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FOR THE FIRST 37 YEARS OF MY LIFE I LIVED IN EUROPE AND THUS FEEL
QUALIFIED TO TESTIFY THAT THE ONLY UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR WHO
IS WELCOMED WITH OPEN ARMS AND ADMIRATION BY EVERYBODY, EVERYWHERE
IN THE WORLD, IS AMERICAN FILM.
THE IMPACT AMERICAN FILM HAS ON
HUNDREDS AND MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ON THE PLANET EARTH IS ASTONISHING
AND WE ALL CAN BE VERY PROUD OF IT.
YOU SHOW PEOPLE THE HOLLYWOOD
GLAMOUR AND THEY ADMIRE THE GLAMOUR.
YOU GIVE THEM FILMS CRITICAL
OF OUR SOCIETY, FILMS SHOWING OUR DARK SIDE AND THEY ADMIRE THE
FREEDOM WE HAVE IN THIS COUNTRY TO TALK ABOUT OURSELVES.
END OF THE STICK YOU GRAB, AMERICAN FILM IS ALWAYS THE WINNER.
DIRECTORS GUILD OF AMERICA, 7950 SUNSET BLVD., LOS ANGELES, CA 90046
NATIONAL OFFICE TELEX NUMBER 181498
SO YOU CAN IMAGINE HOW SADDENED I WAS WHEN, AFTER COMING TO THE
UNITED STATES, I LEARNED THAT THIS WONDERFUL AND PROUD AMBASSADOR
OF OUR CULTURE, WHEN THEY RETURN HOME, TO THE HOMES OF AMERICANS
ON TELEVISION, THEY ARE TREATED BY THE MONEY PEOPLE NOT EVEN AS
SECOND CLASS CITIZENS, BUT AS SAUSAGES ON THE BUTCHER BLOCK.
THEY ARE CUT, COLORIZED, PANNED AND SCANNED, SPED UP AND ALTERED.
AND I LEARNED IT THE HARD WAY.
IN 1979 I MADE A MUSICAL FILM FOR
UNITED ARTISTS WHICH WAS EVENTUALLY SOLD TO 115 SYNDICATED AMERICAN
TV STATIONS WITH 9
ENTIRE MUSICAL NUMBERS CUT OUT AND NUMEROUS
OTHER CUTS AND ALTERATIONS THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE FILM.
BUT MY NAME
WAS STILL ON IT.
THE FILM WAS STILL SOLD AS THE ORIGINAL (AS A
MILOS FORMAN FILM).
WHEN I ASKED MY LAWYERS IF I HAD ANY PROTECTION
AGAINST SUCH MUTILATION OF MY WORK, I WAS TOLD "IF YOU ARE NOT
PROTECTED BY YOUR INDIVIDUAL CONTRACT, THERE IS NOTHING IN AMERICAN
LAW WHICH PROTECTS THE RIGHTS OF CREATIVE AUTHORS OF MOTION PICTURES.
WHOEVER BUYS THEM CAN DO WITH THEM ANYTHING THEY WISH.
CAN SELL THEM AFTER THE ALTERATIONS AS THE ORIGINAL WORK.
WAS SHOCKING FOR ME TO DISCOVER THAT THE CREATIVE AUTHORS OF
THIS GENUINELY AMERICAN ART FORM ARE MUCH BETTER PROTECTED IN EVERY
OTHER COUNTRY OF THE CIVILIZED WORLD, THAN THEY ARE IN THE UNITED
FOR EXAMPLE, IF I
COMMISSION A PAINTING, IT DOESN'T MATTER IF IT
IS A PICASSO OR FROM AN UNKNOWN, IT IS MINE.
I PAID FOR IT. I
OWN IT AND NOBODY CAN PROTECT IT AGAINST ME DOING ANYTHING I WISH.
I CAN CHANGE COLORS,
I CAN ALTER THE LINES, I CAN EVEN CUT A FEW
INCHES HERE AND THERE TO ACCOMMODATE THE SPACE OF MY WALL.
I STILL BE ABLE TO SELL IT AS A PICASSO OR SOMEBODY ELSE'S ORIGINAL?
I BELIEVE NOT.
I REALIZE THAT I AM HIRED AND PAID BY THE MONEY PEOPLE TO MAKE
BUT SO WAS MICHELANGELO WHOM MEDICI HIRED AND PAID TO
PAINT THE SISTINE CHAPEL.
STILL NONE OF THE MEDICIS WENT INSIDE
DURING THE NIGHT AND CHANGED COLORS OR REPAINTED OR OTHERWISE ALTERED
BUT OF COURSE, THOSE WERE THE MIDDLE AGES.
OR WERE THEY?
PLEASE UNDERSTAND ONE THING: I AM NOT SAYING THAT OUR FILMS ARE
UNTOUCHABLE, THAT NOTHING CAN BE ALTERED.
OF COURSE, EVERYTHING
CAN BE ALTERED.
BUT THE ONLY PERSON WHO SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT
TO ALTER, OR SUPERVISE SUCH ALTERATIONS ARE THE CREATIVE AUTHORS
WHO KNOWS WHAT WILL BE POSSIBLE WITH THE VISUAL AND AUDIO
ELEMENTS OF THE FILM TOMORROW? MY DEEP CONVICTION IS THAT IF THE CREATIVE AUTHORS OF THE FILMS ARE NOT GIVEN THE RIGHT TO APPROVE
OR DISAPPROVE ANY, AND I EMPHASIZE THE WORD ANY ALTERATION OF HIS
OR HER WORK, AMERICAN FILM, THIS POWERFUL PART OF AMERICAN CULTURAL
HERITAGE WILL IN THE FUTURE BE CONSTANTLY HUMILIATED AND FINALLY
MUTILATED BEYOND RECOGNITION.
Senator LEAHY. Ms. Rogers, if you will just allow me a personal observation, you have brought an enormous amount of pleasure to Americans over the years. You were in one of the very first movies I saw.
Ms. ROGERS. Thank you very much, Senator.
STATEMENT OF GINGER ROGERS Ms. ROGERS. Senator Leahy, it is a great pleasure to be here and
share my feelings on this very troubling issue, and I also speak for the Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors, which voted unanimously to oppose the computer coloring of black-andwhite films.
I would like to tell you how it feels, as an actor, to see yourself painted up like a birthday cake on the television screen. It feels terrible. It hurts. It is embarrassing and insulting. It is a violation of all the care and trust that goes into a work of cinematic art.
In the movies, your face is truly your fortune. It is the focus of the art form. So, as actors, we are very concerned about our appearance on the screen. The studios spent months and even years grooming us and carefully developing an image that looked just right on black and white film. We trusted the experts—the directors, the cameramen, the makeup artists and costumers—to make us look our very best.
Our appearance and expressions are the tools we use to create a character on the screen. It is a subtle and sensitive art that is completely obliterated by computer coloring.
The camera captures a certain magic on an actor's face, a sparkle in the eye, the gleam of a tear, the slightest smile or frown on the lips. These are the nuances that go into a great performance. And these are the delicacies that are sacrificed under a smear of pink and orange frosting.
Some people think that this icing on the cake actually improves our appearance. Well, I've seen the new makeup and costumes that they have painted on me against my will, and I can tell you it is no improvement. I never would have stepped near a camera looking like that. No director, make-up man nor costumer would have allowed it.
was outraged when I saw the computer-colored version of “42nd Street,” in which I had a supporting role. It looked as if we had all been spray painted or doused with dye. Those thrilling musical numbers suddenly looked like cheap Saturday morning cartoons. All of the detail, all of the pizazz was lost under the new paint job.
How can you accurately color a Busby Berkeley chorus line of 100 beautiful girls with their arms, legs, and costumes twirling? The answer is you can't, and you shouldn't try. All those lovely girls in “42nd Street” suddenly had the same orange face, the same orange legs, the same green costume and the same blank look. Each individual personality was actually wiped out in one long, sloppy brush stroke. I'm glad that Busby Berkeley isn't here to see what they are doing to his art. It would break his heart to see those brilliant dance numbers done-in by flat, lifeless computer color.
Actors have already suffered many indignities through the unbridled exploitation of our popular films. Our names, our voices and faces are considered grist for the mills of commerce. But a motion picture is more than just a strip of celluloid. It is the blood, sweat and tears of hundreds of artists. It's our energy and imagination captured by the camera. When that is chopped or colored or clipped, so am I.
I have spent many years fighting an uphill battle to protect my most valuable asset-my good image. I have learned the hard way that actors have, if any, rights over the use of our work. And that is why I am here today. This computerized cartoon coloring is the final indignity. It is the destruction of all I have worked to achieve. We must fight it with all our might. We must not let computers casually redesign our cultural heritage.
A dear friend and co-star, Jimmy Stewart, could not be here today, but sent a letter and asked that I submit it to the committee. In it, Jimmy says that his best work is being “washed away in a bath of Easter egg dye.” That's precisely how thousands of actors feel.
On behalf of all actors and film artists, I urge you to protect our work and let our legacy be remembered as we created it, not as modern mercenaries would rather see it today.
And, if you will, I will read Jimmy's letter to the Committee. Jimmy says: DEAR COMMITTEE MEMBERS: I'm sorry that I can't be with you today for this important hearing, but I do want to share my feelings on the very troubling issue of computer coloring of black and white films. I've said it before, and I'm glad to say it again to the United States Senate: colorizing is wrong. It's morally and artistically wrong and these profiteers should leave our film history alone.
For 50 years or so, I've made my living as a screen actor in 80 films-one-half of them in black and white. I pray that they'll stay that way.
Of course, I remember the excitement that Technicolor film created back in the 1930's. It gave the studios a beautiful new option for their screen artistry. But for many creative reasons, we continued to make black and white films well into the 1960's. Some directors, like Woody Allen and Peter Bogdanovich, still choose black and white today and for the same reason: it tells a story in a unique and highly dramatic way. Black and white reduces characters, settings and events to the very essence of darkness, light and shadow.
Every single aspect of black and white production design-the lighting, sets, costumes, makeup and photography-are carefully created for the high contrasts of the medium. These designs are not compatible with the very different requirements of color film. Adding a layer of color to a black and white film is like painting over something that's already been painted perfectly well. It's terrible. Why do it, except to make some quick money on somebody else's work?
The first film I made after the war was Frank Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life.” Some people call it a "perennial" or a "classic,” and that's all right by me. But those classics are the first targets of the colorizers, and the colorized version was shown on TV last year. I watched half of it and had to turn it off. I couldn't get through it. The artificial color was detrimental to the story, to the whole atmosphere and artistry of the film. I felt sorry for the director, the cinematographer, the costumer designer, the makeup man and all of the actors.
When I think of Frank Capra's fine cameraman, Joe Walker, and the time he spent on the delicate lighting and built-in shadow of “It's A Wonderful Life,” and to have that work wiped out by computerized color, which destroys the delicate shadows and depths of each scene, it makes me mad.
The scenes were washed away in a bath of Easter egg dye. The tinting obscured the nuances of expression and character that actors work so hard to create on film. It smudged the clarity of performance and projection that is the goal of all motion picture makers.
In “It's A Wonderful Life,” Gloria Grahame played a character named Violet, and whoever colorized the picture thought it would be cute to color all of Gloria's cos