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The First Fully Colorized Movie

Updated on September 6, 2019
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Dusty is an avid classic movie fan who wants to share movie stories and evoke conversation about them.

Some background details

Becky Sharp

1 hr 24 min Drama/Romance/War 1935 6.0 stars

Director: Reuben Mamoulian and Lowell Sherman

Cast: Miriam Hopkins - Becky Sharp

Frances Dee - Amelia Smedley

Cedric Hardwick - Marques of Steyne

Nigel Bruce - Joseph Sedley

Alan Mowbray - Rawdon Crawley

William Stack - Pitt Crawley

Warning: Plot revealed

This movie has a distinct claim to cinematic history as it is the first ever completely colorized film.

The plot of this movie is that of Vanity Fair a novel by Thackeray and movie made in 1932. This is essentially a remake of that movie.

Movie Poster
Movie Poster | Source

Just who is Becky Sharp anyway and why is there a movie about her?

This movie has a distinct claim to cinematic history as it is the first ever completely colorized film.

The main character, Becky Sharp, can be described by several choice adjectives “Selfish, “petulant” and “ungrateful” are the first three such adjectives to come to mind. She could be described as a gold digger, social climber and a fraud. But she is also a scrappy survivor who is resourceful and tenacious. This story takes place in early 19th century England during the Napoleonic Wars. Her personality is really very similar to that of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind.

The movie opens with a farewell from a girl’s school. Amelia Crawley and Becky are both departing having finished their studies at Miss Pinkerton’s Academy. Great praise is lavished upon Amelia and she is presented with a dictionary as a graduation gift. She says she will cherish it. Becky is given a short talking to – but, in fact, Becky does most of the talking. As she leaves she throws her dictionary gift at Miss Pinkerton. This opening scene gives us an accurate first impression.

The Loves of Becky Sharp

Prevailing upon Amelia and her brother, Joseph, who has come to pick her up, Becky indicates that she has nowhere to live, but will end up upon the streets. Smitten by her beauty Joseph offers to have her come and live at the Sedley mansion. Amelia eagerly agrees because they are friends.

Becky hopes to marry Joseph, but he can’t bring himself to propose because she is beneath his station. Amelia, at the same time, however, gets engaged to George Osborne.

Becky leaves to find employment as a governess for the younger children of the Crawley family. The older two, adult, Crawley sons capture Becky’s attention, or rather she captures theirs. The two Crawley sons are named Pitt and Rawdon. They could not possibly be any different from each other. Pitt is very somber and religious. Rawdon is wild and dashing. Becky falls for Rawdon and they marry. Pitt, though married himself, never loses his affection for Becky.

It is on the marriage to Rawdon that we see a virtue in Becky. She is truly in love with him and remains faithful to him though others want her.

George Osborne, the husband of her friend Amelia, is in love with Becky. This ruins the friendship between Becky and Amelia, but Amelia’s mistrust of Becky is unfounded. She may flirt, but her heart is for Rawdon and she always directs George back to Amelia.

Rawdon and Becky live beyond their means and gamble to acquire money. That habit catches up to them and will cause great difficulty.

Miriam Hopkins as Becky Sharp
Miriam Hopkins as Becky Sharp | Source

The War's Effect on Becky Sharp

The men, Rawdon, George and Joseph are all in Belgium in the English army on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo (which places the scene in June 1815). Becky is there as well and they are all at an elegant ball. There is talk of fighting, but all conclude that it will not affect their party. A rich, powerful and dashing man enters the scene. He is the Marquis of Steyne. Becky is dazzled by him and he is enchanted with her. She is possibly attracted to him, but she is definitely attracted to his wealth! They start an association of friendship and flirting, but she does not cheat on Rawdon.

During the ball the Battle of Waterloo commences. Cannon fire is clearly heard and a huge gust of wind bursts through the doors and windows and disperses the quests. Rawdon, George, and all the soldiers go off to fight. Becky watches them leave and as if to illustrate her heartless cruelty and selfishness she says, “In an hour they’ll be dying for their country; well I’m dying for my breakfast”. The Marquis of Steyne then whisks her away to safety.

Rawdon survives the battle; George does not and Amelia is widowed. Becky and Rawdon are broke and try as she might Becky cannot get money to pay a gambling debt that Rawdon has accrued. She resorts to a dinner with Steyne. Rawdon is out of the house but things don’t go as planned. Steyne makes romantic advances towards Becky though she tries to ward him off. Just then Rawdon returns to see Becky and Steyne together. He leaves in anger and though Becky pleads with him to stay he divorces her. Steyne will have nothing more to do with her either seeing she tried to play him for a fool; she just wanted his money.

The Rescue of Becky Sharp

Penniless, loveless and destitute Becky performs at a club. She sings, but is roundly booed and is dragged off the stage.

She is miserable and does not know what to do. She sends a letter to her brother-in-law, Pitt asking for help to pay bills promising to go with him to church.

Unbeknownst to her, Joseph Sedley was in the audience at the club where she was singing and came looking for her. He brings Amelia, his sister, and the two women make up. Amelia and Becky are friends again. Becky shows uncharacteristic selflessness in a scene of virtue when she challenges Amelia to pursue and old childhood friend, the single William Dobbins. Dobbins is interested in marrying Amelia, but when Amelia states that they are going to take in the poor destitute Becky he says “no” and gives her an ultimatum. It’s either Becky or him. Selflessly Becky tells Amelia to go and marry William because her love is more important than for her (Becky) to have a place to stay.

Joseph comes to Becky and proposes marriage. She accepts and they plan to leave for other parts of the world, but then Pitt arrives with money. Joseph hides while Pitt gives Becky the much needed cash and a book of moral principles. Pitt and his wife try to get Becky to come to church with them, but she feigns illness so they depart. Joseph comes out of hiding and they prepare to depart, but first Becky opens the window and throws Pitt’s morals book at Pitt who is in the street.

She ends the movie as she began it, throwing a book at someone who tried to help her by promoting morals.

The bulk of the movie revolves around her marriage to Rawdon, a man she truly loved, and their life style of gambling and living above their means. During this time Becky summed up her philosophy about life and advancement, “all it takes is the least touch of wit.”

The Lessons of Becky Sharp

The bulk of the movie revolves around her marriage to Rawdon, a man she truly loved, and their life style of gambling and living above their means. During this time Becky summed up her philosophy about life and advancement, “all it takes is the least touch of wit.”

At the end of the movie we see one instance of selflessness but in general she remains selfish, petulant and ungrateful. Throwing the book at Pitt and his wife was mean. Pitt to be sure was “casting his pearls before swine”.

Becky could be true to only a few; she was to Rawdon, to Amelia and eventually to Joseph. But she never saw the real worth of any others; she only saw their utility for her schemes.

This is not a story of redemption; rather it is a story of survival, cunning survival.

Is it a happy ending? Yes, but it is not a happy life because Becky was born into poverty, the daughter of a showbiz mother was never satisfied with the money she had nor the status she obtained. She could not enjoy success. In fact she enjoyed hunting for money and power more than having it.

It is beyond the scope of this movie but if she went off and married Joseph that would signal a major change. First, Joseph would permit himself to marry below his station, but by then Becky had demonstrated an ability to hobnob with the upper crust. It would also signal a change in Becky. She would no longer seek to climb and hobnob. Joseph was departing far away and if Becky goes along (the presumption, if married) she would be out of the high society environment. Perhaps she would be forced by circumstances such as that to be more selfless. After all it was her street upbringing that had originally instilled both her anti-virtues and her scrappiness. Perhaps over a long time in a remote place she would learn differently.

There is indication that she is teachable. After all it is the friendship of the Sedleys that helped her to truly advance in the more virtuous things in life. She did value that family. But she did not get that from the overbearing Pitt nor from the wolfish Steyne who would use her just as soon as she would use him. The departure of Rawdon was a pity, but the match with Joseph a true new beginning.

Movie Trailer

Full Movie - Public Domain


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