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Tuesday, February 26 • 11:35am - 12:05pm
Two-Colour Kodachrome. The Forgotten History of Kodak's First Motion Picture Colour Process

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The Eastman Kodak Company’s two-colour Kodachrome was one of the most rich and lifelike motion picture colour processes of the 1910s and 20s. But despite more than fifteen years of development and the backing of one of Hollywood’s most ambitious studios, the story of this colour process has slipped into obscurity, overshadowed by Technicolor and its later namesake—the vibrant Kodachrome reversal film that was introduced in 1935 for 16mm film, and later for still photography.

Although largely experimental throughout much of the 1920s, audiences were treated to two-colour Kodachrome footage in a variety of diverse forms—in fashion shorts, advertising films, avant-garde cinema, portraiture, 3-D subjects, documentary, and a sequence in a feature film. Colour film was still a novelty, but the two-colour Kodachrome process drew the attention of top artists, including respected filmmakers like Clarence Brown and Robert Flaherty, celebrated dance choreographer Martha Graham and noted stage actress Maude Adams. Some of the biggest names in Hollywood were also photographed in colour to promote the process, including Gloria Swanson, Billie Dove and May McAvoy.

This presentation delves into this forgotten history, charting the early development of two-colour Kodachrome by John G. Capstaff and his assistants at the Kodak Research Laboratories in the 1910s, Kodak’s attempts to sell the process to Hollywood, and the Fox Film Corporation’s costly commitment to two-colour Kodachrome in the late 1920s as an in-house alternative to Technicolor. Illustrated with stunning frame enlargements from surviving nitrate prints, this presentation draws its story from a rich body of untapped research materials and firsthand accounts, including George Eastman’s personal papers, Kodak corporate files, Twentieth Century-Fox studio records, and a close study of the surviving camera technology and film prints.

avatar for James Layton

James Layton

Manager, Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center, The Museum of Modern Art
James Layton is a film historian and archivist specializing in the history of motion picture technology. He is Manager of The Museum of Modern Art’s Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center, and is co-author of two books with David Pierce: "The Dawn of Technicolor, 1915-1935" (2015... Read More →

Tuesday February 26, 2019 11:35am - 12:05pm GMT
NFT3/ BFI Southbank