Black & White or Color

     When this class began in January, I was not a fan of black and white movies or television series. I was brought into a technologically advancing world that still today has yet to reach its peak of creativeness. I had only been able to watch movies that either were in color originally or had been updated by the magic of Ted Turner and his latest technological advancements. Since then, I have developed a new respect for and understanding of the black and white concept. Also, I now understand why some classics are just better left as they were created for black and white and others were destined for color.

     The film that made this concept understandable to me was the 1961 film The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton, and based upon the 1950 play by William Archibald, which was in turn based upon the 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. The contrast of black playing against white set the mood for each scene. The lead character, Miss Giddens, played by Deborah Kerr, for example began the film dressed dominantly in white, to portray her innocence. As the film progressed, the character gradually wore more black as the evil that surrounded the House of Bly began to consume her and what was left of the children's innocence. In the middle of the film, Miss Giddens wore a white blouse with large black buttons and a black skirt. If this scene were in color, I feel that the color scheme of the blouse would not have stood out as it did. In Miles' (Martin Stephens) death scene, one could feel the evil consume the entire film as the black screen dominated anything that was white. Miss Giddens' black attire and the darkness of the shadows seemed to stand out more with the black and white filming.

     By contrast, director George Cukor's 1964 cinematic adaptation of Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1956 musical play, My Fair Lady, based originally on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, would not have been half as good if it were in black and white. The colors seemed to bring life into the musical. Bright colors and a musical format seem to belong together. I think I could have borne it if I had had this means becoming bare as a newborn is to witness Eliza as she blossomed into the lady that Higgins guaranteed to deliver. It would have been an atrocity to watch the character that Audrey Hepburn worked so hard to breathe life into, wither away in the black and white format of yesteryear. I do not feel that the film or the actors that took part in the film would have come off half as brilliantly as the did. This opinion is from someone that despises musicals, but that is another topic for another time.

     Is it right if we change the classics from yesterday just to make them closer to what the modern era has grown accustomed to viewing? We have become a society that cannot appreciate the greatness in simplicity and try to complicate everything to satisfy our desires. I am far from being an expert on telling people what to do and what not to do. It seems that it would remain a matter of good judgment as to whether or not to colorize certain films and so forth. I feel that not colorizing The Innocents was the right thing to do; but, if My Fair Lady had been in black and white, it would have been a travesty. I hope the people that Ted Turner has in place to do the colorizing will use good judgment and not ruin great classics similar to The Innocents.

Steven Dick

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