The Lookout

See 1939 New York City in vibrant color

A newly released, captivating film clip brings to colorful life the streets of New York City—in the summer of 1939. You read that right: The color footage, which comes from Romano-Archives and was recently released on the Web, is 74 years old.

The description on YouTube states: “New York City, summer 1939. Rarely seen recently surfaced amateur movie, filmed by a French tourist, Jean Vivier, in 16mm Kodachrome. Great conservation state and incredible quality!”

That's for sure. The tourist video shows the hubbub of city life from downtown Chinatown to midtown to uptown in Harlem, and points in between. The men wear straw hats. Women wear full-skirted dresses. Pina coladas, advertised for 5 cents a drink, are being quaffed.

The elevated subway train, which no longer exists in Manhattan—part of the line on the city's west side has become the High Line park—lumbers overhead. Children splash about in the Washington Square fountain in the East Village. Double-decker buses pass by. The 30 Rock building looks unchanged.

Kodak amateur movie cameras had been available since 1935. According to the company’s website, “KODACHROME Film was introduced and became the first commercially successful amateur color film. It was initially offered in 16 mm format for motion pictures; 35 mm slides and 8 mm home movies followed in 1936.”

Although Kodak had introduced sound on film in 1937, the clip from the French tourist doesn’t have sound; a score was later added.

At the time this film was taken, Technicolor was being used on two classic and popular movies from 1939: “Gone With the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

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