The first image consultants were the costume designers from the old Hollywood.
The advent of color at the cinema in the late ’30s began a series of studies on the subject, up to the development of the color analysis system.
It is amazing to review old movies and notice that to each character is assigned a specific color palette to make it look more beautiful or stronger. Or, if necessary, more worn or weaker.
Today we analyze the use of color in Gone with the wind (1939), starting right from the protagonist:
Scarlett’ colors (or, better, actress Vivien Leigh’ color) are cold and intense.
The most recurring and representative color of the character is undoubtedly the GREEN: bright, strong and voluble.
But there is a wide range of shades of RED in her palette, obviously declined in the colder and deeper variations.
This color lights up the most intense and passionate scenes ….
And it is also the color of seduction. What about the CRIMSON RED dress worn by Scarlett for Ashley’s birthday?
Obviously all these nuances are cool variations of red, with a certain amount of blue, in harmony with the skin undertone of the protagonist.
In fact, another recurring color is BLUE, a beautiful shade from the protagonist’s palette.
And so we find it in all its nuances: from the most vibrant, which enhances the liveliness of her gaze …
… to the most profound and regal shade.
Even in the portrait of her Atlanta home, Scarlett wears a dress that suits her color palette.
This particularly bright AQUAMARINA shade is technically halfway between water green and icy green.
It makes perfect the idea of the proud and radiant mood of the protagonist in this famous scene.
But the range of strong and vibrant colors does not end there.
A touch of lemon YELLOW is always present in the scenes in which Scarlett appears particularly capricious.
In practice, using the seasonal color theory system, we can say that Scarlett belongs to the “Winter” category.
And indeed she can wear BLACK like no other …
The strength of the protagonist is well represented by the chromatic intensity and strengthened by the use of rich fabrics such as velvet.
But the use of CONTRAST is also very interesting: in addition to strengthening the character, it enhances her skin-eye-hair combination.
As we said at the beginning, we can also use color to accentuate NEGATIVE ASPECTS.
Not surprisingly, warm colors (enemies for this type of skin tone) are used in times of war, illness or poverty …
Scarlett’ antagonist does not have very different colors: they are always cold colors.
Yet for Olivia de Havilland in Gone with the Wind, it has been used a much more delicate palette, which helps to define a more peaceful, weaker and more defenseless character.
It is the great unreciprocated love, with a mild and melancholy personality.
Ashley is a redhead and always in perfect palette, with clothes and details in warm and autumn colors.
The other great protagonist (Scarlett’ true love) is him: the unforgettable Clark Gable, strong and passionate.
Its cold and intense palette is always enhanced by very deep colors: from anthracite gray to black, passing through the midnight blue. All strengthened by contrasting patterns.
Gone with the Wind is from 1939: the list of movies where you can appreciate an excellent color work is still long and certainly I will propose new examples.
In the meantime, if this topic fascinates you, I will point out my Color Analysis course: two days to study the theory of color.
Italian Image Institute