Eastman Kodak posted this item from the archives a couple of years ago, but I hadn’t discovered it till now. It’s a test of Kodachrome movie film, from 1922. Color movies, in near-perfect condition, made four years after the end of the First World War. Though it’s not the earliest color movie film in the world, it’s way older than most. (The first Technicolor feature, Becky Sharp, wasn’t released till 1935.)
There are four women in the film, plus one little girl. According to a post on Kodak’s site, two of the women are the silent-film stars Mae Murray and Hope Hampton, and you can tell: They occupy their time on camera with those coquettish flapper moves that silent-era actresses specialized in: the coyly twisted shoulder, the eye-roll and moue. It is very strange, though, to see those conventions in color. We have internalized the black-and-white-ness of that world, and it separates us from them—twenties figures in black-and-white seem to be from another planet. Add color into the equation, though, and the women look like people you’d see at a restaurant in my neighborhood—barely antique at all. Only the hats give them away, and even those are not so outlandish. (The soundtrack helps, too. Nice job, whoever added it.)
The person I can’t stop wondering about, though, is the little girl who’s on camera for just a few seconds. She’s perhaps 5 years old in the film, meaning that she was born around 1917, and may well have made it into the 2000s. She’d be 95 now. Could she possibly still be out there somewhere?
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