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rover27

The 'colorization' of TCM

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I may be just imagining it, but there seems to have been a big lurch towards showing more movies in color on TCM. I've noticed the color trend especially over this summer.

 

I know there has been a slow steady move to showing newer movies for some time, but it seemed that B&W were still in the majority. But now, I can turn on TCM early in the morning when the older B&W movies were still largely shown and staring me in the face is a letter-boxed color movie.

 

I've written about this disgusting trend by TCM to showing newer movies before, as have many others. To me, for much of its existence, the staple of TCM were B&W movies from the "Golden Age of Movies" or the "Studio Era". Even when discussing TCM with those who rarely watched it, they would recognize the station as the one that shows those 'old black and white' movies. It was the TCM trademark. Sure, they showed some 'newer' movies, but that was not their mainstay.

 

I suppose they are trying to attract younger viewers, but it's discouraging to see color become the new default. I'm sure TCM will always showing a certain percentage of B&W movies from the "Golden Age", but sadly the percentage seems to be getting smaller by the month.

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Are you to say that if we see THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, and it's in glorious Technicolor, that it makes TCM less of a classic old-time movie channel because it's not in black-and-white? Do you suggest that they show THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON instead, because it's not a color film?

 

Probably what you are seeing is that they have been showing films from the 60s and 70s a bit more, and those tend to be more in color. However, there are exceptions. THE MONEY TRAP with Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth is from 1966 and is a black-and-white film noir. Mel Brooks' YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is a black-and-white film from the 70s. Woody Allen made ZELIG in the 80s and SHADOWS AND FOG in the 90s, and those are in black-and-white. Are they automatically classics because they are not in color???

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Maybe someone that knows were to get the 'stats' can tell us the percent of movies TCM shows that are not from the classic movie era (say pre 1960). This has been an on-going topic but I remember someone having some stats and it still showed that the vast majority of movies TCM shows are pre-1960 (like 90% or more).

 

I also want TCM to remain a classic movie station so I hope your fear isn't a sign of some future reality.

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When I talk about classic film, I usually define it by the production code...1934-1967. Silent films and talkies up to '33 are a special category. And films from '68 forward require a case-by-case analysis...some of them do contain elements left-over from the code years, on into the late 80s because a lot of the old-time directors and actors were still working into their advanced age (yes, their output may've slowed, but they were still in the game, so to speak)....and they were still mentoring younger, newer talent in the business.

 

But when we hit the 90s, there are very few traces left of the classic film era in terms of what is being produced. Yes, people like Ernest Borgnine and Mickey Rooney and Jessica Tandy are continuing to work, and some of the standard approaches to filmmaking that were established in the golden era are still in place, but there is a great disconnect between the Hollywood of old and the modern Hollywood at this point, simply because the new guard wants to live by its own rules and make its own films that rely heavily on technology and less on characterization.

 

But to label a film a classic based on whether or not it is filmed in black-and-white or color...? That does not seem to take into account the type of crafstmanship and collaboration that went into producing it and making it a truly classic cinematic achievement.

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I agree with how you define 'classic'; Thus prior to 1967 there are three different eras; silents, pre-code and studio system classics.

 

I don't believe the initial poster was saying any movie in color couldn't be a classic. Of course I wouldn't agree with that but only that most movies from the classic era are BW and that TCM is now showing more post 67 movies.

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*Maybe someone that knows were to get the 'stats' can tell us the percent of movies TCM shows that are not from the classic movie era (say pre 1960). This has been an on-going topic but I remember someone having some stats and it still showed that the vast majority of movies TCM shows are pre-1960 (like 90% or more).*

 

*I also want TCM to remain a classic movie station so I hope your fear isn't a sign of some future reality.*

 

If you check the archives you will discover that this has been a topic of speculation/discussion since the beginning days of this message board.

 

People have been speculating that TCM is going to the dark side like AMC for over ten years here.

 

TCM has been on the air for sixteen years and is still staying true to its original mission statement. it shows no signs of turning and, in fact, if you read or attend interviews with the staff of TCM, you will learn that they take their jobs and the channel very seriously and very personally.

 

They are aware of the channel's place in their viewers hearts and they don't take that responsibility lightly.

 

But then, I'm considered a TCM Apologist around these parts. :)

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You did not use the word 'classic,' I will concede that much...but you say there is a "disgusting trend" (your words, not mine). And you suggest that it is disgusting to show more color movies. But what if TCM's programmers schedule a day of all Technicolor films from the 40s and 50s. Is that disgusting?

 

I think we can apply black-and-white photography to specific trends in filmmaking genres. For instance, Technicolor musicals became all the rage and to film something like SINGIN' IN THE RAIN without color seems implausible.

 

Then there's film noir ('noir' is French for black) which relies heavily on darker, bleaker photography. Yet, there are exceptions like NIAGARA which is a noir filmed in color. But was Zanuck disgusting for deciding to film that story in color, instead of black-and-white???

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When I saw the word colorization, I almost had a heartattack.

 

The problem is that there are a LOT of movies made between 1910 - 2000, TCM is simply trying to please a wide spectrum of viewers and as the old what is a classic debate shows, this is no easy feat.

 

My sympathies to the TCM programmer, you got your work cut out for you. You got no complaints from me.

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"But then, I'm considered a TCM Apologist around these parts. "

 

Hey, if that's the only thing they call you, you're blessed. I can't think of anything better to be associated with than TCM at least in the material world. Thank you for you insights even if some have turned out to be my comeuppance. I always read your comments and you are so often a voice of reason in a whirl of hotheads. Keep it up!

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What's the emoticon for "severe and audible groan"?

 

Carping about color isn't any better than berating B&W.

 

You realize that "The Black Pirate" (1926), starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. was in color, right?

 

Classic is classic, no matter what hue. (Colorization being the exception, of course)

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Thirty-five posts in two years rings as much alarms as those that post ad nauseum. "Color become the new default..."? Oh brother.

 

I'll take the "apologists" over the haters.

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> {quote:title=lzcutter wrote:}{quote} But then, I'm considered a TCM Apologist around these parts. :)

 

I guess if stating true facts about TCM makes you "an apologist" then I'm one too and it's time to get out the old calculator again.

 

By my count, TCM is showing 380 features this month. I've broken them down by decades and percentages.

 

1920's - 8...... (2%)

1930's - 44...... (12%)

1940's - 93...... (24%)

1950's - 135...... (35%)

1960's - 74...... (20%)

1970's - 23...... (6%)

1980's - 3...... (1%)

1990's - 0

2000's - 0

 

That means that _73%_ of the films scheduled this month are _PRE-1960_

and _93%_ are _PRE-1970_.

 

As you know, I randomly do this a couple of times year and while the percentages for each decade will vary from month to month, depending on TCM's themes and special events, in the months I've done, the overall number of pre-1960 films has consistently been in the mid to upper 70% range.

 

DISCLAIMER: This was a quick count from this month's schedule with percentages being rounded off and, of course, is subject to error. So please don't anybody even of think of questioning my math. :)

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I have to admit it is a bit disappointing to see the 1960's beat the 1930's by close to 50%. I personally wish it was the opposite. I also wish the 1920's had a larger percentage but then it certainly should in November.

 

But as much as I love B&W films I am not going to complain about technicolor. That is certainly a part of the classic era too.

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*I have to admit it is a bit disappointing to see the 1960's beat the 1930's by close to 50%. I personally wish it was the opposite*

 

Perhaps it will help to keep in mind that it is the stats for just one month. Each month the stats change with some months having more of the films of the 1930s and/or the films of the 1940s instead of it being more about the 1960s.

 

Over twelve months in a year, TCM tries to change it up each month but always with their eye on the prize of bringing films to the schedule that their audience will appreciate.

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*"To me, for much of its existence, the staple of TCM were B&W movies from the "Golden Age of Movies" or the "Studio Era". Even when discussing TCM with those who rarely watched it, they would recognize the station as the one that shows those 'old black and white' movies. It was the TCM trademark. Sure, they showed some 'newer' movies, but that was not their mainstay."* - rover27

 

I don't dispute your observation that TCM has post-studio era films (letterboxed and in color) spread out during all hours of the day. It is partly a trait of the recently completed "Summer Under The Stars" and partly an inevitable development given the constraints under which TCM now operates.

 

August was "Summer Under The Stars" and the "24 hours devoted to a single star" theme would put some films on in hours not typically thought of for such titles. If one is programming 24 hours of Robert Stack, Warren Beatty or Paul Newman, you're gonna see widescreen, color films at all hours of the day. How the schedule is assembled in August is "unique" to that month.

 

Additionally. after the complete absorption of Turner Networks into the Time-Warner corporate structure, the ownership of the films in the "Turner Library" were transferred to Time-Warner. Prior to the merger, TCM used to have (seemingly) unlimited access to those films from WB/MGM/RKO to use at their discretion and pleasure. That is no longer the case. TCM now has to arrange "rental" rights for those titles just as if they were from Fox, Columbia or Paramount. Thus, many of the 30s & 40s "staples" from earlier years of TCM programming (in B&W and "full screen") are no longer available to plug in to the schedule like they used to be. Before the merger, the available titles were heavily weighted to the 30s, 40s and 50s simply by the presence of the "Turner Library" on the list.

 

With a formerly reliable 3500+ titles (The Turner Library) no longer sitting at the ready on the TCM shelf, i'm guessing the channel creates a day's or month's schedule from a smaller list of available titles. So on occasion, *Inside Daisy Clover* may become "breakfast fare" like it did on Thursday. (9am on the West Coast. OK, so I eat breakfast late.) As long as it's been "bought and paid for", the channel is going to show it. Otherwise it is a waste of TCM's valuable and limited resources. Regardless of that fact, the film is a movie worth seeing. The same goes for *Bye, Bye Birdie* showing Sunday morning or *Rebel Without A Cause* which was seen today and are widescreen, color films.

 

Yet, perusing the first ten days of September doesn't lead me to believe there is an abundance of color films from the 50s & 60s on during the early hours of the day. There isn't. And the evening hours (which usually gets criticized for showing newer films) this coming week are full of films from the 30s and 40s - including some _notable premieres_ like *Make Way For Tomorrow*, *The Great Man's Lady*, *Springtime In The Rockies* and three films Viven Leigh made before she arrived in Hollywood.

 

Enjoy TCM for what it is - a channel devoted to showing the greatest films of all-time. You don't have to eat everything on the smorgasbord. Remember, one viewer's Watercress Salad is another viewer's Baked Alaska.

 

4958512653_5de5c16067_m.jpg

 

Kyle (I prefer "syncophant") In Hollywood

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> {quote:title=Kinokima wrote:}{quote}

> I have to admit it is a bit disappointing to see the 1960's beat the 1930's by close to 50%. I personally wish it was the opposite.

 

As I've said the number of films from each decade varies from month to month depending what the themes for that month are. I actually went back and double checked my count when I saw the number for the 1930's as it surprised me too, but I wouldn't worry about it, I don't see a trend.

 

There are many months that have a higher count for that decade. For example, I was just looking at a printout of the recently released December schedule and while I didn't do a decade by decade breakdown, I did count 61 films from the 1930's. That's a 38% increase over September. That's pretty good.

 

You know, I do those breakdowns, now and then, because there are those on these boards who love to stir things up and get people scared that because TCM may show a handful of more recent films, in any given month, that it's going to turn into another AMC. In truth, it's simply not going to happen and hopefully the breakdowns help folks judge TCM as a whole and not just by a very small percentage of its programming.

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> {quote:title=hlywdkjk wrote:}{quote}

>

>

> Additionally. after the complete absorption of Turner Networks into the Time-Warner corporate structure, the ownership of the films in the "Turner Library" were transferred to Time-Warner. Prior to the merger, TCM used to have (seemingly) unlimited access to those films from WB/MGM/RKO to use at their discretion and pleasure. That is no longer the case. TCM now has to arrange "rental" rights for those titles just as if they were from Fox, Columbia or Paramount. Thus, many of the 30s & 40s "staples" from earlier years of TCM programming (in B&W and "full screen") are no longer available to plug in to the schedule like they used to be. Before the merger, the available titles were heavily weighted to the 30s, 40s and 50s simply by the presence of the "Turner Library" on the list.

>

> With a formerly reliable 3500+ titles (The Turner Library) no longer sitting at the ready on the TCM shelf, i'm guessing the channel creates a day's or month's schedule from a smaller list of available titles.

> Kyle (I prefer "syncophant") In Hollywood

 

Hey there Kyle,

 

I like the fact that TCM is showing more films from other studios outside the old TCM library. I also remember with fondness the old days when TCM dug deep into the vaults of their old library. Some of those films haven't been shown in ages and others haven't been seen at all since the merger. It has been said that some of those films can't be aired again until a proper digital transfer has been done. Something that has changed since TCM began back in 1994.

 

What bugs me though is the idea that TCM would have to jump through the same number of hoops to show an old MGM Harlow, Dressler or Barrymore film, to give just a few examples, as they would to air a Fox or Paramount/Universal film. I mean Time-Warner owns both the films and TCM itself right?

 

First off let's be honest, no one else is beating down the door trying to lease the vast majority of these films. I know some of the film channels air the occasional oldie, but outside of westerns for the Western Channel, and maybe AMC , this is a fairly rare occurrence.

 

I'm not even talking about the "big" pictures. It just seems silly to me that if someone on the TCM programing staff were inclined to head down to the vaults and blow the dust off of something like *Friends of Mr. Sweeney*, they would have to go through the same amount of hassle about leasing it as if they were trying to broadcast Fox's *The Sound of Music*. This can't be true can it? I understand there are legal obstacles but it just sounds like a bunch of unnecessary bureaucratic hogwash to me. There needs to be an easier system in place for TCM to air films that are owned by it's parent company and would otherwise waste away in obscurity. Anyway, that's just my two cents.

 

I'm just trying to figure out how the system works and if I'm misunderstanding what you are saying please let me know.

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Kyle and LZ will know much more about how that all works, but my guess is that it's probably not a lot of hoops that they have to go through, but there probably is a contractual agreement and with that a cost, that was apparently not the case when Ted Turner owned the library and the channel and gave the channel free reign to run whatever they wanted to from the TCM Library. I wish Time-Warner would do the same, as it bums me out to see less of that library on the channel than there used to be. There are probably a few films from that library that are more difficult to get perhaps, because other stations might want them as well, but I'm guessing wanting to air THE MOUTHPIECE or BROADMINDED is not going to be very competitive.

 

I see the Silent era and the 30's as getting short shrift, not just on TCM but everywhere you look on the dial, even those channels that occasionally air classic films. I do think there is a drift away from that era on the channel, it has been incremental, but I also do not believe that it's some sinister plot to turn the channel into AMC. I think it's explained by 4 things, two have already been mentioned. The change of the ownership of the library and station. The lack of digital transfers of many of those films, as well as films from studio libraries that TCM has leased, such as Columbia, etc. The third is related to the fact that they now do lease from other libraries. Some of that has resulted in later era films, because some of those studios slant to that direction--the Disney films that were leased were largely from the 60's, 70's, and the post 1948 Paramount films, clearly slanted toward later years. The fourth is simply the passage of time. As TCM's mission statement has been updated to include the 90's, and I guess will be updated again, if it hasn't already, to include the double naught's, it's obvious that more films will be included from latter eras. I don't see it as totally moving to post-1970, though clearly more of those films are on the schedule than used to be case, but what is the greatest shift, from my perspective, is more films from the 50's and 60's (and you see that from the run-down that was presented here in this thread). I would venture to guess that with rare exceptions that is more the rule than the exception over the past months and in upcoming months. I think it was stated in an earlier thread on a similar topic that many of the promotions and little things that surround the showing of the actual films give a more modern feel and have shifted from the feel you used to get when watching them before the middle of this past decade--those made you feel you were actually IN the 1930s or 40's, while now the look and feel and sound feels later, 50's/60's or even later. Again, I don't like this, but I don't find it to be a nefarious plot of any kind, just an indicator of the passage of time.

 

I clearly prefer films pre-1950 most of the time, but I do like films from later eras too. But I would groove hard to see more films from the silent and early talkie/pre-code era on the schedule. That desire is fulfilled quite often by TCM, and more than any other channel is going to do by far, but of course, I'd love to see more! I get why Silents and to a lesser extent, 30's films are aired less not only on TCM but other channels. Whenever I do see a classic film on the schedule for another channel it is usually from the 40's or later (or possibly from 1939). The only exceptions might be The Three Stooges on AMC or IFC, and perhaps occasional westerns on the Encore Westerns channel. Everything else would be post-1938 or so, in my estimation. The Silents, well, it's somewhat understandable why they would seem to be from another world to casual (that is not classic buffs) modern viewers. But I believe it's true also of the 1930's at least up until 1938 or 1939. The acting styles, camera and lighting and sound techniques, the stories...all were much different than what evolved in the latter 30's and found fruition in the 40's and beyond. It's different enough that I can see how casual viewers would find it primitive (though I would contest that term), but more importantly find it difficult to relate to. Why they may regard many of the 1939 and beyond films to be old-fashioned in sensibilities, there are enough similarities with more modern acting styles and techniques to allow for more comfort in watching them, there is more to relate to. I get that. Whenever I watch a silent film or a film from the early sound era or pre-code, I know I'm in for a treat and one I'm prepared for, because I already know pretty much what to expect from that experience, and even if I'm surprised by something that the director, cinematographer, actor, writer, etc present, it's within a context I'm familiar with. I feel that is probably rarely the case with a casual viewer, and I realize that TCM is wanting to bring in more of those.

 

Having said all that, I will always bring the rallying cry to see more Silents and early talkie films, pre-latter 30's. I do miss (and I didn't have the channel during most of that heyday, caught the tail end of it before things started to change) seeing more rare and older films from the TCM Library of films. I will say that a fringe benefit of that change has been that they do lease films from other libraries, though. I didn't see that they did much of that when they owned the library outright and could show whatever they wanted to from it. They could run the channel pretty cheaply that way and did, and why not, it is a HUGE library. The Thelma Todd day, for example, greatly benefited from TCM having access to the Hal Roach shorts, those were awesome! And we have seen many Columbia films from the 30's that I hadn't seen before, and am looking forward to seeing more of the early Paramount films. Again though...it would be awesome if the funding is available, for TCM to scour the depths of their parent company's library, digitally transfer anything that hasn't been so far, and have a "Vault Month" or even a "Vault Year". That would be such an awesome event, to show films from that library that either haven't been seen at all, or only once or twice in the very early days of the channel. An idea for a 20th anniversary?? *hint hint*

 

I'm sure Kyle, LZ and others more knowledgeable than me about the situation will weigh in with good thoughts, but those were my 2.25 cents. :)

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*"What bugs me though is the idea that TCM would have to jump through the same number of hoops to show an old MGM Harlow, Dressler or Barrymore film, to give just a few examples, as they would to air a Fox or Paramount/Universal film. I mean Time-Warner owns both the films and TCM itself right?"* - molo14

 

"...my guess is that it's probably not a lot of hoops that they have to go through, but there probably is a contractual agreement and with that a cost, that was apparently not the case when Ted Turner owned the library and the channel and gave the channel free reign to run whatever they wanted to from the TCM Library." - markbeckhuaf

 

From my understanding, 'markbeckhuaf' is correct. Some time in the past 'tcmprogrammr' wrote in here that TCM does have some sort of "special access" to the films of the "Turner Library" because of the corporate parentage which makes most of the films always available to TCM. But there is still a fee attached with every title which TCM now pays.

 

I am not an expert on the heirarchies and inter-woven relationships of business conglomerates so I may have some of this wrong. But Time-Warner is made up of many "stand-alone" divisions which are all operated and managed independently. "Turner Entertainment Networks" is one such division. (Click on the pop-up link at the bottom of this page.) "Warner Home Video" (which I believe now controls the Turner Library) and is responsible for the maintanance, video production and leasing of all the films in Time-Warner film libraries is another. Each has a budget and each is expected to operate profitable-ly. (Not in the red.)

 

Turner Entertainment Networks have long been a profit center for Time-Warner. Same for Warner Home Video. But, with the decline of video sales over the past few years, WHV is probably looking to replace revenue "lost" to declining sales through increases in other areas - such as the fees paid by TCM, TNT or HBO for the films under their control.

 

I doubt that the "hoops" TCM goes through to have access to the titles in the Turner Library are as complicated as those for titles from Fox, Paramount or Universal. As an outlet for presenting films from the corporate film library of Time-Warner, I am sure TCM and WHV work closely and on the friendliest of terms. But a fee that was once "nominal" may not necessarily be that way now even though TCM is the only cable outlet for a majority of the films that were part of the Turner Library. (If AMC or some other channel was interested in showing those titles, then the fees would probably shoot up even more. Shareholders don't necessarily approve of renting to one's corporate cousin at a discount something that could be fetching a higher price from someone out side of the family. This has become a big problem for the syndication sales of original network television programs. But that is another discussion.)

 

So, in the case of TCM and the titles in the Turner Library, TCM does have some sort of "preferred access" to those films. It's just that they do have to "pay" for them. Think of it as if the land line for the telephone has been removed and replaced with a pay phone. Unlimited free phone calls are a thing of the past. It might only cost a nickle to make the call but those nickles can add up. And if you don't have to spend the nickle, you might choose not to do so. So showing *Inside Daisy Clover* - which is already paid for and available for use - may end up on the schedule at 9am rather than a little-seen Harlow, Beery or Dressler film with its additional cost. At least not this month when the cost may not have been included in the budget. Plus, if it saves enough nickles, TCM can acquire some rare films from other studios that haven't been shown on the channel in the past.

 

I don't think the OP was upset so much with "color" films being shown during the morning hours as much as films from later years being part of the line-up during that time of day. Even I think it is atypical for such films to be seen before noon. While I don't think it is as common an occurance as the OP believes, I can see business-related circumstances causing it to happen more often.

 

It also may be just part of the expanding evolution of TCM to include additional "new to TCM" films from outside of the Turner Library (and the era it represents) in its offerings. While others may not see it this way, in the eyes of TCM, the aquisition this month of *The Rise And Fall Of Legs Diamond* (Sept. 15th) is just as important and valuable an investment in its programming schedule as having the rights to show *Secret Beyond The Door* (Sept. 20th). A desire to bring "fresh" films to the channel, and therefore to the audience, will always be an important priority. And as the years go by, "fresh" often means more recent.

 

But as 'markfp' pointed out with his statistical breakdown, on a monthly basis presenting films from the "studio era" is still the dominant focus of TCM each month. That's why TCM has acquired seven Will Rogers films from 20th Century Fox for showing in a single evening this upcoming December - a programming event that even its own film channel doesn't seem inclined to attempt. And that is also why TCM has invested in the most expansive and expensive documentary in its history with a look at the creation of "Hollywood" through the people most responsible for this "mythical" place - the "Moguls And Movie Stars" of the studio era.

 

Even though TCM may be the only channel so devoted to the era of the moguls and movie stars, this mission is not treated lightly or taken for granted. This importance is demonstrated by the care and class it brings to presenting these films. The persons most responsible for the operations of TCM are ever mindful of their responsiblity to those films and to the viewer. As long as these talented folks are still in charge, and with the blessings of their corporate bosses, I don't see that changing in the near or faraway future.

 

A Cinemascope technicolor film with stereophonic sound from 1965 may appear on the schedule at unexpected hours but it shouldn't be thought of as indicative of anything beyond a change in how TCM acquires films for the channel. And perhaps, it might not even indicate that. It is an attempt to answer "why?" to a viewer who recoiled at the sight of an widescreen color film during recent mornings on TCM when, in the past, B&W was most often seen at that hour. This explanation I've offered is mine based on my understanding of some of the logistics behind the channel and should not be thought of as an explanation from TCM.

 

But don't get me started about TCM wanting to attract "younger" viewers.

 

Kyle (In the movies, a phone call is only a nickle, right?) In Hollywood

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This topic has got to be the most popular here on the Boards. The colorization or modernization or whatever term you want to use is as old as TCM, itself!

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Color does not pertain to classic. *Gone With The Wind* was 100% color, and *The Wizard of Oz* was 75% in color, and a third example was *The Women* 90% B&W, 10% color - all three movies were released in 1939. Color was very expensive in the early years which is why most studios stayed with the B&W, but sometimes circumstances required the special use of color. Although released in '39, those movies most likely took quite some time to film and edit, and I assume production started some time in '36 or '37. *It Happened One Night*, another true classic, was also released in '39 in 100% B&W. I feel safe in calling all of these movies true classics because they have all made their mark, and held up to the test of time. They are all still being purchased on DVD, and watched by each new generation that comes along. Therefore, seeing a movie being televised in color, doesn't necessarily make it a post 1960 movie or even 1950, remember Liz Taylor and the Pi?

____________________

Anne

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IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT was best picture winner for '34.

 

Can I offer my (not-so) humble opinion about the use of color in films???

 

The best, I repeat, the best use of color in a motion picture is in THE SECRET GARDEN from 1949. That is a perfect example of using color technology to tell the story, and not in an over-the-top super-saturated way, like we tend to see in THE WIZARD OF OZ or CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.

 

About 97% of THE SECRET GARDEN is in black-and-white and we hear about the children going into the garden...but when we finally see it at the end, and they enter into it, everything is in color...it tells us that this is a special, magical world that is much different from the normal day-to-day drab surroundings in which the children live. When Herbert Marshall goes with them into the garden, we experience it with him, seeing for the first time the great possiblities of a colorful world, full of bustling life and joy.

 

To continue this:

 

I think the ending of ON BORROWED TIME where Lionel Barrymore and his grandson go off to heaven should've been shot in color.

 

And I think Minnelli should've been allowed to use color in the surreal dream sequences in FATHER OF THE BRIDE...and Hitchcock should've been allowed to do Dali's sequence in color in SPELLBOUND. Color should be used to make a point in a story.

 

Incidentally, I love Sirk's melodramas of the 50s...he manipulates, almost abuses color, to show that the characters' world is dripping with excess.

 

In fact, I would argue that Sirk should've done the reverse of what we see in THE SECRET GARDEN...when Dorothy Malone is on the stand in WRITTEN ON THE WIND and she is breaking down, we should have point of view shots that indicate her character sees things in a dreary, dark, black-and-white landscape. That would signify her hopelessness in this overwrought, overripe environment. The same thing could've been done for the Susan Kohner character in IMITATION OF LIFE, when her mother visits her out in Hollywood, and she truly is living a seedy life.

 

And Hitchcock could've used black-and-white shots in VERTIGO to signify the dizzying, almost blackout-like feeling experienced by a character undergoing motion sickness. In PSYCHO, he could've used a splash of color (just red) for the shower murder scene...and since Gus Van Sant shot the remake in color, then his murder scene could've been done in black-and-white, to set it apart from the rest of the film.

 

I really don't think directors know how to use color correctly in films...Sirk and Minnelli were probably the best at this. And Todd Haynes does a good job in FAR FROM HEAVEN, because he is using Sirk's rule book.

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