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The Gaucho – Outtakes of Technicolor Inserts

00:00 Introduction by Anthony L'Abbate, Preservation Manager, Moving Image Department, George Eastman Museum 
03:43 [The Gaucho – Outtakes of Technicolor Inserts] 

[The Gaucho – Outtakes of Technicolor Inserts] (US 1927)
Director: [F. Richard Jones]
Photographers: [Tony Gaudio, Abe Scholtz]
Cast: Mary Pickford 
Production Company: Elton Corp.

Production date: 1927
Sound: silent
Color: Desmet replication of  Technicolor process No. 2
Length (in feet): 361 ft.
Length (in reels): 1
Running time: 5 min. 29 sec.
Frame rate: 18 fps

Generous support for the video introduction provided by Art Bridges
Digitization funded by the National Endowment for the Arts
Preserved at Technicolor Creative Services
Digitized by Eastman Museum Film Preservation Services
This film has been made accessible to the public in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: NEH CARES. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this video, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities

Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford were leading actors and producers who, in partnership with Charles Chaplin and D. W. Griffith, founded United Artists in order to distribute their films. Yet over the course of their respective careers, Fairbanks and Pickford starred together in only one film: The Taming of the Shrew (Sam Taylor, 1929). Beyond that, Pickford made uncredited appearances in two of Fairbanks’s major productions: The Black Pirate (1926) and The Gaucho (1927). (See the test for The Black Pirate here.) The images seen here were tests for the grotto scene in The Gaucho in which Pickford appeared as the Madonna. The tests reveal the design changes that the sequence underwent as the art department and cinematographer experimented with various methods of achieving special effects such as the light that frames the Madonna’s head. The takes also include some of the crew arranging Pickford’s costume before she fades into the grotto, making the crew appear to be ghosts in the machine. 

These color tests were made in the Technicolor process No. 2, a dye-transfer method in use at the time. Despite favorable reactions from Pickford and Robert Fairbanks (Douglas’s brother and General Manager of Elton Corp.), Douglas Fairbanks was not happy with the color inserts in what would otherwise be a black-and-white film. He considered it bad taste to mix the media. Fairbanks had shot the entirety of The Black Pirate in two-strip Technicolor at enormous cost and after months of color tests for scenic design, hair, make-up and wardrobe. Ultimately, Technicolor’s plant in Boston received a wire from its cinematographer J. A. Ball in Hollywood indicating that Fairbanks would not be using the two-color process for The Gaucho. Nevertheless, these tests were mercifully saved by Fairbanks. At some point, this reel reached a safe haven at the Eastman Museum. The tests carry no titles aside from what appears on a sceneboard, and even that is not very illuminating as to who might have been behind the camera. We credit the film’s director, F. Richard Jones, and its main photographers, Antonio Gaudio and Abe Scholtz, as these tests were critical to the production, and Pickford was the principal performer.

There is some debate over whether or not the public actually saw the Technicolor grotto prologue. A review in the Exhibitor’s Herald (November 12, 1927) referencing the world premiere—held November 4 at Sid Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood—states that the prologue was in Technicolor. The Brooklyn Times Union (November 23, 1927) review of the New York City premiere at the Liberty Theatre mentions “the opening scenes in color that are particularly lovely.” Based on these notices, it is probable that the prints screened at the Hollywood and New York premieres did use the Technicolor prologue, but any additional prints and screenings, per Fairbanks’s instruction, did not. His own print, preserved by the Museum of Modern Art, was black and white.