Monday, March 2, 2015

Living in Color, Dreaming in Black and White

My colorized copy. Also includes a
black and white copy.
I broke my cardinal rule. I watched It's a Wonderful Life in color. I promised myself that I would never do it. Not only did I actually do it, but I also bought a copy of it in color.

The question becomes, after more than 25 years of watching the black and white version, WHY did I do it? The answer is actually pretty simple: Mary Hatch's mailbox.

Wait, what???!!! That's right. A mailbox.

About a month ago, while watching the black and white version, I thought I saw a nautical scene painted on the mailbox. It looked like a ship's bow and mast. The mailbox says, "Mrs. J.W. Hatch." But it's a mystery what happened to Mary's father. He doesn't exist. 

I thought that with a picture of a man hanging on the wall in Mary's parlor, along with a nautical scene on the mailbox, I might be able to explain his non-existence as being due to death at sea. But I couldn't quite make out the design in the black and white version. So I borrowed a copy of the colorized version from the library. 

IAWL in color.
In getting to that scene, I went a little too far, and landed on George and Mary's wedding day. While watching that part, I saw Mr. Gower in the crowd. I had never seen that before. I thought to myself, "If I missed that in the black and white version, what else can the colorized version reveal that I had never seen before?

So I bought a copy. And on Feb. 28, I watched it. What I found was amazing. In the first 10 minutes, I found 13 things I had never noticed before. That list will be the subject of a later post.

The most intriguing thing I noticed, however, was that not everything in every scene is colorized. For example:
  • The sign during the war montage is in black and white. Sure, you can say it's black lettering on a white sign, but look at the background. There is a distinct lack of color.
  • During the bank run, the people running behind the rear window of the car are in black and white.
IAWL in color.
  • During the scene where George walks into Billy's office and finds Billy looking for the money, the outside that can be seen through the window is black and white.
So now the question is "was it worth it?" Unequivocally, YES! I shouldn't really support the colorized version. I have always fought it and spoken out against it. But the newest colorized version is a far cry from the 1980s faded pastel colorized version. It's so much better than it used to be.

Having watched this film more than 800 times, I also needed a fresh look. That's what the colorized version did for me. I found new things. I found answers to some questions that I had (no, it's not a nautical scene).

I will continue watching this film in black and white on a regular basis. But when I have a question about something I see, I will turn to the colorized version just to make sure.

And I only paid $10 for it, so bonus points.

How do you feel about the colorized version?


  1. Nice post, Greg. What I like most is the friendly, conversational tone, bringing the reader along with you, almost as if he/she were sitting on your shoulder. All best to you in your quest! --Clay Eals

    1. Thanks Clay. For all of the wise advice and gut checks over the last 19 years or so. Sometimes it has stung, but you have never steered me wrong. I am so grateful for that.


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