Taken at face value, this 4K digital restoration is a screen test of Katharine Hepburn, in costume and in character as Saint Joan of Arc. May 1934 was almost certainly a tumultuous time for Hepburn—still flying high on the success of playing Jo in Little Women, freshly divorced and pursuing a torrid romance with her agent, Leland Hayward, and grappling with the release of her first flop, Spitfire, just two months prior. Despite Hepburn’s luminous appearance, this version of Joan of Arc would never be made: the producers failed to secure the rights to George Bernard Shaw’s play, Saint Joan, because they intended to cut the script.
So, instead of Joan, Hepburn made The Little Minister, the second strike on her way to being labeled “box office poison.” One can only imagine the trajectory her career would have taken had she played a role so perfectly suited to her strength of conviction, defiance of the rules, and love of slacks.
It took 14 more years to produce Joan of Arc, RKO finally releasing their version with Ingrid Bergman in the title role in 1948. More than a screen test, this film is also a test of Technicolor’s latest three-strip subtractive color process. With the restoration you can see many variations in the colors, as Technicolor had not yet perfected the technique. A more refined version of this process would later be used in many famous color films, including The Wizard of Oz and The Red Shoes. As with the large-gauge film featured last week, many scholars visit the Film Study Center to research difficult-to-locate color formats, such as Cinecolor, Dufaycolor, and Prizmacolor.
Due to the uniqueness of many of our holdings, the Museum often contributes to resources such as the Timeline of Historical Film Colors. Learn more at Virtual Views: Film Vault Summer Camp https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibit…