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That color is amazing! I'd only seen the early Technicolor process in bootleg DVDs of beat-up, faded prints, like at the end of The Hollywood Revue of 1929, where the remaining color consists of faded pinkish tones (this, I learn, was filmed with "process 3" while Toll of the Sea was "process 2").


Great selection for a write-up here at Film Of the Year, even if not a very good film all told (that color must have gobsmacked 1922 audiences though). Interesting to learn that Anna May Wong was not paid for her work here. I'm not sure this is the best introduction to her acting, though I guess it's one of her few starring roles. Mine was the same as most folks' these days, I think: Shanghai Express, where she smoulders. I've also liked her in Peter Pan (small role) and Piccadilly (big role).


Thanks for adding to the post Mike and Brian.

Mike - It's amazing how different the various color systems look. I saw a preservation (on DVD) of a film in an Eastmancolor two-color process after watching The Toll of the Sea and it was very different looking from Technicolor. Writing about the color processes, while fascinating, got very technical very fast so I decided to write about the film itself instead. Still, after seeing twenty-seven years of black and white, hand painted and tinted movies the Technicolor blasted out of the screen at me. Maybe I experienced a tiny bit of what contemporary audiences felt? Strange to think that we still don't have a color system that will withstand the ravages of time; it's all going to fade eventually.

Brian -Yeah, I wasn't too impressed with the story or its presentation but I couldn't pass up the first Technicolor feature. Wong was a wonderful discovery for me. She's delicate in her movements here, which was refreshing in contrast to all of the expressionistic acting that I've been preoccupied with watching since Caligari. Thanks for pointing us to some of her other roles too.

Steve D.

Correction to an earlier comment: the review does not say that Anna May Wong was not paid for her performance, it says that Metro Pictures did not charge Technicolor for either Wong or director Chester Franklin. Metro released the picture, and both were under contract to Metro.

Steve D.

"Strange to think that we still don't have a color system that will withstand the ravages of time; it's all going to fade eventually."

Actually, we did have a color system that will withstand the ravages of time: it was called three-strip Technicolor. The color cannot fade because the camera negatives consist of three black and white negatives, one for each of the primary colors of light. The "color" does not exist until the print is created. Which is why Technicolor movies from the 1930s show no fading or color shifting.


Steve - thanks for adding the helpful info on three-strip Technicolor to the post (do you have a film blog?). If I recall correctly, a color restoration expert on the excellent Treasures of American Film Archives DVD set discusses how color restoration is really a misnomer because color fades from original prints over time so he cannot know exactly what the original color looked like. Therefore, he can't match or restore that color. He can only either, a) make informed decisions and produce a color image that he believes to be as close to the original as possible or b) try to preserve the already faded print by making copies, etc. Based on your comments I assume that he was only referring to color systems other than three-strip Technicolor negatives. I'lve been meaning to rent the set again and watch the color presentation. This gives me an excuse to do it. Hope you like the post.

Steve D.

No, sorry no film blog. I used to be a flim critic at a daily newspaper, and later was with my state's film office. Technicolor just happens to be one of my pet film subjects.

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