Rouben Mamoulian Charles Davy - Essay

Charles Davy

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Nobody knows yet whether Becky Sharp will inaugurate a decisive new vogue for colour films. Nor does anybody know whether a general use of colour would enrich or impoverish the artistic resources of the cinema. I think it might do both.

Becky Sharp, loosely adapted from Thackeray's Vanity Fair, is the first full-length picture to use the new Technicolor process, and it establishes certain facts….

One thing that colours can do on the screen is to intensify emotional moods. A powerful red can send an immediate emotional stimulus surging out over an audience, and all the audience need do is to submit to its intoxicating influence. Rouben Mamoulian, in directing Becky Sharp, has tried to make use of this possibility by building up to an ominous red climax—red uniforms, red lamps and a red glow in the distant sky—at a moment when the sound of guns breaks into the Duchess of Richmond's ball on the eve of Waterloo. Many of his colour effects here are vivid and expressive, but there is something false, I feel, in the application of this rather arbitrary device to real people and real events.

Charles Davy, "Films: 'Becky Sharp'," in The London Mercury, Vol. XXXII, No. 190, August, 1935, p. 376.