One would think that Gen. Sherman and his army were marching on Warner Bros. to burn “Gone With the Wind’s” negative, given the inflated “controversy” surrounding the image quality of the film’s upcoming release (“ ‘GWTW': Is Brighter Better?” by Bill Desowitz, June 7).
It may be more a matter of (economic) history repeating itself: Almost 50 years ago, “garish color” was one unfounded charge commonly leveled against dye-transfer Technicolor by the various upstart Eastmancolor processes scrambling to break that firm’s near-monopoly in Hollywood.
A better gauge of David Selznick’s intentions may be found in his memoranda concerning quality of footage shot by cinematographer Lee Garmes, whose work he deemed “too dark.” Wrote the producer on May 3, 1939: ". . . sections of the screen which we want well-lighted should be . . . strongly and brilliantly lighted. . . . If we can’t get artistry and clarity, let’s forget the artistry.” Six days later, Selznick replaced Garmes with cameraman Ernest Haller, who, with Technicolor specialist Ray Rennahan, presumably gave him what he wanted.
This is, or course, the equivalent of a squabble over adjustments to a color TV set. If “GWTW” managed to survive its 1954 release--in which its pictorial compositions were slashed to fashionable pseudo-Cinemascope dimensions--with its reputation intact and public affection for its characters and drama undiminished, then I suspect that “Selznick’s Folly” will endure this little experiment.
If the new dye-transfer-processed prints of “Gone With the Wind” take away the taste of the disastrous 1989 “restoration” prints, then they will certainly be a godsend. The ‘89s seemed dull and lackluster in comparison to the 1954 reissue prints.
What was not questioned in the article, however, was the soundtrack. The ’89 release dropped dozens of lines of dialogue and kept stray lines, losing overdubs and robbing scenes of dramatic impact. This was all done in the name of “stereo” remastering.
Hopefully, this has been corrected and finally what is arguably America’s greatest film will come together in sound and picture for a worthy release on all counts.