Charlie Chaplin….in color!

I’m sure we are all familiar with the iconic film in which Charlie Chaplin plays a down and out tramp…the film called Making a Living?

Well, that film was originally filmed in monochrome at that time.

But very few people know that a chap called Charles Zoller, an American photographer, recreated the film in beautiful color using an old photo editing process.

It’s not really full color as we know it, but if you look closely, you can see a little pink tone on Chaplin’s cheeks and the wall behind him. The process is called colorization and was initially done by hand, to individual frames, but rarely for whole films, as you can imagine…two films to feature whole length colorization were Cyrano de Bergerac  (1925) and Last days of Pompeii (1926).

Apparently, the modern version of this was invented in the 70s by two Canadians (yaay, Canada!), Wilson Markle and Christian Portilla and was immediately taken up for colorization of the NASA moon landings in 1970.

But getting back to Charlie Chaplin, the autochrome as it’s called, adds a lot of pathos and appeal to the tramp character, bringing him to life suddenly.

And the process was not confined to Hollywood alone; it was also taken up by film producers in many other countries around the world….especially so by the biggest movie centre aside of Hollywood, namely Bollywood, the Indian cinematic production machine. An example of colorization of one of the biggest cinema hit movies in Bollywood at the time is shown below, a scene from a film called Mughal-e-Azam, released in 1960, immediately breaking all box office records and becoming the highest grossing Bollywood movie of all time, a record it held for 15 years!

So yes, coloristaion….a fabulous thing that brought new life to already famous films!

photos courtesy


About filmcamera999

ME & MY PASSION! ok, you probably looked at the length of this "about me" page and thought, god, what's wrong with this guy!....does he have to start telling us his life story or something!!? well, youve come here now anyways, so why not hear what im like as a person, eh? ive been using film cameras for well over 30 first one being the family yashicamat twin lens! over the years, ive both bought sold and collected film cameras...too many to tell the truth! in fact, ive been buying and selling cameras well before the internet came on the scene, so anything you purchase from me is backed by my self-styled moneyback promise.....if you dont like what youve bought, send it back within 14 days and you get all your money arguments!! WHERE I STAND ON THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION! yes, i do use digital as well, but only as a ready-reckoner...i try and take most shots with my simple 2megapixel digicam....if the shot looks good, i pull out my film camera and shoot! i most defintely do not believe in digital manipulation of photographs....that in my eyes is not photography...its cheating! WHERE I USED TO LIVE, WHERE I AM NOW & WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO DO! i used to live in Ontario, Canada, but moved back to the UK a little while ago (its a long story..!)...but now i'm living in the one place i always wanted to be...Vancouver, BC..the next best thing to paradise on earth! as i work as a freelance writer as well as other things, i often find hat my work takes me to europe for short spells, so i get to travel a lot...not a blessing, as i just hate long flights! im a qualified Quality Assurance guy (you know...ISO 9000, auditing, documentation etc) ....99% of my skill-set is transferable so i can handle any admin or documentation-related roles....see you in BC! otherwise, i specialise in ISO 9000 auditing and documentation. my dream? to have my own thriving camera shop in Vancouver BC, whilst living in the mountains somewhere.....the best of both worlds!
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2 Responses to Charlie Chaplin….in color!

  1. reocochran says:

    I happen to life black and white movies but do like the way they colorize. They don’t seem to ruin the movie, film. But the way black and white looks (and the sepia and cream of the very old films) much more like it matches the era. It is hard to put into words how I feel. Does this make sense about liking it because it is the way it was made…? Robin

    • hmm..youve hit a very valuable nerve there with your comments, robin!
      ieed, its a very difficult thing to pin down…the colorization is beautiful in itself…it brings a new life to the genre…but in another sense, the original monochrome..the cream and sepia as you eloquently put it….is a different thing altogether…that feeling of originality it evokes just cannot be had from a colorized film or photo….hope that make sense to you robin…and hope i havent shot myself in the foot with my comments!

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