When Ted Turner had "Casablanca" colorized, many members of the Hollywood creative community cringed.
Again.Led by such notables as Woody Allen and James Stewart, these purists had long argued that Turner was committing sacrilege by taking films that were purposely shot in black-and-white and adding artificial hues to them.
The case of "Casablanca," they said, offered further proof that colorization was turning classic movies into artistic disasters. And few would argue that the addition of computerized color to this film as well as such legends as "The Maltese Falcon" and "White Heat" did nothing to enhance these productions.
But here's news for the purists. Colorization ain't all bad.
John Wayne's "three-day wonders" prove that.
That's what Wayne often called the two dozen-plus quickie Westerns he starred in during the early 1930s years before he became a major star. The Westerns, or cowboy pictures as some called them, were cheaply produced and really did take about only three days to film.
They were turned out for the Saturday matinee crowd that craved B Western action week after week. Overall, Wayne made 30 of these little Westerns; six for Warner Brothers in 1932-33, 16 Lone Star Productions for Monogram in 1933-35 and eight for Republic in 1935-36.
The Lone Star group has played on television over and over since the 1950s, mostly as curiosity pieces. There is a sameness about them, mainly because the cast varies little from film to film. Almost all of them feature George Hayes in his pre-Gabby days, soon-to-be super stuntman Yakima Canutt as either villain or foe and Earl Dwire in roles ranging from a Mexican bandit to an honest rancher.
Everybody has probably seen at least one of these efforts at one time or another, marveling at the youth of Wayne and chuckling at the amateurish production values.
But now the films have been given new life thanks to colorization. Vid-America Inc., a video outfit based in New York, is currently adding computerized color to these old movies, and the results are quite pleasing.
The Lone Star releases were not shot in black-and-white because of any artistic considerations. It was all done in the name of economics. Colorizing the films makes them much more watchable.
And, perhaps, that's where the future of colorization lies. It can be used to rescue the B productions of 1930s and 1940s from oblivion and introduce them to a new generation. Most everyone will watch "Casablanca" in black-and-white, but few people will bother to tune in Wayne's 1933 "Sagebrush Trail" without the added allure of color.
So far VidAmerica has released four of Wayne's Lone Star films in colorized versions at the suggested list price of $14.95 each. The four include:
- "Sagebrush Trail" (1933) in which Wayne, wrongly convicted of murder, escapes jail and heads west to search for the real killer.
- "West of the Divide" (1933) has Wayne hell-bent for revenge against the man who murdered his mother and father.
- "Blue Steel" (1934) features Wayne as a U.S. marshal who infiltrates a gang that is terrorizing a town.
- "The Man from Utah" (1934) has Wayne as an undercover agent posing as a rodeo star hired to break up a gang of rodeo racketeers.
VidAmerica plans to release at least 11 more in the colorized format.
Also new to these films is a music score, which was absent when they were originally produced. The score, the same for each film, works nicely at times, but at other times its classical roots seem out of place. It would be better if VidAmerica could come up with various and more action-packed music scores for future releases.