Colorizing It's a Wonderful Life?

First the good news — the colorization process looks better — and tighter — than the horrible blotchy early efforts of Ted Turner in the mid-1980s:

Now the bad news — as with Turner’s myriad efforts back then, it’s not at all what the film’s producer, director and cinematographer intended, as John Nolte writes at Big Hollywood:

A reader sent this, a clip from the new HD colorization. He writes, “Every single frame looks like a Rockwell painting.”

It might, but that’s not the way the film was meant to be seen. Technicolor was invented in 1916 and came of age in the late twenties and thirties. If filmmakers wanted to make their films in color, they could have. Sure, sometimes the cost was prohibitive, but then a film was produced for black and white the lighting, shadows, clothes and make-up were crafted and created deliberately around that reality. Nothing about any black and white film is appropriate for color. Nothing.

Jimmy Stewart himself was so incensed by colorization (his look at what was done to “It’s a Wonderful Life” was likely the last straw) he personally testified before Congress against it in 1988.

For a time, when Ted Turner was really going to town, you couldn’t even buy black and white VHS copies of some of these classics. You had to turn the color off on your television.

For the life of me, I can’t imagine why such a thing would enhance anyone’s enjoyment of a film.

It’s a Wonderful Life is in quasi-public domain, so all sorts of versions of it are available. That’s the film’s blessing and curse, making it both easy for it to be colorization fodder, and easy — at least for now — to find the original version.

Of course, for better or worse — likely worse — it’s only a matter of time before Jimmy Stewart’s career begins again, reborn as a digital thespian; starring in a sorts of new productions.

So how was your Christmas? And what did you watch this weekend?