, Manuscript Collection, Columbia University Libraries.
17 Ron Haver, David O. Selznick’s Hollywood. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1980: 188. See also ‘Profit through Loss’, Time ( 23 September 1946): 89.
18 ‘Profit through Loss’, Time ( 23 September1 946): 88-89.
19 ‘Profit through Loss’, 88-89.
20 William A. Crespinel reports that his father often visited the sets and locations of Cinecolor films to advise on colour issues. Interview with the author, 14 August 2000.
21 Filters in projection reduced screen illumination by as much as 33 percent. See Robert A. Nowotny, The Way of all Flesh Tones: A History of Color Motion Picture Processes, 1895-1929. New York: Garland, 1983: 319.
22 Ryan, 100-101.
23 Hal Hull a d William Stull, A.S.C., ‘Motion Pictures in Natural Color’, Cinematographic Annual, 1930, Volume One. Hollywood: American Society of Cinematographers, 1930; rep. New York: Arno, 1972: 279. Crespinel recalled: ‘The combination of an ortho front negative carrying a fugitive surface dye equal to a Wratten 23A filter in conjunction with a panchromatic rear negative … [enabled] every Mitchell and Bell& Howell camera [to become] a potential color camera’. See Crespinel, Film History 12, No. 1 (2000): 68.
24 See Wm. T. Crespinel’s US Patent 1,927,887 for a ‘Gate for Multiple Films’.
25 See US Patents nos. 1,893,698 (‘Method and Apparatus for Placing Sound Records in Color Photography’), 1,922,725 (‘Film Coloring Machine and Method of Coloring Film’), 2,009,689 (‘Method of Producing Films in Natural Color’), and 2,016,666 (‘Colored Photograph and Method of Making Same.’)
26 This discourse reflects the anti-Technicolor bias within Hollywood’s cinematography community which tended to favour black and white. This issue is discussed more fully in Scott Higgins ‘Technology and Aesthetics: Technicolor Cinematography and Design in the late 1930s’, Film History 11, No. 1 (1999): 56-57.
27 Hull and Stull, 279.
28 Hull and Stull, 280.
29 Crespinel, 68.
30 Noah Dietrich and Bob Thomas, Howard: The Amazing Mr. Hughes. Greenwich: Fawcett Publications, 1972: 107.
31 Ryan, 100. Dietrich and Thomas, 108.
32 Martin Hart’s American Widescreen Museum website (simplecom.net/widefilm/oldcolor/old-color.htm) posts a colour image from test footage of the Marx Bros. rehearsing a scene for Animal Crackers (Paramount, 1930). He credits the colour process as Multicolor, though many scholars remain uncertain as to the specific colour process used here.
33 Limbacher, 270.
34 ‘Blazing Technicolor’, ‘Stunning Trucolor’, and ‘Shocking Eastmancolor’, The American Film Heritage. Washington, DC: Acropolis Books, 1972: 23.
35 Michael Fitzgerald, Universal Pictures. New York: Arlington House: 1977.
36 Brian Coe, The History of Movie Photography. West-field, NJ: Eastview Editions, 1981: 128.
37 Crespinel, 69.
38 Crespinel, 69-70.
39 Gundelfinger, ‘Technical Bulletin, No. 9’, Cinecolor Research Laboratories, Cinecolor Inc., September 1938. ‘Cinecolor folder’, Box 44, Sponable Collection, Manuscript Collection, Columbia University Libraries.
40 Gundelfinger, ‘Technical Bulletin No. 9’.
41 John Boyle and Benjamin Berg, ‘Studio Production with Two-Color Bipack Motion Picture Film’, Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers 48, No. 2 (February19 47): 112.
42 Gundelfinger, ‘Technical Report No. 9’.
43 Gundelfinger, ‘Technical Report No. 9’.
44 Gundelfinger, ‘Technical Bulletin No. 9’.
45 Boylea and Berg, ‘Studio Production with Two-Color Bipack Motion Picture Film’, JSMPE 48, No. 2 (February 1947): 114.
46 Memo from William T. Crespinel to E. I. Sponable, dated 2/9/42. ‘Cinecolor folder’, Box 44, Sponable Collection, Columbia University Libraries. In a subsequent letter to Sponable, Crespinel noted that ‘green is a difficult color to reproduce in any process other than true three-colour. However, bottle and billiard cloth green, fir trees, cactus plants and trees having a dark green leaf, usually reproduce very well. Spring foliage and greens with an excessive amount of yellow do not produce at all well.’ Letter dated 5/15/42. ‘Cinecolor folder’, Box 44, Sponable Collection, Columbia University Libraries.
47 Boyle and Berg, JSMPE (February 1947): 114-115.
48 Memo dated 12/22/41. ‘Cinecolor folder’, Box 44, Sponable Collection.
49 Letter dated 4/15/43. ‘Cinecolor folder’, Box 44, Sponable Collection, Columbia University Libraries.
50 Letter from Sponable to Fred Maguire of Disney, dated 12/13/43. ‘Cinecolor folder’, Box 44, Sponable Collection, Columbia University Libraries.
51 Leslie Cabarga, The Fleischer Story. New York: Nostalgia Press, 1976: 182. Carbarga lists Poor Cinderella (3 August 1934), Little Dutch Mill (26 October1 934), and An Elephant Never Forgets (28 December 1934). Leonard Maltin, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons. New York: Mc Graw Hill, 1980: 189-190.
52 Maltin, 224-225. Warner Bros. used Cinecolor again for a handful of cartoons in 1949. See Maltin, 253.
53 Moody’s Industrials, 1938.
54 The stock went public in 1936. See unpublished William T. Crespinel bio provided by William A. Crespinel.
55 Author’s interview with William A . Crespinel, 14 August 2000.
56 ‘Cinecolor Opens Burbank Plant’, American Cinematographer (March 1939): 114-115. Variety (3/22/39) gave somewhat different statistics, noting that the new plant cost $250,000 and that it could handle 720,000 feet of film per month versus a prior capacity of 150,000 feet per month.
57 Cornwell-Clyne, 330.
58 Martin Scorsese recalls the Cinecolor Westerns he saw as a child with great fondness, referring to them as if they were a kind of Western; see Andy Dougin, Martin Scorsese (London: Orion Media, 1997: 42). PRC’s Cinecolor Westerns starring Eddie Dean have achieved a certain cult following among today’s Western buffs.
59 Author’s interview with William A. Crespinel,14 August 2000.
60 See ‘Samuel D. Berns, ‘Color in 1945,” The 1946 Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures, ed. Jack Alicoate. New York: The Film Daily, 1946: 72.
61 The 1943 Year Book of Motion Pictures, ed. Jack Alicoate. New York: The Film Daily.
62 Samuel D. Berns, ‘Color in 1944’, The 1945 Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures, ed. Jack Alicoate. New York: The Film Daily,1 945: 69.
63 Bern, ‘Color in 1945’, Film Daily Year Book. New York: The Film Daily,1 9445: 72.
64 Boyle and Berg, JSMPE 48 (February19 47): 111.
65 See Limbacher, 275-276.
66 Moody’s Manual of Investments, 1947. London: Moody’s Investors Service Ltd., 1947.
67 Ralph Wilk, ‘Color Developments’, The 1948 Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures, ed. Jack Alicoate. New York: The Film Daily: 111.
68 Ralph Wilk, ‘Color Developments’, The 1949 Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures, ed. Jack Alicoate. New York: The Film Daily,1949: 91.
69 Ralph Wilk,’ Color Developments’, The 1949 Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures. New York, The Film Daily, 1949: 91.
70 James Limbacher, Four Aspects of the Film. New York: Brussel and Brussel, 1968: 48-49.
71 Cornwell-Clyne, 30.
72 ‘Cinecolor Corp.’, The 1951 Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures, ed. Jack Alicoate. New York: Film Daily, 1951: 930.
73 Moody’s Manual of Investments, 1952. London: Moody’s Investors Service Ltd. See also ‘Houston Fearless Corp.’, The 1967 Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures, ed. Charles Alicoate. New York, Film Daily: 1967: 715.
74 See the 1951 Film Daily, 930. See also Variety (4/6/49).
75 Ralph Wilk, ‘Color Developments’, The 1948 Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures, ed. Jack Alicoate. New York: The Film Daily, 1948: 111.
76 Variety (6/15/49).
77 John Belton, Widescreen Cinema. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992: 124.
78 William A. Crespinel, interview with the author, 14 August 2000.
79 The 1967 Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures, ed. Charles Alicoate. New York: Film Daily: 1967: 715.
80 Ryan, 102.
81 Ryan, 104.
82 Ryan notes that at this time no panchromatic master positive film was available so that the separation material came from the original negative rather than from a master positive; Ryan, 104.
83 Ryan, 104-105. See also Alan M. Gundelfinger, ‘Cinecolor Three-Color Process’, Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers 54, No. 1 (January1 950): 79-84.
84 Ryan, 102.
85 Roderick T. Ryan, conversation with the author, 2 September 2000.
86 Ryan, 102.
87 Limbacher, 282-284.
88 Funds to set up the British lab apparently came from overseas profits that had been frozen and could only be spent there. See also ‘Houston Fearless Corp.’, 1967 Film Daily Year Book, 715.
89 New York Times (3/1/52).
90 Limbacher, 57.
91 Moody’s Manual of Investments, 1958.
92 See ‘The Leisured Masses’ chapter in my Widescreen Cinema. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992: 69-84.”
(Belton, John (2000): CinecoIor. In: Film History, Vol. 12, No. 4, Color Film (2000), pp. 344-357.)
“The Cinecolor Process, a two-color subtractive color process announced in 1932, was a direct descendant of the Multicolor process. When the Multicolor Company failed in 1932 the process was renewed under the Cinecolor name.31 For the original photography bipack negative films were exposed in a conventional camera. Prints were made on positive film with emulsion coated on both sides; one side was toned blue-green and the other side red-orange. The process was first used by the smaller producing companies: Monogram, Producers Releasing Corporation, Screen Guild Productions, Eagle-Lion, etc. The first feature length picture to be released in the Cinecolor Process was The Gentleman from Arizona, produced by Monogram Pictures in 1940.32
The popularity of the Cinecolor Process continued to grow during the next ten years, 1940 to 1950. Eventually the process was used by MGM, Twentieth Century-Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros., Columbia, United Artists, and Universal. At its peak the laboratory was processing approximately 120 million feet of release print per year. In 1950 the laboratory installed the Eastman Color process and began using Eastman Color Negative Film, Type 5247, for original photography, Eastman Color Print Film, Type 5381, for daily prints and Supercinecolor for release prints. This enabled Cinecolor to use conventional unmodified camera equipment for three-color photography and to produce three-color daily prints on a 24-hour delivery basis with final three-color release prints in the most economical process available. The first Cinecolor three-color feature produced in this manner was The Sword of Monte Cristo, an Alperson Production released by Twentieth Century-Fox.33
Although the sales volume of the company increased substantially during the late forties, the company encountered management and other difficulties, and by 1954 had to discontinue operation.34
When the Cinecolor Process was introduced in 1932 Eastman Bi-Pack or DuPont Dupack films were used for the original photography. Exposures were made in a conventional camera equipped with a special Cinecolor bipack camera roller pressure plate and a double magazine. After exposure the negatives were processed in a normal black and white negative developer, fixed, washed and dried. The blue-green separation negative called the orange-red printer was printed on one side of Eastman Duplitized Safety Film, Type 5509. The orange-red separation negative, called the blue green printer, was printed simultaneously on the opposite side. During this step the sound track was also printed onto the blue-green image side in a separate sound printing head. In order to maintain registration of the two images a specially designed step registration contact printer was used. Push-down pins located just above the aperture were used rather than the conventional pull-down pins which are usually located below the aperture. The object of this design was to minimize wear and tear on the perforations utilized for registration by causing the registration pins of the printers to enter sprocket holes in the film which were no more than a small fraction of an inch away from the holes utilized for advancing the film. The two separation negatives were passed simultaneously through a film gate with their emulsions facing each other and with the duplitized positive film sandwiched in the middle. The sound track negative met the duplitized positive below the picture printing aperture and passed in contact to the continuously driven master sound sprocket containing a printing aperture which was illuminated from below.
The exposed duplitized positive was processed in a special continuous processing machine designed to provide means of treating individually the emulsion on both sides of the film by flotation methods. The machine consisted of three long shallow horizontal troughs located one above the other with a drying chamber on top extending the entire length of the machine. During processing the film passed in a single strand through each of the troughs to the take-up reel which was located right above the feed-on reel. Although the machine only operated at 12 feet per minute it was wide enough to handle ten strands at a time so that the effective output was 120 feet per minute when all channels were running. The immersion time in each solution and wash was held constant by the spacing between partitions or dams. The steps in the Cinecolor two-color process were as follows:
1. Black and white development. The two picture records and the sound track were developed to a black and white silver image.
2. Wash and squeegee.
3. Blue-green toning. The print was floated on the surface of the cyan toning bath with the image from the red record and the sound track facing down.
7. Mordanting. The film was immersed in a mordanting solution which converted the silver image from the blue-green record to a silver iodide which has the property of absorbing basic dyes. The side containing the cyan ferric ferrocyanide image was not affected by this treatment.
8. Clearing bath. Clear in a 2% solution of sodium bisulfite.
9. Wash and squeegee.
10. Red-orange toning. The print was immersed in a orange-red dye solution.
11. Final wash and drying.
Although prints by the two-color Cinecolor process were satisfactory for their purpose, the motion picture industry was insistent in its demands for a three-color process. To meet these demands a third color was added to the Cinecolor release print process and the process was renamed Supercinecolor. 33
For this new improved three-color process Eastman Color Negative Safety Film, Type 5247, was used as the original camera-taking material. In order to produce release prints with incorporated effects, it was necessary to make three-color separation master positives and corresponding three-color separation duplicate negatives from the original negatives. When Supercinecolor was introduced there was no panchromatic master positive film available, therefore it was necessary to reverse normal procedure and use Eastman Fine Grain Duplicating Panchromatic Negative Safety Film, Type 5203, as the master positive material and Eastman Fine Grain Duplicating Positive Safety Film, Type 5365, as the duplicate negative material. These films were developed in the normal manner in conventional black and white processing equipment.
The next step in the process after the preparation of the three separation negatives was their transfer onto Eastman Duplitized Positive Safety Film, Type 5509. The red and the green records and the sound track negative were first printed in a single pass through the special Cinecolor step contact printer in the same manner as described for the two-color Cinecolor process. The sound track was printed on the side which received the picture exposure from the red record and which was to be toned cyan. The blue record was printed as an additional step after the first stage of the processing was completed. The duplitized positive was processed in the same horizontal machine used for the two-color Cinecolor process but the solutions and the processing steps were different. The processing steps in the Supercinecolor process were as follows:
1. Black and white development. The red and green record prints and the sound track were developed to black and white silver images. The yellow dye contained in the print film was bleached out during development.
2. Wash and squeegee.
3. Cyan (blue-green) toning. The print was floated on the surface of the cyan toning bath with the image from the red record and the sound track facing down.
5. Immersion in a solution which converted the silver ferrocyanide to silver bromide.
8. Wash and dry.
9. Removal of film from the machine for the blue record printing.
10. The blue record negative in contact with a low gamma negative mask printed from the red separation positive was printed onto the side of the duplitized positive containing the cyan image and the re-sensitized silver bromide.
11. Black and white development. The print was floated on the surface of a black and white developer with the exposed image facing down. This resulted in a positive silver image which would be dyed yellow later in the process.
15. Pre-dip. The print was immersed in an acid solution of potassium iodide.
16. Mordanting solution. Oxidizing bleach which converted the silver images (blue and green records) to a dye mordant.
17. Clearing bath. Clear in a 2% solution of sodium bisulfite.
18. Wash, squeegee, and dry.
19. Yellow dye toning. The print was floated on the surface of the yellow toning bath with the image from the blue record facing down. The mordanted image accepted the yellow dye according to the magnitude of the mordanted deposit.
21. Magenta dye toning. The print was immersed in the magenta toning bath. The mordanted image accepted the magenta dye according to the magnitude of the mordanted deposit.
23. Cyan regenerating bath. Print was immersed in a solution of potassium ferrocyanide (25 grams/liter).
24. Acid rinse in hydrochloric acid.
25. Wash, squeegee and dry.
31 FROST, GEORGE E. AND OPPENHEIM, S. CHESTERFIELD, “Technical History of Professional Color Motion Pictures,” (The Patent, Trademark and Copyright Foundation, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., 1960), p. 37. (Mimeographed.)
32 LIMBACHER, J. L., “A Historical Study of the Color Motion Picture,” Dearborn, Michigan, 1963, p. 18. (Mimeographed.)
33 FROST, GEORGE E. AND OPPENHEIM, S. CHESTERFIELD, op. cit., p. 38.
34 FROST, GEORGE E. AND OPPENHEIM, S. CHESTERFIELD, op. cit., p. 40.”
(Ryan, Roderick T. (1977): A History of Motion Picture Color Technology. London: Focal Press, pp. 102-106.)
“Perhaps the most successful descendant of Kelley’s Prizma Process was Cinecolor. In 1948, for example, “the combined footage printed by Cinecolor and [an improved] Magnacolor equaled the total Technicolor footage printed in the United States – more than 200 million feet of two-color film.”95
Cinecolor was used in a variety of feature films by the following studios: Allied Artists, Columbia, Eagle-Lion, Film Classics, MGM, Monogram, Paramount, Producers Releasing Corporation, Screen Guild Productions, Twentieth Century-Fox, United Artists, and Universal.96
95 David L. Parker, “‘Blazing Technicolor,’ ‘Stunning Trucolor,’ and ‘Shocking Eastmancolor,’” in The American Film Heritage, The American Film Institute (Washington, D.C.: Acropolis Books Ltd., 1973), p. 25 and 27.
96 James L. Limbacher, Four Aspects of the Film (New York: Brussel and Brussel, Inc., 1969), pp. 48-49.”
(Nowotny, Robert A. (1983): The Way of All Flesh Tones. A History of Color Motion Picture Processes, 1895-1929. New York: Garland Pub., pp. 195-196.)
“In den USA ließ der Erfolg von Technicolor um 1930 Zweifarbenverfahren wie Pilze aus dem Boden schießen (Photocolor, Naturalcolor, Brewstercolor, Sennettcolor). Als ernstzunehmender Rivale trat das ab 1928 durch den Millionär Howard Hughes geförderte Multicolor auf, das Beachtung durch seine Verwendung in The Great Gabbo (1929, James Cruze) und Hell’s Angels (1930, Howard Hughes) fand, aber für nur zwei abendfüllende Spielfilme60 eingesetzt wurde, bevor die Wirtschaftskrise dem florierenden Farbfilmgeschäft den Boden entzog: Die Zahl der uraufgeführten Farbfilmspielfilme in Hollywood fiel von sieben Titeln im Jahr 1931 auf drei Titel 1932 und einen 1933. 1934 wurde erstmals seit 1925 kein einziger abendfüllender Farbspielfilm in den USA uraufgeführt. Nichtsdestoweniger zeichnete sich mit den ersten Proben des Technicolor Prozesses Nr. 4 zu diesem Zeitpunkt bereits der endgültige technische Durchbruch des amerikanischen Farbfilms ab.
Zwar endete die Ära der Zweifarbenfilme in Hollywood mit dem Tiefstand der US-Wirtschaft in den frühen 30er Jahren; unter klingenden Namen wie Cinecolor, Telco-Color, Cosmo-Color, Magnacolor, Trucolor, Hirlicolor überdauerte das Zweifarbenverfahren jedoch nicht nur die Wirtschaftskrise, sondern lebte in den 40er Jahren als preiswerte Alternative zum dreifarbigen Technicolor noch einmal auf. Eine Sonderstellung unter diesen Verfahren nahm Cinecolor ein, das, als Weiterentwicklung von Multicolor, in der ersten Hälfte der 30er Jahre Bekanntheit durch seine Verwendung für die ComiColor-Zeichentrickfilme des ehemaligen Disney-Mitarbeiters Ub Iwerks erlangte, aber erst 1939 zur Herstellung eines abendfüllenden Spielfilms61 verwendet wurde.
60 1931 entstand The Hawk (Jacques Jaccard), der jedoch erst 1936 unter dem Titel The Phantom of Santa Fe in den amerikanischen Kinos erschien, 1932 Tex Takes a Holiday (Alan James).
61 The Gentleman from Arizona (Earl Haley).”
(Alt, Dirk (2011): “Der Farbfilm marschiert!” Frühe Farbfilmverfahren und NS-Propaganda 1933-1945. München: Belleville, on pp. 43–44.) (in German)