Two-Strip Technioolor: Two Questions

  1. Does anyone have a complete list of films that used the two-strip Technicolor format? The only list I’ve found only goes up to 1929.

  2. Why is so much two-strip Technicolor material either 1) completely lost, or 2) only surviving in black-and-white?

Could a Moderator please change “Technioolor” in my title to “Technicolor”?

Actually, there was no such thing as “two-strip” Technicolor. Before the three-strip Technicolor camera was invented in 1932, there was only one strip of black and white 35mm negative running through a Technicolor camera. A prism behind the camera lens split the incoming image into two images. Two adjacent frames were exposed simultaneously, one behind a blue-green filter, the other behind a red filter. The camera ran at twice the normal speed to compensate for the double-frame usage (one reason why such an enormous amount of lighting was necessary for studio scenes). A diagram.

From the black and white camera negative, alternate frames were copied to create the red matrix and the blue-green matrix. Technicolor prints were created from those matrices. Under Technicolor Process 2 (1922-1927), the two matrices, one dyed cyan, the other dyed magenta, were cemented together to create a Technicolor print. This was used for movies like Toll of the Sea (1922), The Ten Commandments (1923), The Phantom of the Opera (1925), Ben Hur (1925), and The Black Pirate, all of which are available on DVD.

Under Technicolor Process 3 (1927-1935), the matrices, coated with a dye-absorbing gell that varied in density in relation to the darkness of the image, were used to physically transfer dye from the matrix to the “blank” print, sort of like a rubber stamp works. This is called the imbibition process, and because it was a physical process, not a photochemical process, and it used metal-based dyes, the colors were very stable and could be very saturated if desired, more so than any photochemical dyes. This was used for movies like The Viking (1928), The Hollywood Revue of 1929, The King of Jazz (1930), Whoopee! (1930), Doctor X (1932), and Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933).

Early color features filmography (1917-1935).

There were earlier color features, starting with the documentary The Durbar at Delhi (1912) and the drama The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1914), both made in Kinemacolor, an earlier two-color process.

Early Technicolor movie survival rates are no worse than other features of the same era. There is nothing physically different about Technicolor camera negatives — they used the same black and white film stock as other Hollywood movies, and like all other Hollywood movies made an improved safety film was introduced in 1949, the film stock was cellulose nitrate, checmically volatile and given to eventual decay.

Black and white prints exist of some Technicolor features from the early talkie period (1929-1931) exist because in 1955 when the major studios began to allow their film libraries to be leased to television, only a small percentage of television sets were color (as late as 1964, only 10% of sets were color). Given that, and that black and white 16mm prints cost half as much, it’s not surprising that distributors made black and white prints for local TV stations (prime time network broadcasts of Hollywood features did not begin until 1961).

Correction to the above: “and like all other Hollywood movies madebefore an improved safety film was introduced in 1949 . . .”

Thanks for the information, Walloon.

Someone found another clip from The Rouge Song? The ballet segment mentioned in the filmography would be new to me.

Yes, that second fragment from The Rogue Song was news to me too. I’ve seen the other clip, with Laurel and Hardy, and it is in bad shape, very mottled. The entire soundtrack survives, though.

For that matter, the trailer survives, too, though (according to the Vitaphone Project) missing a minute.

New Rogue Song Footage

UCLA Tenth Festival of Preservation

IB Tech was quiet the process—I have several 40 year old trailers that are as colorfast as the day they were struck, while other trailers of a simmiler age are, shall we say, a tad faded…

The gray soundtrack is the dead giveaway.