Saved from the Titanic film

Lana Baker

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Nov 8, 2008
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I haven't seen this subject discussed in detail on this board (if it is and I have missed it, I apologize for the redundancy!) - I recently did some research on the short (approx. 10-minute) Dorothy Gibson film "Saved from the Titanic" and found it quite intriguing. Apparently it was filmed right after the sinking and was released sometime in May of 1912.

I understand that the plot was somewhat exaggerated, with Ms. Gibson, sporting the same clothing she had actually worn during the sinking, valiantly saving people before boarding a lifeboat herself. Interestingly, the film supposedly contained some colour sequences -- I cannot recall the name for the colourising method (something like Technicolor), but I wonder if it involved simply tinting the black-and-white frames by hand or if an early version of colour film was used. Does anyone know?

Sadly, this film, like all but one starring Dorothy Gibson, was lost. One source stated that a very high percentage of films from the silent era have not survived.
 

Jim Kalafus

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>but I wonder if it involved simply tinting the black-and-white frames by hand or if an early version of colour film was used. Does anyone know?

Could have been hand tinting. Most likely, it was applying a gold dye to any scenes set at night, to give them a moonlit wash effect. But, most color sequences in silent films were provided by filters.
 

Inger Sheil

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Lana, have you had a chance to read Randy Bigham's biography of Dorothy Gibson, Finding Dorothy? He discusses her film career at some length. Simon Mills also devotes quite a bit of space to Saved from the Titanic in his book on Titanic films titled Titanic in Pictures. There has also been a bit of discussion under the movie section of the messageboard if you do a search in that area.

Wiki has a list of colour film processes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_color_film_systems

The one early colour film I'm keen to see is 1922's Toll of the Sea with Anna May Wong, the first colour feature produced in Hollywood (Jim - I imagine you've already seen this one? Verdict?).

It has been estimated that as little as 10 - 15% of silent films survive today.
 
May 27, 2007
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quote:

The one early colour film I'm keen to see is 1922's Toll of the Sea with Anna May Wong, the first colour feature produced in Hollywood.
I also want to see that one as well! I've been hunting Netflex and pestering my local library as well! The Script was written by Frances Marion and is a variation on Madame Butterfly!​
 

Lana Baker

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Nov 8, 2008
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Thank you, everyone, for your insight!

I looked it up again, and the colourisng process supposedly used is called "Kinemacolor". There is a short article with links to others at this site - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saved_from_the_Titanic .

I have not seen too many silent films (apart from Buster Keaton - "The Navigator" is hilarious!), so I never imagined that any of them were in colour. I will have to start watching more of them.

And thank you, Inger, for the book suggestions.
 
May 3, 2005
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"In August, 1911, colored motion pictures of the coronation of King George V showed for one week."
-"WPA Dallas Guide and History", Page 242
 
May 27, 2007
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That's neat Robert! I wonder what they thought of that in Dallas! It was color though so I bet tickets sold pretty well for that show!
 
May 3, 2005
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George-
Some more from that source:

"Mme. Bernhart's film of Camille was exhibited in 1912 and The Birth Of A Nation on its first Dallas engagement , October 4, 1915, ran for two weeks as a road show at top prices.

By the end of the decade between 1910 and 1920 it was apparent that the little motion picture houses along Elm Street from Lamar to Ervay, with their admission fees of 5 cents, 10 cents and occasionally 25 cents, were too much competition for the Dallas Opera House. Legitimate players at this period were no longer touring. Bigger and better houses were built to bring Hollywood drama to Dallas."
-The WPA Dallas Guide And History", Page 242

I could find no references to any movies or other related presentations of the Titanic disaster locally.

There was a report of one family from Groesbeck, Texas who were lost on Titanic.

https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-biography/samuel-beard-risien.html
 
May 12, 2005
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I think any color sequence in "Saved From the Titanic" was probably more of a tint, as Jim has suggested, than full-fledge color. The one known surviving film of Dorothy Gibson's —— "The Lucky Hold Up" (released 11 April 1912) —— has scenes tinted in rose and blue, so that's an indication of what "Saved" may have looked like.

Other books with good sections on "Saved From the Titanic" are Frank Thompson's "Lost Films" and Stephen Bottomore's "Titanic and Silent Cinema." Both books were a lot of help when I was researching, and Frank loaned some of his great photos.

As to "kinemacolour, " it was something of an approximation of modern color, and used often in the Pathe and Gaumont fashion newsreels that started up about 1910. Color fashion photography was also in its infancy around the same time. It looks artificial to us today but this so-called "polychromide" process was actually touted as "real" color. Some of Lucile's dresses, by the way, were photographed in the polychromide method in 1913 (for the Illustrated London News) and in 1915-16 (Harper's Bazaar).

Inger, I'd like to see "Toll of the Sea." All I have seen are clips used in documentaries, but they look very good. The color must be early Technicolor?
 

Inger Sheil

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Yes, an early Technicolor, Randy - Wiki claims it is the second Technicolor film. I have another Anna May Wong movie on order at the moment, but Toll of the Sea is on the list of silents to track down! There were several multi-part versions on Youtube, but it looks like most, possibly all, have been removed.
 
May 3, 2005
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Off subject...But does anyone remember those "color filters" (or whatever they were called ?)a sheet of cellophane or some sort of thin plastic sheet that you could put on the screen of your black and white TV....Blue on the top for the sky and green on the bottom for grass .....LOL.

I've seen some old silent movies which were tinted to fit the mood...green for outdoor scenes; blue for night scenes....one was tinted red for the murder scenes.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Yes. Much like the device, targeted at children, that allowed you to color on a TV screen with crayon, it did not last that long. In fact, it did not work at all- I had the opportunity to see one in use, and the end result was just distracting. The crayon device, marketed thru a kids TV show, DID work. You placed the plexiglas filter over the screen and then colored along with the TV show host. But....of course.... the day always came when little Junior or Sally forgot to place it over the screen before coloring and had to deal with the wrath of an enraged parent who had to scrape waxy residue off the screen. Cleaning the toy post coloring was no picnic, either. Kids of the high-tech era don't know what they missed.
 

Jim Kalafus

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The most common of the TV 'coloring' devices was a wheel, with colored segments, which could be turned to give you the odd effect of an all green/all blue/all sunshine yellow screen.

Another great archaic device, dating to the days of 6 inch screens, was the screen enlarger, which was like a magnifying glass that stood in front of your TV and gave you a bigger- but distorted- picture. The devices, when used in tandem, must have made for an unparalleled viewing experience.
 

Jim Kalafus

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I recall, not exactly fondly, a $7 a night motel room which featured patches of moss growing in the bathroom AND a gen-you-wine ca 1950 DuMont TV set. Some might call it Americana, some might call it me hitting rock bottom, either way I was amazed by the fact that A) it was DuMont and B) it was still working. As I listened to the relaxing sound of gunfire and sirens in the night, I reflected on how much water had gone under the bridge in 36 years....

Back to early color films....within the last few years, a number of surprisingly intact two-strip Technicolor films have resurfaced. The hellish 1929/1930 Judy Garland film, "Bubbles," has a title card announcing that it was filmed in color, but the preserved print is in black and white. MGM made an all-sound all-color musical by the title of the March of Time, ca 1929, but for some reason yanked the plug and left it unreleased and hidden until the 1990s....some great color effects, and fairly undeteriorated.

The most commonly screened color films from the 1910-1915 era, seem to feature the color wash technique. The gold moonlight effect is quite nice, the blue moonlight effect less so, and the gold sunlight effect bizarre because it looks just like the moonlight effect. (In either case the scene was shot in full daylight and then dyed)
 

Lana Baker

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Here is an excellent article specifically about the Kinemacolor process: http://widescreenmuseum.com/oldcolor/kinemaco.htm It was an additive colour process using two colour filters (red and green). The article contains some images from the aforementioned King George V newsreel, which almost look like 3-D images do when you don't wear the special glasses. In any case, it looks astonishingly authentic for a film that early. Since my original post, I have seen a film from the 1920s with certain scenes tinted all one colour, but Kinemacolor looks entirely different.
 

Sarah Smith

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Aug 26, 2005
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Does anyone have any information about the *filming* of SAVED FROM THE TITANIC? I'm particularly interested in whether there was a scene set in the lifeboats, and if so how and where it was filmed.
 

Kyrila Scully

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Randy Bryan Bigham's book, FINDING DOROTHY, has an entire chapter devoted to the making of the film. While no print of the film exists, still photographs do, and Miss Gibson's script still exists from what I gather. The film was only one reel and lasted only about 12-17 minutes. It was released May 16, 1912 and ran in theaters throughout the summer. The story is revealed in flashbacks as Dorothy shares her story with friends and relatives. There is a fictional romance intertwined in the story as well.