Editorial in the Telegraph: BBC In Colour ... Vivid images of a vanished decade





When we picture the 1930s, the images that spring to mind are, almost invariably, black and white. Although the end of the decade saw Judy Garland's Dorothy following a brilliantly yellow road to the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz, for most of us, the film's monochrome Kansas sequences still equate with the "reality" of the era.

Colour processing came of age at this time, but it was a while before the mass media got the message. Think of the Thirties and we think of a monochrome Chaplin in Modern Times or the Marx Brothers in Room Service. Newsreel footage of the time, saturated in the despair of the Depression and international unrest, matched Hollywood for silver-screen starkness. The absence of colour in Picasso's gruesome mural-monument to the slain in Guernica (1937) seems to say it all: the outlook in Europe was grim - why cast it in Technicolor?

A new TV series, though, looks set to challenge our assumptions and reprogramme our collective memories. It wasn't all doom and gloom; it wasn't all black and white. The same BBC4 team that has transformed public perception of the early 20th century over the past two years with such documentary series as The Edwardians in Colour, The Great War in Colour and The Twenties in Colour has been beavering away, tracking down rare archive material that recasts WH Auden's "low dishonest decade" in a surprisingly exotic light...

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