A New Crop of Color Transfers

These days I tend to colorize an image only if inspiration strikes me. The impulse perhaps comes from a mystical level and seems to say, “Color me, please.” Of course, it’s more likely that it originates in my overactive imagination. Regardless, these are my most recent transfers from the past six months or so.

An unusually cosmopolitan Bela Lugosi circa 1930. Mr. Lugosi has quite a presence on this blog so look for his name in some earlier posts.

Lon Chaney, Sr. and Mae Busch (best remembered for her roles in Laurel and Hardy films) in the police drama, WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS (1928):

Dorothy Dalton looks fetching in THE TEN OF DIAMONDS (1917), a lost film:

Mae Murray‘s trademark was her “bee-stung” lips. She managed to seem both exotic and down to earth. This worn postcard captures Mae at the peak of her career in 1925. Even so, her name is misspelled. But look what 21st century software can do to the image quality:

A remarkable “on the set” photo showing the amount of activity even while filming is in progress. Clues in the picture suggest that it was produced by Cecil B. De Mille‘s company, which would place the time frame between 1925 and 1929. The actress who is the center of attention may be Phyllis Haver. This was a complicated one to color:

A contemplative George Arliss during the filming of his comedy, A SUCCESSFUL CALAMITY (1932). I colored this one a few years ago but I wasn’t happy with it. I tried it again recently and found that newer software helped bring better results:

Renee Adoree poses with her new car circa 1928. I suppose the house is hers too:

Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino in their only film together, BEYOND THE ROCKS (1922). Lost for decades, a sole surviving print turned up in the Netherlands about ten years ago and was issued on DVD. Also in this photo from the left is director Sam Wood, author Elinor Glyn, and a young violinist providing mood music for the scene:

Marion Davies in a magazine ad for her new picture, WHEN KNIGHTHOOD WAS IN FLOWER (1924). The texture of magazine pages from that era usually don’t transfer very well but modern software helps smooth out the roughness.

An artistic photo of Marie Prevost who was the very image of the Roaring Twenties:

Makeup artists seem ubiquitous with Hollywood but in fact actors were responsible for making themselves up until about the mid-1920s. Improvements in the sensitivity of film stock brought challenges for actors and their cosmetics so almost overnight a generation of makeup artists suddenly arrived on the scene. The following images were novel in their day since they showed somebody preparing the star for the cameras.

A newly-minted star such as Joan Crawford circa 1928 seemed to like the attention from MGM makeup artist Cecil Holland:

Greta Garbo was at the beginning of her American career in 1926 when she handled her own makeup during the filming of THE TORRENT:

And finally – we have run this one before but it’s worth a repeat. Legendary makeup artist Jack Pierce (before he became a legend) had the responsibility for contriving Conrad Veidt‘s carved smile as Gwynplaine in THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928). Within a few years, Pierce would be designing extraordinary makeups for the Frankenstein Monster (Boris Karloff) and the WOLF MAN (Lon Chaney, Jr.), among many others:

Happy 4th of July 2015

Greetings from Rin Tin Tin, Marion Davies, George Arliss and Alan Mowbray (as Hamilton and Washington):
4th-of-july-wallpapers-Final bmp

and Greetings from Lon Chaney Sr.:
American Eagle_Final bmp

Old Hollywood in 3D Color

This site was established almost two years ago and dedicated to transforming old b/w photos of Old Hollywood into color by using modern software. Now we’re ready to take the next step by adding computer-generated 3D to our color transfers. Last month we inaugurated this process on our sister site, ArlissArchives.com by unveiling the first-ever 3D images of George Arliss. Similar to the extremely limited use of color photography in Old Hollywood, unfortunately the studios of that era also did not participate in the popularity of 3D or stereoscopic photography. That task is bequeathed to us in the 21st century. Today there are several different 3D processes but here we are using an original low-tech version that dates back to the 19th century. It is based on an optical illusion to trick our brain into believing it is seeing an object from two slightly different perspectives, hence the illusion of depth perception. Let’s start off with a very chic Myrna Loy circa 1935:
Myrna Loy New 3D_edited-1

If you see only two identical images of Myrna and no 3D effect, then you either need to use a viewer device or learn the simple knack of “free viewing.” The easiest way to obtain a viewer is to find one of the many books on old stereoscopic slides because these volumes include a simple fold-up plastic or cardboard viewer. Check your public library. Your blogmeister dispenses with using viewers (the “training wheels” of 3D) and relies on the technique of free viewing using only, pardon the expression, my naked eyes. Let’s give the 3D treatment to Rudolph Valentino in MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE (1924):
Rudy Beaucaire 2 New 3D_edited-1

To try free viewing, you need to guide each eye to focus on only one of the two images: the right eye on the right image, the left eye on the left image. At first your eyes won’t cooperate so by using the edge of your hand extended from your forehead to the tip of your nose, your hand will block the right eye from seeing the left image and vice versa with the left eye. A piece of cardboard or a business envelope will work as well as your hand. The next step is to relax and look “through” the images and you will notice (with a little patience) that the images start moving together to form one image. Once they fully merge you’re in 3D. Try it with Myrna and Rudy (each should line up easily) or give Strongheart and Lady Julie below (circa 1925) a try:
Strongheart_Lady Julie New 3D_edited-1

You’ll want to experiment with moving the images, i.e., the screen, anywhere from 9 to 13 inches from your eyes until the images start moving together. Also, smaller image size works easier than larger sizes so you if the images are not fully merging together, adjust your screen to make the images smaller. After a little trial and error, you’ll find a size and a focal length that works for you. Here is a photo that begged for 3D – Lon Chaney Sr. as Quasimodo in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923):
Chaney Hunchback 3D in PSE Free transform_edited-1

Once you’ve experienced the 3D effect of free viewing, you’ll know what to look for and subsequent 3D images will come through faster. Here, the Russian Revolution is about the break out in TEMPEST (1928) but Louis Wolheim (top) and John Barrymore find time to horse around in this photo that seems designed for 3D:
Barrymore Wolheim New 3D_edited-1

This photo has a lovely scenic perspective that enhances a 3D view – June Collyer and George Arliss on the set of ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931) wait for nightfall to film an outdoor scene:
Arliss Hamilton 2 New 3D_edited-1

Since today (April 1st) is Lon Chaney’s birthday (1883), here he is again with Norma Shearer in HE WHO GETS SLAPPED (1924), the very first film produced by the then-newly organized Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Shearer and Chaney remained top stars at MGM, Norma until her retirement in 1942, and Lon until his death in 1930:
Shearer Chaney New 3D_edited-1

It may be unkind to note that W.C. Fields’ nose always seemed to be in 3D even in 2D photos. At any rate, here’s an unusual portrait of Mr. Fields sporting a middle eastern look:
W C Fields New 3D_edited-1

Gloria Swanson and her co-star Rudolph Valentino pause in filming a scene for BEYOND THE ROCKS (1922). This film represents the only pairing of these two iconic stars and was considered a “lost” work for decades until a nearly-complete print turned up in the Netherlands just a few years ago and is now on DVD. Ironically, this scene below was among the missing footage in the rediscovered print:
Swanson_Valention Rocks New 3D

This striking portrait of Lon Chaney in character for OUTSIDE THE LAW (1921) seems to anticipate 3D:
Chaney Shadows 3D_edited-1

Clara Bow personified the “Roaring Twenties” perhaps more than anyone else. She was dubbed the “It Girl” and everybody under 90 knew what that referred to, and maybe people over 90 too. Some of her films were considered risque but her studio, Paramount, cancelled her contract in 1931 – even after her successful transition to talkies – when her private life was found to be racier than her films:
Clara Bow New 3D

Finally, before Hepburn & Tracy, Lombard & Gable, or Rogers & Astaire, there was Garbo & Gilbert, that is Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. They ignited the screen in films such as FLESH AND THE DEVIL, LOVE (both 1927), A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS (1928), and the talkie QUEEN CHRISTINA (1933). Not surprisingly, they were lovers in real life, at least for a time in the late 1920s. Here is an iconic image of them from FLESH AND THE DEVIL given both the color and the 3D treatment:
Garbo_Gilbert New 3D

Future posts here will continue to be in color (the raison d’etre for this site) but we’ll be more sparing in using 3D. The stereographic effect is more welcome as a novelty from time to time than as a constant component of photos, or movies for that matter. Perhaps those folks back in Old Hollywood knew this all along.

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