|Intro||American media executive|
|From||United States of America|
|Field||Business Film, TV, Stage & Radio Journalism|
|Birth||7 April 1878, Houlton, USA|
|Death||15 November 1965, Boston, USA (aged 87 years)|
Natalie M. Kalmus (née Dunfee or Dunphy) (April 7, 1882, Houlton, Maine – November 15, 1965; Boston, Massachusetts) was the executive head of the Technicolor art department and credited as the color director of nearly all Technicolor feature films produced from 1934 to 1949.
Once an art student and model, she married American scientist and engineer Herbert T. Kalmus in 1902, and she later co-founded with him the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation, serving for two decades as the company's chief on-site representative at film studios. She was often credited as a co-developer of the Technicolor process itself and was a member of the production team that shot the first Technicolor footage in 1917.
A "ringmaster" of color
Kalmus collaborated with the art and wardrobe departments of motion-picture studios during the preparation and filming of Technicolor productions. She reviewed their costume selections, set furnishings, and lighting and then specified needed color changes and equipment adjustments to create the best visual "palette" for her company's Technicolor cameras. She and her staff also prepared color preference charts for each scene in a film. Kalmus by 1939, according to The New York Times, was earning $65,000 a year ($1,194,725 today) as an executive for Technicolor. In summarizing her duties as the company's color art director at various studios, Kalmus described her role "'as playing ringmaster to the rainbow'".
In her efforts to ensure that colors were properly registered and reproduced in filming, she was often accused by studio personnel of going to the extreme in set composition, of insisting on too many neutral or muted colors in scenes. "A super-abundance of color is unnatural", she once observed, "and has a most unpleasant effect not only upon the eye itself, but upon the mind as well." She recommended "the judicious use of neutrals" as a "foil for color" in order to lend "power and interest to the touches of color in a scene." In March 1939, during the making of Gone with the Wind, producer David O. Selznick complained in a memo to the film's production manager:
[The] technicolor experts have been up to their old tricks of putting all sorts of obstacles in the way of real beauty. . . . We should have learned by now to take with a pound of salt much of what is said to us by the technicolor experts. . . . I have tried for three years now to hammer into this organization that the technicolor experts are for the purpose of guiding us technically on the [film] stock and not for the purpose of dominating the creative side of our pictures as to sets, costumes, or anything else. . . . If we are not going to go in for lovely combinations of set and costume and really take advantage of the full variety of colors available to us, we might just as well have made the picture in black and white. It would be a sad thing indeed if a great artist had all violent colors taken off his palette for fear that he would use them so clashingly as to make a beautiful painting impossible.
Director Vincente Minnelli recalled of making Meet Me in St. Louis, "My juxtaposition of color had been highly praised on the stage, but I couldn't do anything right in Mrs. Kalmus's eyes." Director Allan Dwan was quoted as more blunt: "Natalie Kalmus was a bitch." However, Dwan and Kalmus never worked on a film together.
Her association with Technicolor ended in 1948 when she named the corporation as a co-defendant in an alimony suit against Herbert Kalmus. She sued unsuccessfully for separate maintenance and half his assets of Technicolor, Inc.
In 1950 she licensed her name for a line of designer television cabinets made by a California manufacturer.
Her personal and professional papers are now in the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Personal life and death
Natalie and Herbert Kalmus were married from July 23, 1902 to June 22, 1922, but they continued to live together as late 1944.
She studied at the University of Zurich and Queen's University in Ontario where her husband also taught physics, electro-chemistry and metallurgy and earned his doctorate.
Kalmus died at Roslindale Hospital in Boston, Massachsetts on November 15, 1965. Three days later, her funeral service and burial were conducted in the village of Centerville on Cape Cod. There her gravesite is located in Beechwood Cemetery.