Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow

Color Design in the 1930s

Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow

Like Dorothy waking up over the rainbow in the Land of Oz, Hollywood discovered a vivid new world of color in the 1930s. The introduction of three-color Technicolor technology in 1932 gave filmmakers a powerful tool with which to guide viewers' attention, punctuate turning points, and express emotional subtext. Although many producers and filmmakers initially resisted the use of color, Technicolor designers, led by the legendary Natalie Kalmus, developed an aesthetic that complemented the classical Hollywood filmmaking style while still offering innovative novelty. By the end of the 1930s, color in film was thoroughly harnessed to narrative, and it became elegantly expressive without threatening the coherence of the film's imaginary world. Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow is the first scholarly history of Technicolor aesthetics and technology, as well as a thoroughgoing analysis of how color works in film. Scott Higgins draws on extensive primary research and close analysis of well-known movies, including Becky Sharp, A Star Is Born, Adventures of Robin Hood, and Gone with the Wind, to show how the Technicolor films of the 1930s forged enduring conventions for handling color in popular cinema. He argues that filmmakers and designers rapidly worked through a series of stylistic modes based on the demonstration, restraint, and integration of color—and shows how the color conventions developed in the 1930s have continued to influence filmmaking to the present day. Higgins also formulates a new vocabulary and a method of analysis for capturing the often-elusive functions and effects of color that, in turn, open new avenues for the study of film form and lay a foundation for new work on color in cinema.

Harnessing the Rainbow

Technicolor Aesthetics in the 1930s

Harnessing the Rainbow


Places of Invention

Places of Invention

The companion book to an upcoming museum exhibition of the same name, Places of Invention seeks to answer timely questions about the nature of invention and innovation: What is it about some places that sparks invention and innovation? Is it simply being at the right place at the right time, or is it more than that? How does “place”—whether physical, social, or cultural—support, constrain, and shape innovation? Why does invention flourish in one spot but struggle in another, even very similar location? In short: Why there? Why then? Places of Invention frames current and historic conversation on the relationship between place and creativity, citing extensive scholarship in the area and two decades of investigation and study from the National Museum of American History’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. The book is built around six place case studies: Hartford, CT, late 1800s; Hollywood, CA, 1930s; Medical Alley, MN, 1950s; Bronx, NY,1970s; Silicon Valley, CA, 1970s–1980s; and Fort Collins, CO, 2010s. Interspersed with these case studies are dispatches from three “learning labs” detailing Smithsonian Affiliate museums’ work using Places of Invention as a model for documenting local invention and innovation. Written by exhibition curators, each part of the book focuses on the central thesis that invention is everywhere and fueled by unique combinations of creative people, ready resources, and inspiring surroundings. Like the locations it explores, Places of Invention shows how the history of invention can be a transformative lens for understanding local history and cultivating creativity on scales of place ranging from the personal to the national and beyond.

Hollywood Lighting from the Silent Era to Film Noir

Hollywood Lighting from the Silent Era to Film Noir

Lighting performs essential functions in Hollywood films, enhancing the glamour, clarifying the action, and intensifying the mood. Examining every facet of this understated art form, from the glowing backlights of the silent period to the shaded alleys of film noir, Patrick Keating affirms the role of Hollywood lighting as a distinct, compositional force. Closely analyzing Girl Shy (1924), Anna Karenina (1935), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), and T-Men (1947), along with other brilliant classics, Keating describes the unique problems posed by these films and the innovative ways cinematographers handled the challenge. Once dismissed as crank-turning laborers, these early cinematographers became skillful professional artists by carefully balancing the competing demands of story, studio, and star. Enhanced by more than one hundred illustrations, this volume counters the notion that style took a backseat to storytelling in Hollywood film, proving that the lighting practices of the studio era were anything but neutral, uniform, and invisible. Cinematographers were masters of multifunctionality and negotiation, honing their craft to achieve not only realistic fantasy but also pictorial artistry.

The Color Revolution

The Color Revolution

"In association with the Lemelson Center, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C."

The Ultimate Stallone Reader

Sylvester Stallone as Star, Icon, Auteur

The Ultimate Stallone Reader

Sylvester Stallone has been a defining part of American film for nearly four decades. He has made an impact on world entertainment in a surprisingly diverse range of capacities – as actor, writer, producer, and director – all while maintaining a monolithic presence. With The Ultimate Stallone Reader, this icon finally receives concerted academic attention. Eleven original essays by internationally-known scholars examine Stallone's contributions to mainstream cinema, independent film, and television. This volume also offers innovative approaches to star, gender, and celebrity studies, performance analysis, genre criticism, industry and reception inquiry, and the question of what it means to be an auteur. Ultimately, The Ultimate Stallone Reader investigates the place that Sylvester Stallone occupies within an industry and a culture that have both undergone much evolution, and how his work has reflected and even driven these changes.

Film Sequels

Film Sequels

A study of sequel production within recent Hollywood and beyond in terms of its industrial, cultural and global implications.

Color and the Moving Image

History, Theory, Aesthetics, Archive

Color and the Moving Image

This new AFI Film Reader is the first comprehensive collection of original essays on the use of color in film. Contributors from diverse film studies backgrounds consider the importance of color throughout the history of the medium, assessing not only the theoretical implications of color on the screen, but also the ways in which developments in cinematographic technologies transformed the aesthetics of color and the nature of film archiving and restoration. Color and the Moving Image includes new writing on key directors whose work is already associated with color—such as Hitchcock, Jarman and Sirk—as well as others whose use of color has not yet been explored in such detail—including Eric Rohmer and the Coen Brothers. This volume is an excellent resource for a variety of film studies courses and the global film archiving community at large.

Matinee Melodrama

Playing with Formula in the Sound Serial

Matinee Melodrama

Long before Batman, Flash Gordon, or the Lone Ranger were the stars of their own TV shows, they had dedicated audiences watching their adventures each week. The difference was that this action took place on the big screen, in short adventure serials whose exciting cliffhangers compelled the young audience to return to the theater every seven days. Matinee Melodrama is the first book about the adventure serial as a distinct artform, one that uniquely encouraged audience participation and imaginative play. Media scholar Scott Higgins proposes that the serial’s incoherent plotting and reliance on formula, far from being faults, should be understood as some of its most appealing attributes, helping to spawn an active fan culture. Further, he suggests these serials laid the groundwork not only for modern-day cinematic blockbusters like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but also for all kinds of interactive media that combine spectacle, storytelling, and play. As it identifies key elements of the serial form—from stock characters to cliffhangers—Matinee Melodrama delves deeply into questions about the nature of suspense, the aesthetics of action, and the potentials of formulaic narrative. Yet it also provides readers with a loving look at everything from Zorro’s Fighting Legion to Daredevils of the Red Circle, conveying exactly why these films continue to thrill and enthrall their fans.

Silent Features

The Development of Silent Feature Films 1914 - 1934

Silent Features

A collection of essays on fifteen feature-length silent films and two silent serial features. The aims of the collection are threefold: to provide detailed accounts of a wide array of films produced between the early 1910s and the early 1930s; to focus principally on films that may be well-known but that have rarely been discussed in detail; and hence to appeal to those interested in film style and its history. Outstanding group of contributors – see details on Author Biography page – all are acknowledged and well-regarded scholars in the field, many of whom have established international reputations for their work in this area and a world-renowned editor.