Professor Sarah Street on British Cinema in Colour: Creativity and the Negotiation of Innovation
Unlike the coming of sound, colour did not revolutionise the film industry overnight, and charting the British experience of colour offers fascinating insights into the complex network of issues that accompany the introduction of new technologies. This talk will reveal how colour was a controversial topic, greeted by some as an exciting development with scope for developing a uniquely British aesthetic, while others feared its impact on audiences accustomed to seeing black-and-white films that were frequently praised as being superior. Yet many British inventors and filmmakers were captivated by the possibilities created by colour, exploiting different processes in films that demonstrated remarkable experimentation and quality. Examples include The Glorious Adventure, This Is Colour, Blithe Spirit, Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, The Tales of Hoffmann and Moulin Rouge, as well as two distinguished colour films produced by Ealing Studios, with which Alexander Mackendrick was involved: Saraband for Dead Lovers and The Ladykillers. The talk demonstrates the unique contribution of the many British technicians and directors who negotiated their way through the various economic, technical and aesthetic challenges posed by colour in the first half of the twentieth century.