Set against the background of the Battle of Waterloo, Becky Sharp is the story of Vanity Fair by Thackeray. Becky and Amelia are girls at school together, but Becky is from a "show biz" ...
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Nigel De Brulier
Set against the background of the Battle of Waterloo, Becky Sharp is the story of Vanity Fair by Thackeray. Becky and Amelia are girls at school together, but Becky is from a "show biz" family, or in other words, very low class. Becky manages to insinuate herself in Amelia's family and gets to know all their friends. From this possibly auspicious- beginning, she manages to ruin her own life, becoming sick, broke, and lonely, and also ruins the lives of many other "loved ones". In the movie we get to see the class distinctions in England at the time, and get a sense of what it was like for the English military at the time of the Napoleonic wars.Written by
Preview audiences complained that the sound was unintelligible. RKO re-recorded the entire soundtrack by re-recording their Photophone track on a Western Electric rival process, and then transferred it to the Photophone system for the release print. See more »
In the final scenes, Becky is living in a drab furnished room that is clearly shown to be on the second floor. However, once in the room, a look through a window shows people walking on the street - at the same level as the room itself. See more »
An early public domain video release of "Becky Sharp" is in black-and-white and runs 59 minutes. Reissue prints from a 1943 re-release run 67 minutes, and were produced in an inferior Cinecolor process. This reissue version remained the only version available for viewing until the original 83-minute Technicolor release was restored in 1984. See more »
BECKY SHARP, historically important as the first feature film in full, three-color TECHNICOLOR, has always fascinated me. It's history, however, is frustrating and disappointing. Made by Pioneer Pictures and released through RKO, BECKY SHARP was sold to a poverty row exhibitor (whose name escapes me at the moment)in the 1940's for re-release. The company chose not to pay the high prices that TECHNICOLOR charged for release prints and had new prints of the film struck in inferior two strip CINECOLOR. More damaging to the future of BECKY was that the company never properly stored the original nitrate negatives. BECKY SHARP was sold to TV only in a shortened B&W print or in CINECOLOR reissue prints.
Still, the idea of this elusive "lost" treasure haunted me. It was amongst the very first videocassettes that I ever purchased back in the early days of the VCR when I was but a lad (and YES, I got strange looks.) BECKY SHARP was one of those poor, orphaned films whose copyrights have expired and now live in the public domain. The quality of the video cassette and the color was astonishingly bad, and gave no hint of the pleasures the original TECHNICOLOR photography must have contained.
A sad story to be sure, but fortunately UCLA performed a massive restoration effort on the film in the late 1980's, literally scouring the world for available film elements. Unfortunately, the restored BECKY SHARP has never been commercially released in any format. It was shown during AMC's first Film Preservation Festival back in 1993, however, and luckily I recorded it to cherish for all time (or at least until the tape wears out.) It has never aired since.
The restored BECKY SHARP is a revelation!! The film starts with barely any color at all, then pleasant pastels are introduced, followed eventually by the striking red coats of the British military. Full of color and deliciously over-ripe tints, this was primarily an experiment to see how color plays out in a feature film. The cast and drama takes a back-seat to the real star of the show, glorious TECHNICOLOR. The film itself is somewhat plodding and overplayed, but a lot of fun, to be sure!!
I'm not sure what legal red tape is responsible for there being no commercial release of this beautiful restoration, but none has appeared and this is a shame.
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