Natalie Kalmus

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Natalie Kalmus
Natalie Dunfee or Dunphy

(1882-04-07)April 7, 1882
DiedNovember 15, 1965(1965-11-15) (aged 83)
OccupationTechnicolor color supervisor
Spouse(s)Herbert Kalmus (1902–1922)

Natalie Kalmus (née Dunfee or Dunphy) (April 7, 1882, Houlton, Maine – November 15, 1965, Boston, Massachusetts),[1] was credited as the "color supervisor" of virtually all Technicolor feature films made from 1934 to 1949. She was married to Technicolor founder Herbert T. Kalmus from July 23, 1902 to June 22, 1922, and they continued to live together until 1944.[2]

Originally a catalog model, then an art student, Kalmus made sure that costumes, sets and lighting were adjusted for the color film process's sensitivities. Her services were contractually part of Technicolor's services. In her work to make sure filming rendered colors properly on screen, she was accused of going to the other extreme of mildness. She wrote: "A super-abundance of color is unnatural, 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."[3] Producer David O. Selznick complained in a memo during the making of Gone with the Wind:

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."[5] Director Allan Dwan was more blunt: "Natalie Kalmus was a bitch."[6]

Her association with Technicolor ended in 1948 when she named the corporation as a co-defendant in an alimony suit against Herbert Kalmus, when it appeared he was about to remarry. She sued unsuccessfully for separate maintenance and half his assets of Technicolor, Inc.[7] In 1950 she licensed her name for a line of designer television cabinets made by a California manufacturer.[8][9][10] Her personal papers are now in the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


  1. ^ Passenger list, S.S. France, Port of New York, June 2, 1926. Passenger list, S.S. Normandie, Port of New York, July 29, 1935. Passenger list, S.S. Queen Mary, Port of New York, 7 August 1939. Passenger list, S.S. Queen Mary, Port of New York, December 24, 1947.
  2. ^ Kalmus v. Kalmus (1950) 97 CA2d 74.
  3. ^ From an article on the filming of Trail of the Lonesome Pine: "[I]t did seem strange that a color director would have concerned herself, in other respects, with toning down the color effects, instead of striving for the kaleidoscopic riot in which some previous color efforts have resulted. Mrs. Kalmus explained that: "You can tell a story with color," she said. "You can build character and locale with it. But if you use too much of it, you may just spoil everything." "So Very Red the Noses," New York Times, Feb 16, 1936, p. X5.
  4. ^ Memo from David O. Selznick to production manager Ray Klune, March 13, 1939. Gone with the Wind was the fifth Technicolor picture Selznick made in three years.
  5. ^ Vincente Minnelli, I Remember It Well, New York: Doubleday, 1974.
  6. ^ Morris, Gary. "Angel in Exile", Bright Lights Film Journal, Issue 17, September 1996. However, Dwan and Kalmus never worked on a film together.
  7. ^ "Funds Asked to Trace Technicolor Romance," Washington Post, Nov. 5, 1948, p. C9.
  8. ^ "Natalie Kalmus Joins Richmond in TV Firm", Billboard, April 8, 1950, p. 11.
  9. ^ "Choose a TV set designed for the homes of Hollywood Stars" (advertisement), New York Times, Dec. 14, 1950, p. 28.
  10. ^ Natalie Kalmus, Television History — The First 75 Years.

Further reading[edit]

  • Natalie Kalmus, "Color Consciousness," Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers 25, August 1935, p. 135-47.
  • Natalie Kalmus, "Colour," in Behind the Screen: How Films Are Made, Stephen Watts, ed. London: A. Barker, Ltd., 1938.
  • Kathleen McLaughlin, "Expert in Color Photography, Woman Is Paid $65,000 a Year," New York Times, Feb. 26, 1939, p. 46.
  • "Madam Kalmus, Chemist," New York Times, April 2, 1939, p. 134.
  • Natalie Kalmus, "Doorway to Another World," Coronet, vol. 25, no. 6, April 1949.
  • Richard L. Coe, "Nation's Screens to Take on Color," Washington Post, March 7, 1950, p. 12.
  • Scott Higgins, Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow: Color Design in the 1930s. University of Texas Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-292-71628-5.

External links[edit]