There is something inspiring in watching people gifted at craft work their magic efforlessly in a new medium. Here 5 silent film and stage actresses pose for the camera in 1922 at Paragon Studios in Fort Lee, NJ. for one of the first recorded color film tests in history. Fort Lee was a major film center on the East Coast at that time.
Kodak was testing this early Kodachrome Two-Color process that was an attempt to bring natural lifelike colors to the screen through the photochemical method in a subtractive color system. The colors seem to bathe them in warms and they flock to it like moths to a flame. As if they knew how to respond to the camera (they did.)
Their movements may seem dated today. Joan Neuberger at Salon writes that “their open expressions of feeling and the particular way they move their hands and tilt their heads, even more than the fashions of their clothes and makeup, immediately mark them as women of the interwar period.” It’s also important to remember that these woman at this time were all globally recognized and more famous than we can almost imagine today. And, they were at the top of their game.
Sabrina Negri, a film student from Italy, preserved the early Kodachrome color film from 1922 at the Cineco Haghefilm lab in Amsterdam in 2009. A Kodak employee later stumbled upon it at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film and brought it back to Kodak in the US where it was digitized for the internet.
Today Eastman Kodak auctions off patents to salvage what is left of a once world leader in photography and film processing. And, in the process they left museums and a legacy innovation and products that once can’t say enough about. And the cause of their demise? The little thing we all hold in our hands. The smart phone which has essentially fully replaced the stand alone camera.
Goodbye Kodak. Hello Instagram, Reddit, Vine etc. and an endless series of pictures of people’s lunch, pets, and much much much worse. I’m not sure we’re better off.
The actresses as so far identified include:
The first, Hope Hamton, was known for bringing the flapper and siren look to the screen, had one husband and lived to 84 (1982) after a successful screen and then stage career.
Mary Eaton had a gifted Broadway stage career, was in a special Follies edition for three years, and a short Hollywood film career She married three times and died of alcoholism a age 47.
There is probably no better example of 1920’s success combined with excess and narcissism than Mae who has the most time at the end of the clip. She was a phenomenol success in the Ziegfield Follies, hit a peak with her appearance in the Merry Widow under Erik Von Stroheim in 1924. She had 4 husbands, including a phony count, was rarely seen without an Ermin Coat wrapped around her, and wound up destitute and finishing her years out at the Motion Picture House in the Hollywood Hills.
Others in the film have been said to be Mary Pickford and Jackie Coogan (the child star) but these aren’t confirmed.