Meet Me in St. Louis opens in Technicolor
Opening November 28, 1944, Vincente Minelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis was one of the most commercially successful pictures of its day. It was the film on which Minelli met his future wife, Judy Garland, and was also the director’s first film using Technicolor’s famously bold, color-saturated three-strip printing process. The plot is slender; adapted from several articles by Sally Benson about her family around the time of the St. Louis World’s Fair, the film contains a teen romance, a lot of nostalgia, and a smidgen of drama revolving around the family’s possible move to New York. But mostly it features great songs (including “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”), warm performances and Oscar-nominated cinematography that is remembered today as a high-point of Technicolor’s now-discontinued process. The film looks great even now on Warner’s beautiful DVD reissue, due in large part to that original process. Wrote Fred Kaplan at Slate.com (http://www.slate.com/id/2114143/fr/rss/), “Even with careful preservation, color negatives fade over time. But Technicolor negatives can look as good as new after decades. This is because Technicolor films consisted of three black-and-white negatives, which ran simultaneously through a special camera. Light hit each film strip through a prism filter. Afterward, each film strip was coated with a dye, and the three strips were then aligned, on top of one another, to form a coherent color image. It was a complex, costly process, which lasted only from 1935-54... The point is that black-and-white negatives don't fade. If the Technicolor black-and-white negatives have been stored well, and if some lab can replicate the Technicolor dye-processing, it should be possible to create a fresh print with perfect color.” The dye-transfer printing process slowed in popularity in the early 50s, when Kodak produced film that combined all the colors on a single strip. One of the last films produced using this method was Dario Argento’s Suspiria in 1977, and a version of the process was reintroduced in the late ‘90s, being employed on titles like Bulworth and Toy Story. It was finally discontinued in 2002.