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Would The Best Years of Our Lives be as effective in color?


yanceycravat
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I'm one of those folks who think The Best Years of Our Lives is one of the great American films of all time. 

Watching it again tonight I was wondering if it would have been as effective had it been shot in color. I was trying to picture it in Technicolor and thinking, no, it's so perfect in black and white. So incredibly moving. Every scene really draws you in and makes you feel something.

How can you beat Gregg Toland's cinematography? So sad he died at 44.

I wonder how many modern movies would have fared better being shot in black and white?

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The Best Years of Our Lives is an amazing film and certainly as you describe "one of the great American films of all time".  Gregg Toland's black and white cinematography is stunning.  As he did in "Citizen Kane", he used deep focus to allow the viewer to watch important action in the foreground and background at the same time without breaking the scene into many cuts.  This actually allows the viewer to decide on what to focus on.  The artistic quality of black and white film is hard to describe.  It simplifies what is seen and draws attention to shapes and contrasting shadows.  In "The Best Years of Our Lives", the black and white cinematography makes me think of WWII because that is how we saw this war - not in color.  One of the most striking shots in the film is of the abandoned fighter planes being looked at sadly by the vet pilot.

image.jpeg.08fa93d2e73bdbd5888ad00c2743ff1c.jpeg

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12 minutes ago, NipkowDisc said:

the film woulda fared better with dana andrews beating the sheet outta virginia mayo.

:D

I don't condone violence against women, but I'd make an exception in her case, especially after that crack she made about him only being good for soda jerk jobs. She's lucky Fred was too much of a gentleman to pull a Ralph Kramden and send her to the moon.:D

As to the original topic, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES works well for me as it is now, in glorious B&W. 

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1 hour ago, yanceycravat said:

I'm one of those folks who think The Best Years of Our Lives is one of the great American films of all time. 

Watching it again tonight I was wondering if it would have been as effective had it been shot in color. I was trying to picture it in Technicolor and thinking, no, it's so perfect in black and white. So incredibly moving. Every scene really draws you in and makes you feel something.

How can you beat Gregg Toland's cinematography? So sad he died at 44.

I wonder how many modern movies would have fared better being shot in black and white?

Im Not Disagreeing One,-Bit With An Ounce Of That.

 

   For Me, the Black And White Vs. (Techni)Color Question Has A Lot to Do With Perspective. For BestYrsofLives; As Well As Pretty Much ANY Film (Past Or Present) imo. While Obviously And Definitely Subjective and Interpretive; Black And White Presentation Brings Out, Exemplifies, and Highlights Details and Nuances That Color DoesNot. .. And Visa Versa.

  Same Goes For Sound And Talkies. While There Are Exceptions With This As Well; For Me, One of the Measuring Sticks i Employ For If A Film is "Classic" Is If.. If the Sound "Conks" on A Talking Picture And Goes Into Staysis/Hibernation Mode

  - Is It As Exceptionally and Exquisitely Solid (?).

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15 hours ago, yanceycravat said:

How can you beat Gregg Toland's cinematography? So sad he died at 44.

 

15 hours ago, Toto said:

The Best Years of Our Lives is an amazing film and certainly as you describe "one of the great American films of all time".  Gregg Toland's black and white cinematography is stunning.

And yet despite all these accolades and all the other Oscar recognition given this great film (and which as I've said many a time around here, this being my personal favorite film of all time) I've always found it extremely strange that Toland's terrific cinematography wasn't even nominated for one of those little golden statuettes.

(...and Toto...loved that you mentioned the beautifully shot and moving aircraft graveyard scene here)

 

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15 hours ago, yanceycravat said:

I'm one of those folks who think The Best Years of Our Lives is one of the great American films of all time. 

Watching it again tonight I was wondering if it would have been as effective had it been shot in color. I was trying to picture it in Technicolor and thinking, no, it's so perfect in black and white. So incredibly moving. Every scene really draws you in and makes you feel something.

How can you beat Gregg Toland's cinematography? So sad he died at 44.

I wonder how many modern movies would have fared better being shot in black and white?

Why wouldn't Toland have been just as capable in Technicolor?

I think the film would have a bigger audience today if it was in color because modern generations do not like B&W films.

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22 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Why wouldn't Toland have been just as capable in Technicolor?

I think the film would have a bigger audience today if it was in color because modern generations do not like B&W films.

OH well, in THAT case, then why not just colorize it and MAYBE even add some kind'a CGI effects to where Homer Parrish can transform himself into a superhero with just a click of his hooks?!

 Now THAT would SURELY bring the kids around to seein' how great a film this truly is, wouldn't ya say, TB?!!  ;)

(...yep, we must surely cater to the tastes of the modern generation of movie-goers, alright!)

LOL

 

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1 minute ago, Dargo said:

OH well, in THAT case, then why not just colorize it and MAYBE even add some kind'a CGI effects to where Homer Parrish can transform himself into a superhero with just a click of his hooks?!

 Now THAT would SURELY bring the kids around to seein' how great a film this truly is, wouldn't ya say, TB?!!  ;)

(...yep, we must surely cater to the tastes of the modern generation of movie-goers, alright!)

LOL

Thanks for the reply Dargo. I prefer black and white cinematography. But unfortunately kids (what's the matter with kids today) prefer color.

Anyway many films from 1946 were made in b&w not because that made them look more artistic, but because it was cheaper than paying for the Technicolor process.

Sam Goldwyn made GUYS AND DOLLS in Technicolor. Should that one have been in black and white like THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES..? Both are considered his most successful films.

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Just now, TopBilled said:

Thanks for the reply Dargo. I prefer black and white cinematography. But unfortunately kids (what's the matter with kids today) prefer color.

Anyway many films from 1946 were made in b&w not because that made them look more artistic, but because it was cheaper than paying for the Technicolor process.

Sam Goldwyn made GUYS AND DOLLS in Technicolor. Should that one have been in black and white like THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES..? Both are considered his most successful films.

No, and because first, Guys and Dolls was made a decade later than the immediate postwar era. And secondly, because most ALL big production musicals by the mid-'50s were being filmed in Technicolor--a process along with wide screen Cinemascope--as an inducement to get people from sitting home and instead watching what was on their television sets, and which as you know was quite a problem for the movie industry at the time.

(...and which was something TBYOOL didn't have to contend with, and due to the fact that in 1946, televisions were a rare commodity in American households)

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4 minutes ago, Dargo said:

No, and because first, Guys and Dolls was made a decade later than the immediate postwar era. And secondly, because most ALL big production musicals by the mid-'50s were being filmed in Technicolor--a process along with wide screen Cinemascope--as an inducement to get people from sitting home and instead watching what was on their television sets, and which as you know was quite a problem for the movie industry at the time.

(...and which was something TBYOOL didn't have to contend with, and due to the fact that in 1946, televisions were a rare commodity in American households)

But I don't think THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES would be any less classic if Goldwyn had made it in color.

We should get away from the idea that black and white films are more classic. Or that black and white works better for war films and noir, while Technicolor works better for westerns and musicals.

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4 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Toland probably would have directed television in the 50s and 60s had he lived. 

After all if Karl Freund ended up doing I Love Lucy then anything was possible.

I'm sure Arnaz threw enough money his way, and Freund found it a challenge: new lighting techniques, filming in front of an audience, and a compressed schedule.  Contemporary articles state they were getting an episode filmed in 60 minutes.  I know you worked on sitcoms back in the day;  modern productions don't come anywhere near that benchmark today.

https://ascmag.com/articles/filming-the-i-love-lucy-show

 

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I think the starkness of the subject matter needs the high contrast of dark and light that you get with great black and white photography.  Broken men coming home to families who need to summon courage and strength to bring their husbands, etc. back to life.  As many times as I have seen this movie, I still cry through most of it -- especially when Harold Russell is lying in bed after Wilma watches him take off his mechanical hands and you see a faint tear curl up out of the corner of his eye.  I don't think you could emotionally drain an audience if that was in color! 

And the last scene, after Homer and Wilma are wed, with Dana Andrews' head turned completely to the side to look at Teresa Wright.  Everything in that room has gone dark except for a rather luminous light  all on Peggy.  Again, it just won't work in color.  

Ok, there's a couple of cents' worth on the subject.

Brian

I also think Best Years of Our Lives is easily one of the top 5 movies of all time.

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1 minute ago, TopBilled said:

But I don't think THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES would be any less classic if Goldwyn had made it in color.

I agree. And especially in the case of THIS film's exceptional overall quality in all aspects of its production, from Wyler's direction, Sherwood's script, Friedhoffer's score and to all the terrific acting done within it by a great cast. Yep, it would still be considered a classic and no matter what film stock it was shot in.

 

11 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

We should get away from the idea that black and white films are more classic. Or that black and white works better for war films and noir, while Technicolor works better for westerns and musicals.

Not sure what you've posited HERE is actually true, TB. I mean sure, there are many movie fans of an older generation who might feel this way (heck, we get those "One Post Wonder" types on here all the time, don't we), but overall I think you might have overstated your case in this regard.

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Just now, txfilmfan said:

I'm sure Arnaz threw enough money his way, and Freund found it a challenge: new lighting techniques, filming in front of an audience, and a compressed schedule.  Contemporary articles state they were getting an episode filmed in 60 minutes.  I know you worked on sitcoms back in the day;  modern productions don't come anywhere near that benchmark today.

https://ascmag.com/articles/filming-the-i-love-lucy-show

Yes, amazing.

The longest show I was involved with, was Designing Women which started filming at 6 p.m. on Friday and never finished before midnight. Usually it was around 1 a.m. when it was done. This was a 22-minute show that had anywhere from 7 to 10 scenes.

Unlike most sitcoms, Harry and Linda (the Thomasons) invested money for it be shot on film, not videotape. And they were perfectionists who wanted it done a certain way which meant painstaking attention to detail.

Most of the time after a scene was filmed Linda would ask Harry, or whoever was directing, to do pick-ups on lines she felt were not delivered correctly. She wrote most of the scripts and wanted the actors to deliver it the way she envisioned the characters-- usually verbatim, no improvising. This was not easy when Alice Ghostley guest starred because she was notorious for flubbing lines. If one of her flubs brought the house down, then it might be kept in...but typically they were all expected to be letter perfect.

During one filming Dixie Carter had to redo a hospital scene again, because Linda felt the emotion was not coming across correctly. Dixie's character was having a hysterectomy. Dixie opened up the flood gates, the tears came into her eyes, but it wasn't how Linda thought it should be. So Dixie had to regroup, summon the strength to go through all that again a second time in front of the audience. Dixie earned her paycheck that night!

Then there were all the touch-ups with hair and makeup in between scenes, so the women continued to look glamorous and professional on camera.

I Love Lucy did not have these kinds of problems!

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 No way !   For a musical or a western  I would accept color. For a domestic drama about soldiers returning  from the war ,it is totally unnecessary.  THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES IS TOTAL PERFECTION and one of the 10 greatest films ever made.  Now if SHANE would have been made in black and white, I would say they made a horrible mistake. I think the powers that be in American  cinema knew and know today what they are doing.

 

 

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I watched THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES for the very first time just a few months ago. I felt privileged to have seen it. A wonderful story. Compelling characters. I also think seeing it at this point in my life (I'm retired now) allowed me to appreciate it even more.  

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6 hours ago, TopBilled said:

But I don't think THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES would be any less classic if Goldwyn had made it in color.

We should get away from the idea that black and white films are more classic. Or that black and white works better for war films and noir, while Technicolor works better for westerns and musicals.

Honestly, I don't think I've ever thought a great movie would have been better if it was in color or not. To me, the image...the art...is what it is. If a movie seems perfect, it is. The same with a painting or a piece of music. It just wouldn't be what it is if it wasn't exactly the way it is. I went back and listened to a bunch of Stones songs recently after the death of Charlie Watts. Tal Bachman, the son of the Bachman, Turner Overdrive Bachman wrote a wonderful remembrance of Charlie and pointed out some simple...but absolutely perfect drum sections that made several Stone classics...classics. He was absolutely right. The Rolling Stones would not have been what they were if not for those perfect riffs from Charlie Watts. Some were technically better, but none were Charlie Watts.

I suspect if THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES had been in color it would have been no less perfect. Nevertheless, the way it was shot, acted, directed, edited....just seemed right. Film making is a real art. Even a schlub like me can tell the difference.

Tal Bachman: Charlie Watts Always Played the Right Thing :: SteynOnline

If you read the link I was pleased to see the reference to "She's a Rainbow". It's one of my favorite Stones tunes. I love the piano part that leads into Charlie's drum intro.

 

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I doubt that it would be any less classic but certain scenes would be less impactful.  Fred's nightmare at Al's house.  Homer's angst as he tried to sleep his first night home.  The dinginess of the neighborhood where Pat and Hortense live, and the rundown nature of their house.  And especially the scene toward the end where Fred is at the airplane graveyard. These and maybe a few others cry out for black-and-white photography to convey the emotion in them.  Color from that era tended to soften the mood of a film.  Imagine how more stark and threatening the fall of Atlanta scenes in "Gone with the Wind" would have been in well-done B&W photography.  Color would definitely have changed the mood of "Best Years" but probably at the expense of the scenes meant to move the audience.

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I am not one of those who think B&W is necessarily an asset in any movie. I'm certainly not a proponent of colorizing, because I think B&W's, especially classics, should be left untouched, out of respect for the art they are. Don't get me started on the arrogance and disrespect of remaking classics with the belief that they can do better. I do believe, however, that, had color been available from the beginning, the classics (including noirs) would be just as great as they are in their original B&W. I think it's just nostalgia that has most old movie fans believing that B&W is the better film for any movie. Because a given classic is in B&W, the default feeling seems to be that it's the only way it could have been done to get the height it achieved, instead of that it was the only way for many out of cost, and the preferred way for others because it was the way they knew and were used to. Imagining them shot in color, and the only way they'd ever known them, I believe those movies would every bit as revered as they are today.

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10 hours ago, David Proulx said:

I think it's just nostalgia that has most old movie fans believing that B&W is the better film for any movie. 

Yes. And I think this is part of why classic movie fans have trouble with films from the 70s and later...not just because the production code ended, but also because almost everything was shot in color in the 70s and 80s. So these same people feel that means there were less classics made.

They have somehow in their minds associated b&w with classic. The truth is that a lot of films shot in b&w are NOT classics at all (example: a lot of poverty row films and studio programmers in b&w are not classics).

Black and white cinematography did not come back in style until the mid to late 80s when music videos were being shot in b&w, rather artistically. But that is probably because those videos had limited budgets and it was cheaper to make them in b&w.

George Michael's "Father Figure"...Paula Abdul's "Straight Up"...Van Halen's "Finish What Ya Started"...Madonna's "Vogue."

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