Thursday, September 17, 2009

Top Salesmanship

Jeffrey K. sells live-action 3-D.


Katzenberg: I talked till I was blue in the face last year and at the beginning of this year, and then I just felt the results will speak louder than anything I have to say. Hopefully, be more meaningful and more impactful on people that are in a place to make these decisions. You only have to see the results to realize what's going on. That's why I think Jim Cameron's "Avatar" will be the watershed moment; it will break the dam. It will show the live-action side of the business that it has the same value and opportunity we've seen with results on a worldwide basis for our product ...

I believe "Avatar" will be to 3-D what "The Wizard of Oz " was to color. It was a seminal moment. If you go back and look, not only did "The Wizard of Oz" use color, it used it in such an exciting and compelling way, that's where the floodgates opened.

I think that Jeffrey is doing a masterful job here pushing the cause of 3-D.

He's a little wrong in his comparison, however. The Wizard of Oz was certainly a swell color film. And it was a big presence in the national psyche when Mr. Katzenberg and I were growing up, because it was an annual event on television that drew huge ratings on those early, round-tube RCA color sets.

But it was a semi-flop when it came out in 1939. losing money for M-G-M. (Of course, years later during the television age, it became a dandy money-maker.)

So, "opening the floodgates" for color movies? Don't think so. That honor would no doubt go to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Gone With the Wind (1939) two films that had monster grosses in those long-ago times of three-strip Technicolor. (Of course, Snow White isn't much of an example for live-action color movies, is it?)

But for anybody who doesn't know the original box office history of The Wizard of Oz, it's a perfect film to tout when making a 3-D/color comparison. Because Wizard is now an icon. A wowser. A filmic touchstone.

It just isn't the movie that opened any floodgates.

(The actual floodgate opener, not to be too much of a nudge about it ...)


Anonymous said...

Jeffery doesn't let reality get in the way of his bluster. Walt had 3 Strip--exclusively--before anyone, and his experiments with it nudged Selznick's interest. While Wizard of Oz is rather flatly/brightly lit due to the limitations of the film stock, a new, faster film stock was developed just in time for "Gone With The Wind" to show it off (and was the second film using it--after Selznick's own "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer").

Steve Hulett said...

I've always thought that The Adventures of Robin Hood is an outstanding example of early live-action color cinematography .. even thought it was shot in 'late '37 and early '38.

Ernest Haller (Wind), Tony Gaudio and Sol Polito (ARH) were all superb d.p.'s

Steve Hulett said...

... uh ... even THOUGH it was shot in '37 ...

Anonymous said...

Well, Victor Fleming directed GWTW and Wizard of Oz, so Jeffrey is somewhat right.

Isn't he?

Anonymous said...

Fleming was one of 5 directors on GWTW--even if he did contract for the credit.

And Robin Hood used color more boldly than any film before, but was mostly still brightly lit with the older film stock. The Blu-Ray is stunning! And it has Korngold's third best film score, too (after The Sea Hawk and Kings Row).

Anonymous said...

Hey, guys, not to be too partisan or anything, but I'd say a little film called "Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs" showed what Technicolor could do before Wizard of Oz (which directly influenced MGM to make Wizard of Oz ) or GWTW .

And the Disney studio's pioneering use of Technicolor in their shorts also paved the way towards Technicolor (and color in general) becoming the industry standard.
"Snow White " was a triumph in every way, including it's use of Technicolor . Contrast Wizard of Oz with Snow White : Snow White = most successful film of the year at the box-office vs. Wizard of Oz = box office disappointment , lost money on it's initial release . (it was only years later that The Wizard of Oz became the iconic film that it is now ... ironically from multiple viewings by baby boomers on largely black & white television sets) .

"Fleming was one of 5 directors on GWTW--even if he did contract for the credit.

And Robin Hood used color more boldly than any film before, but was mostly still brightly lit with the older film stock"

And while we're discussing these iconic early Technicolor films such as GWTW and Robin Hood and Wizard of Oz, etc. let's talk about the directors , sure , directors were important , but I appreciate Steve giving some props to the Cinematographers who actually did the painting with light to get those gorgeous images on the screen. These names are too often forgotten: Ernest Haller, Lee Garmes (GWTW), Tony Gaudio and Sol Polito (ARH), Harold Rosson (Oz) .

Anonymous said...

Of course, the REAL unsung hero of all of these films is Natalie Kalmus, who had to fight tooth and nail to prove that color should be used to tell the story, not just be there. Walt consulted here constantly for color input on his films--especially Snow White.

Anonymous said...

I've heard different things about Natalie Kalmus's role.

"She was the wife of Technicolor founder Herbert T. Kalmus from July 23, 1902 to June 22, 1922, although they continued to live together until 1944."

"Originally a catalog model, then an art student, Kalmus made sure sure that costumes, sets and lighting were adjusted for the camera's sensitivities. She was generally regarded as a nuisance, but her services were contractually part of Technicolor's services. In her attempts to keep colors from being rendered improperly onscreen, she was accused of going to the other extreme of mildness.

She wrote: "A super-abundance of color is unnatural, and has a most unpleasant effect not only upon the eye itself, but upon the mind as well." She recommended "the judicious use of neutrals" as a "foil for color" in order to lend "power and interest to the touches of color in a scene."

Producer David O. Selznick complained in a memo during the making of Gone with the Wind:

"[The] technicolor experts have been up to their old tricks of putting all sorts of obstacles in the way of real beauty. . . . We should have learned by now to take with a pound of salt much of what is said to us by the technicolor experts. . . . I have tried for three years now to hammer into this organization that the technicolor experts are for the purpose of guiding us technically on the [film] stock and not for the purpose of dominating the creative side of our pictures as to sets, costumes, or anything else.

. . . If we are not going to go in for lovely combinations of set and costume and really take advantage of the full variety of colors available to us, we might just as well have made the picture in black and white. It would be a sad thing indeed if a great artist had all violent colors taken off his palette for fear that he would use them so clashingly as to make a beautiful painting impossible."

Director Vincente Minnelli recalled of making Meet Me in St. Louis, "My juxtaposition of color had been highly praised on the stage, but I couldn't do anything right in Mrs. Kalmus's eyes."

Director Allan Dwan was more blunt:
"Natalie Kalmus was a bitch."

But who knows, maybe she was the "artistic conscience" that kept early Technicolor from turning too garish and over-saturated.

Anonymous said...

While it's true that some directors had problems with her later on, she is THE REASON color film succeeded. Most film makers splashed color around indiscriminately . As an investor in Technicolor herself, and a finely trained artist/painter, she took control of this to ensure the success of the company. She didn't invent psychological use of color in art, her use of it in motion pictures established the asthetic for decades.

And yes, she was a bitch (and so was Mayer). It's tough being a smart, ambitious woman in Hollywood still. Imagine what it was like in the '30's!

Steve Hulett said...

"Snow White " was a triumph in every way, including it's use of Technicolor

Granted. And used color like it hadn't been used before.

But Snow doesn't help the live-action color film argument very much.

Gone with the Wind does that. (Also Robin Hood. Warners started making a number of Errol Flynn's pictures in color because of RH's success. )

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