This past weekend we watched the restored version of Rouben Mamoulian’s 1935 ‘Becky Sharp’ which was the first feature shot and released in the beautiful and sadly long-gone Three-Strip Technicolor process. Old Three-Strip Technicolor films without restoration tend to look like bowls of multi-flavored bowl melted sherbet. If one didn’t know better, one would think that audiences of the day were simply too excited to see color films to notice how soupy and inferior the quality was. But such was not the case. When you finally sees what a three-strip process film looked like back in the day you’re treated to a lavishly over-the-top crisp color palette which, if combined with thoughtfully colorful sets and costumes, is beyond ravishing.
‘Becky Sharp’ was restored by UCLA Film and Television Archive. Apparently it’s expensive to restore a 3-Strip film because of the exhausting scanning required, having to scan each separate negative and recombine them into a single negative for today’s printing process. Every restoration is effectively three full length features to create a final print. Above is a nice little one-minute demonstration of scenes from ‘Becky Sharp’ before and after their restoration. By the way, the movie is a delight–still charming, funny and energetically and inventively directed. The full restored version can be found on Youtube and looks great.