What’s in a Name? Eastmancolor, Eastman Colour and colour brand identity

As our project progresses, we’ve started to unpick a couple of issues with the “Eastmancolor” part of our title and focus.

First, in the initial decade of its growing use in the British film industry (approximately 1953-1963) there is no agreed usage of the word(s) as a trademark or specific process. Is it one word or two? Is it Color or Colour? The evidence of both promotion and the film titles themselves is contradictory, with four key options in use at the same time:

  1. “EASTMAN COLOR”: opening credits for Miracle in Soho (1957), Robbery Under Arms (1957), The Truth About Women (1957), The Captain’s Table (1958), Ferry to Hong Kong (1958), Whirlpool (1959), and the trailer for Peeping Tom (1960)

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2. “EASTMANCOLOR”: opening credits for Conflict of Wings (1954), Dance Little Lady (1954), Make Me an Offer (1955), Blood of the Vampire (1958), The Mummy (1959), Peeping Tom (1960), We Joined the Navy (1962)


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3. “EASTMAN COLOUR”: UK poster and credits for Summer Madness (1955); UK poster for The Curse of Frankenstein (1957); credits for A Yank in Ermine (1955), Three Men in a Boat (1956), Konga (1961).

 

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4. “EASTMANCOLOUR”: credits for The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Behind the Mask (1958), Next to No Time (1958), No Time for Tears (1958).

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Second, that breakdown doesn’t capture the whole problem, because of the difficulty of identifying what might actually have counted as an Eastman Color / Colour film in different locations or, sometimes, even in the same location. To take three of the examples from the list above:

  • Summertime / Summer Madness was promoted as “Filmed on location in… Eastman Colour. Print by Technicolor” on a UK poster, but the US poster and the credits on the US print opt for “Color by Technicolor”

 

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  • The UK poster for Dracula (1958) states “In Eastman Colour processed by Technicolor” – the poster for the US (retitled) released of Horror of Dracula claims it is in “Brilliant TECHNICOLOR”

 

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  • Peeping Tom (1960) is in “Eastman Color” in the trailer, “Eastmancolor” in the opening credits and, in some UK posters, “Eastman Colour”

 

There is clear documentary evidence that the Technicolor 3-strip camera system was not used in British (or US) production beyond the mid-1950s, with Technicolor repositioning itself as a premiere colour processing company that continued to utilise 3-strip matrices and imbibition printing. Despite this, there are regular claims on posters – such as this one for Thunderbirds are Go (1966) – that the film is in “Technicolor”. For the film historian or casual viewer, then, this confuses the issue of what process is responsible for the print they are viewing.

 

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What does this mean for our focus on the “Eastmancolor” revolution? It suggests some clear differences between Eastman Kodak and Technicolor around the promotional value of a name:

  1. Eastman appears less interested in the brand identity or trademark value of “Eastmancolor” – not least given the different spellings that were allowed, but also in the fact it encouraged some studios and companies to rebadge the Eastmancolor process entirely (e.g. “Warnercolor”). Taken together, this suggests Eastman Colour did not have the same brand recognition (or promotional value) as Technicolor, particularly in the US market.
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  2. Given Eastman’s larger goal was to increase the use of their new monopack colour film stock across all colour productions, the company does not appear to have been as concerned with laboratory/processing – unlike Technicolor, which had been very protective of its in-house 3-strip processing technique. While Eastman clearly issued guidelines and assisted laboratories in processing issues, it does not appear to have been as controlling around issues of quality as Technicolor had been at either the production or processing stages.

We may be tracing a revolution, then, but it is becoming clear that this project is also facing an “Eastman Colour” challenge.

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Dr Keith M. Johnston – Co-Investigator (UEA)

2 comments

  1. “…the company does not appear to have been as concerned with laboratory/processing…” – because EK didn’t to the lab/processing itself: it just sold the stock and processing chemistry to end users. After the antitrust lawsuit over Kodachrome in the US (can’t remember exactly when – early ’50s if memory serves me correctly), Kodak was forced to stop offering a processing service, bundled with the price of the film.

    Unlike Technicolor, which (until the three-strip camera was withdrawn) offered a full service process, with all the Natalie Kalmus control freakery, etc. built into the contract, Kodak was simply a vendor of consumables, as it had been since the 1890s. For example, when 1202/1302 stock superseded -01 emulsions for b/w in the late ’30s, you didn’t see an on-screen credit saying “Shot on Eastman low-grain panchromatic film.”

    The whole selling point of dye coupler emulsions was that, unlike Technicolor, they could be used in existing, conventional b/w production workflows with very little disruption elsewhere. Brighter studio lighting and two extra processing baths, and that was about it. It worked with the same cameras and lenses, and was processed by the same labs that did b/w; and was so successful that the market for the three-strip Technicolor camera had disappeared within five years of dye coupler negative’s commercial introduction in the USA and Europe.

    It would be interesting to know if there was even any contractual requirement to give Eastmancolo(u)r an on-screen credit. Given the spelling confusion, I suspect not.

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  2. […] an earlier blog post I commented on the use (or different uses) of the brand ‘Eastman Colour’ within the British […]

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