The Magic of Black and White

         At a point in time when the first color movie is nearly a century old and when movies have been made almost exclusively in color for about four decades, it seems that many people no longer want to watch a movie if it is not in color. When I used to turn on Turner Classic Movies at home to catch an old black and white movie, I usually received all sorts of complaints from my sister--one of these aforementioned people with an aversion to movies not shot in color. All I can say is that these people do not know what they are missing.

         While I would never be one to argue that color has not brought much to film industry, I would venture to argue that black and white does have its merits as well. For instance, when we watched A Streetcar Named Desire, that movie, based on Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, was filmed in 1951. Color movies, though more expensive, were being made at that time, so this movie could have been shot in color. I think it is better for having been in black and white though. For one thing, it is not a pleasant subject material. Black and white just seems to add an element of harsh reality to a movie. Just look at Victor Fleming's The Wizard of Oz--only when Dorothy is dreaming the fantastic world of Oz, is the 1939 movie in color. Streetcar is definitely a movie filled with harsh realities.

         In addition, a flame is an image that is used repeatedly throughout A Streetcar Named Desire. In the black and white, the light from the flame contrasts nicely and so it is clearly set off from everything else. I think that the effect of the light would have been lost had the movie been shot in color. The light from the flame would not have contrasted as nicely against all the other colors. This is only one of many images where black and white can create a certain effect more precisely.

         There are just so many great movies out there that just happen to be in black and white. I could not even begin to name all the great ones I have seen, and I am sure that there are so many more that I have not seen. Many times I even find myself forgetting that I am watching the movie in black and white--as though my imagination fills the color in for me. Sure, there are some great mainstream movies out today, but there is something special about finding one of those classics that not everyone is watching. It is almost like finding a rare gem, as if you know about something that no one else knows about. Basically my point is this: one should not dismiss a movie simply because it is in black and white.

Kayla Shewcraft

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