The slow rise of color

We sometimes scratch our heads over how long it takes new technology to come into wide use.

For instance, did you know that a working fax machine was introduced to the general public at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City, and that the earliest efforts in transmitting images date back to the 19th century? We can see why it took so long to perfect, but one can’t but wonder what took so long for it to be widely adopted, once it had been.

Similarly, the vast majority of pre-1950 movies were in black and white, so who would have guessed that experiments in using color dated all the way back to the early twentieth century?

Here’s a reel of tests of Kodachrome color motion picture film from 1922. from 1922, featuring actresses Mae Murray, Hope Hampton, and Mary Eaton, among others. Color film tehnology was two-color, then—reds and greens—so it’s not the full, vivid color that would come later, but it’s got charms of its own.

Oh, and that inexplicable delay I mentioned above? It occurred in this case, too: It would be 13 years after this footage was shot before the first full-length color feature, Becky Sharp, was released.

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