Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

America in Color


I am totally opposed to the colorization of classic (or even recent) black and white films. I view it as vandalization. However, using the process on old newsreel or home movie footage yields results that are surprisingly effective. The process has come a long way since the ‘80s, when Ted Turner and others first started using it. This series, from the Smithsonian Channel, takes film from the ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s and the results are very good. We see some stuff that is probably familiar in the original versions, and seeing how it would have looked if they were shooting in color is quite interesting. There are also things that have never been shown before, including some very early home movies. The only thing that doesn’t quite work is that close-ups of faces never look quite right. For some reason, darker skin looks better than pale skin, so the footage of jazz musicians and civil rights events is often the most realistic.