Did you miss these Top 5 lists? I know I did. Last week’s brief (that’s right, 2,500 words count as brief) history of the Queen of Technicolor lends itself perfectly to a list of Top 5 Technicolor Movies You Really Need To See. However, last week’s post contains stills from at least 10 movies that I would call Need-To-See. (Including The Red Shoes. Have you watched it yet?) In fact, I’d be hard pressed to think of a Technicolor movie that I don’t think falls under that heading. This realization left me a little stumped about what to do. Fortunately, nerds to the rescue! Yesterday, future contributor Adam B. sent me a list of Merriam Webster’s “Top 10 Words For Unusual Colors Worth Looking At.” So I took the first 5 decidedly unusual colors and gave them a Technicolor makeover. Here’s I found.
1) Vermillion: The Greatest Show On Earth – Is there a setting better suited for Technicolor than a circus? In this case, director Cecil B. de Mille borrowed Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus to tell a very long melodrama about love and loss among the flying trapeze. But never mind the plot. Check out that bright red jacket! And against those purple sparkling dresses too. I have to imagine that Natalie Kalmus (who was ejected from Technicolor before this film was made) probably had a hernia when she saw this. And believe me when I say that this is muted compared to the rest of the film. If not the Greatest, it’s certainly the Brightest Show On Earth.
2) Verdigris Green: Blithe Spirit – So not every Technicolor design is perfect. Even with an army of specially trained color consultants, something hideous is bound to slip through the cracks. Take for instance Elvira’s costume in Blithe Spirit. Despite how she looks, Elvira is not in fact runner up in the Statue Of Liberty Lookalike Contest. She’s British. She’s also dead, which seems to have inspired this particularly unfortunate shade of green. For the heroine of a parlor room romantic comedy, she looks more ghastly than ghostly.
3) Titian: Color Girl – Painter Titian was famous for painting redheads, but the only one more smitten with strawberry blondes than the painter was Technicolor. Thanks to the company, in the mid-1940s redheads were in vogue. Actresses such as Lucille Ball and Judy Garland went auburn to become new Technicolor glamor girls. But no Technicolor Redhead compares to Rita Hayworth, and nowhere is she lovelier than Cover Girl. Oh, Gene Kelly is also in this movie. He’s easy to forget when Rita’s onscreen.
4) Bisque: Black Narcissus – This is an unusual movie. Unlike its more brightly colored and well-known counterpart The Red Shoes (Seriously though, have you watched it yet?), Black Narcissus is an exercise in balancing restraint and decadence. The story revolves around a group of nuns isolated in a monastery in the forbidding Himalayas. The order of the nuns’ monastic life is represented by the neutrals they wear (like Sister Ruth’s habit above), but slowly their exotic surroundings begin to encroach on their guarded lives through splashes of light and color. I’m making this sound dry and academic, but it’s actually an incredible film. It’s also more than a little racist. Blame Imperial Britain.
5) Puce: Gone With The Wind – Okay, yes. I’m cheating. I used this shot in the last post. It’s just so good. Scarlett O’Hara, true to her name and fiery disposition, wears many different shades of red through the course of the film. But oh this dress! If you need a refresher on the 3 ½ hour long plot, this scene takes place after she has been discovered in the arms of Ashleigh, who is not her husband. Rhett forces her to go to Ashleigh’s wife’s party, and this low-cut red dress is meant to be her public shame. But Scarlett is not the kind of woman to admit guilt or be cowed by convention. The dress and her defiant look say everything before she even speaks a line.
Thank you for joining me for yet another excuse to gush about Technicolor. The rest of Merriam Webster’s unusual colors can be found here. Take a look and match them to some of your favorite colorful film moments!