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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.
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
tumers in that same color-violet. Well, that's art direction after the fact, and an obvious kind of visual pun that Frank Capra never would have considered.
Audiences will always respond to a film's content: the story and the characters. No matter what color-or lack of color-it's made in, the audience will love a good film and despise a bad one. The addition of artificial color cannot improve upon the original merits of a film, but it can certainly destroy them.
A certain actor friend of mine named Ronald Reagan is fond of saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." I agree with that kind of home-spun wisdom, and that's exactly what I'd like to say to anyone who wants to paint up my face like an Easter egg. Our black-and-white films ain't broke, and they don't need fixin'.
If these color-happy folks are so concerned about the audience, let them put their millions of dollars into NEW films, or let them remake old stories if they see fit, but let our great film artists and films live in peace.
I urge the U.S. Senate to join the creative community in our efforts to discourage this terrible process and the windfall profits new copyrights would allow.
Senator LEAHY. Thank you very much, Ms. Rogers.
I have a number of questions I would like to address to the panel.
As you know, there are other hearings going on and, therefore, some of the Senators were not able to be here. I have tried to incorporate some of their ideas, too.
Mr. Pollack, you have heard Ms. Rogers quote Jimmy Stewart as referring to the "Easter egg dying" aspect of "colorization." Mr. Forman said at one point that colorizing films is like putting aluminum siding on a medieval castle. Mr. Allen has stated very clearly how he feels.
But movie directors also alter the work of other artists, do they not? Thinking of John Huston's famous film, "The Maltese Falcon," we all agree it is an absolute classic, but he changed the ending of Daschiell Hammett's book.
Daschiell Hammett's 1929 novel has a different ending than John Huston's 1941 movie, "The Maltese Falcon."
What about that?
Mr. POLLACK. Senator Leahy, we are perfectly in agreement with that kind of work. That is considered a new work. We say and credit it as a film based on the novel. I do not think anyone here would have an objection-they might if it did not turn out well-to someone making a novel based on one of our films.
As a matter of fact, movie studios constantly commission novelizations of films and oftentimes they sell quite well.
The movement from novel to film to play to comic book to ballet to symphony, and back through that parade is perfectly acceptable to us. What is not acceptable to us is taking the book, "The Maltese Falcon," rewriting pages of it and saying that we have improved it without the consent of the author. That is a completely different thing than buying the rights from the author and saying we are going to make a motion picture based on this book. This book remains forever as a book in its original form as it was originally intended by the novelist. But now a new piece of entertainment has been made, a new art form has been created which is the motion picture version of that.
Senator LEAHY. Let me follow up a little bit more. Let's take another book written by a good friend of mine, now deceased, who lived in Vermont most of the end of his life, Bernard Malamud's book "The Natural."
The ending of that was radically changed in the film version. It made a very popular movie. I enjoyed the movie just as I enjoyed the book, but they are very different.
Now, as I recall the titles going up, it talked about "The Natural," a novel by Bernard Malamud. It was entirely different. The whole thrust of the book is changed in the movie.
Is that any different just because the film producer bought the book? I mean can he make the argument it could be changed any differently-is that argument any different from, for example, Ted Turner saying I bought the movie and now I can color it, especially as I am leaving available to anyone who wants to buy it the original black-and-white version? It is still there. I have not changed it. That is still there somewhere. It has probably even been improved because they have to go through this process of getting a good clear copy, as the testimony will show later on today.
Why is it any different?
Mr. POLLACK. Because the new work clearly states that it is a new work based upon the novel. The original work by the original author is not altered in any way whatsoever, and Bernard Malamud was no-there are no consequences to him. He does not have to deal in any way with the intentions. He is not injured. His artistic choices are not influenced in any way. His evaluation as an artist is not affected in any way. The representation of his body of work is not altered in any way whatsoever. This is a completely new work, the artistry of which has to be rejudged now by the people who have made those choices.
It would be perfectly logical to criticize those choices or to say, as you did, or as many people in this country did, they liked the movie just fine. It was not "The Natural" they read; it was another piece of work. But that was fine with them.
I have in my own film career attempted to make films often out of novels, and in many cases I have had to, for one reason or another, change either details or overall concepts about it, but there is no subterfuge about it. There is no sense that I am in any way accrediting this to the original author. I am taking the responsibility now for creating a whole new work, and in that new work, as I said before in my testimony, I have to make new choices too. So I do not feel that is the same, Senator.
Senator LEAHY. What if we took again the black-and-white movie, released it in a color version and said on it, based on the movie such and such?
Mr. POLLACK. You would have to get a new actor, or you would have to write a new screen play or have to redirect it. You can't take-I would not take the pages out of the Malamud book and cut them out and paste them into the script. You just cannot do that. At least I have hired a screen writer and started a whole new work. You have to do the same with a film. I do not have any objection with the colorizers doing that. If you want to make a brandnew version, a Technicolor movie of any of the old black-and-white movies, that becomes a new work, but you cannot take the original version and just dip it in a vat of paint and say, you know—you just cannot do it. It is an alteration and a violation of the original author's work.
Senator LEAHY. Mr. Allen, how do you feel? How would you respond to the same question?
Mr. ALLEN. Even I think there is a tremendous difference between the two processes. If someone was to go to Bernard Malamud and say we would like to buy your book and convert it into a film, he has the free choice as to whether to sell that or to not sell the rights to it. The book remains constantly the book, and he has the choice as to whether to allow it to be transferred to a completely different medium. If he allows it to be transferred, if he sells the rights, then he has to realize possibly requirements of the new art form or different art form may require changes in the book, changes in the story. But he does this of his own free will.
Now, if someone came to me and said we would like to take your film and make it into color and this will require certain artistic choices we are going to make, I want the option to say yes or no, and that is the option that Malamud has.
Senator LEAHY. Let me follow up a little bit on that.
A director, if he has enough clout, can protect himself through a contract. You have been able to do that. You spoke in your testimony about fighting for the right to make a black-and-white film. Somebody else might not be able to win that kind of a fight, but you have been successful. You protected yourself through contract. You prevented the editing of your films, as I understand, for television. Am I correct on that?
Mr. ALLEN. Many of them, yes.
Senator LEAHY. You are part of a group that purchased a Japanese film, "What's Up Tiger Lily," which in its original form was already dubbed in English, and replaced the dialog with your own script.
Could an argument be made that the marketplace itself is going to settle these issues? I realize that a Woody Allen or a Milos Forman or a Sydney Pollack can write into a contract before directing a film a provision stating:
You ain't going to change it unless I agree. You are not going to change it for use in a different medium, you are not going to edit it for showing on television, you are not going to change the sound track, you are not going to change the type of sound, you are not going to change it from black and white to color, or from color to black and white.
Why can't these choices eventually be handled in the marketplace?
Mr. ALLEN. Well, to some degree, it is handled in the marketplace, but the issue is much deeper. There are some directors who can control their work and they are very fortunate. It is a very hard fight and very few really have the clout to have complete control over their films, but it is a very difficult fight.
There are many directors who do not have that power and will never have it. And there are some that are deceased and their films exist.
This is a very strong moral issue that is raised here. It is not just an issue that, OK, leave it to the marketplace because those directors that have enough success financially can dictate the terms in their next contract. The issue is large enough so that there should be an overriding principle that everyone adheres to, that takes into
account what is justifiable and what is not, and that is the protection and the respect given to American artists in any medium.
Senator LEAHY. How do you respond to the argument made by some who have supported the colorization process that directors allow others, especially the TV networks, to tamper with their movies all the time?
Mr. ALLEN. I would respond in part the same way Mr. Silverstein did. It has been a tough fight, and the Directors Guild has been fighting this for years. It is very hard. If the directors could have their way, they would not let any tampering with their films exist whatsoever. They would not let them be broken up for commercials or shortened or panned or scanned or colorized certainly.
The problem is that they have not been able to do it, and the situation has gotten worse and worse and more insulting over the years, and now the colorization is just, I guess, the straw that broke the camel's back because it is so horrible and so dramatic, it is just a preposterous thing, it is so much more acutely noticeable to audiences, and so the issue has just exploded now completely.
But directors, and I for one, in negotiating personal contracts, always try and keep my film off the commercial television if I possibly can and only allow them to be shown on cable networks where there can't be any tampering to the film whatsoever. This is a personal thing, but every director would like to be able to do that and should have the right to do that. And if you take two lines out of a film, or speed up a few minutes, it is a very ugly thing, but it is not as perceptible to the audience as colorization of films.
And, as I say, directors have been objecting to this and fighting furiously against it for years, but now that something so tremendously obvious is occurring as colorization, the issue can no longer be swept under the table. It has got to be settled finally in some legal fashion to give some measure of protection to American film artists.
Senator LEAHY. As a practical matter, some of this is dictated purely by economics, is it not? In some case, the only way film companies can recover their cost of production is to have their films shown on television or in the airplanes, in the foreign markets, and sold to cable television.
Mr. ALLEN. Yes, you will always be able to give practical reasons, and there are a number of practical reasons why the economics dictate certain things. But the overriding reason is a moral reason that is much more profound than any of the practical reasons, and that is you cannot have a culture where people can go in at will and mutilate artists' work no matter what excuse they give you. When somebody agrees to do a film with a film director, a film studio or producer, they are adults and they realize they are putting up $5 million or $25 million, and they may lose it. That is possible. And just to do anything you want with the finished product, to just ride roughshod over the finished product in some frantic effort to try and minimize your loss or recapture your financial investment is perhaps, you know, something that appeals to the investors, but they have got to look to the deeper principle here and that is that one cannot have a society in which the artists are so regarded that their work can simply be changed at will by other people. That has got more resonant overtones to the well-being of