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'Funny Girl,' 'Big Parade' restorations at TCM Classic Film Fest

April 24, 2013|By Susan King

New digital restorations of “Funny Girl,” the 1968 musical that introduced Barbra Streisand to the big screen, and King Vidor’s 1925 World War I epic “The Big Parade,” starring John Gilbert, will get their world premieres at the TCM Classic Film Festival this weekend.

"Funny Girl” kicks off the four-day festival of vintage films Thursday evening at the TCL Chinese Theatre. "Big Parade" screens Saturday afternoon at the Chinese Multiplex 1.

Both films were restored for upcoming Blu-ray releases: "Funny Girl" makes its Blu-ray bow on Tuesday fron Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and Warner Home Video is unveiling "Big Parade" this fall.

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This isn't the first time these films have been restored. Both went through major restorations in the last decade, but that was before the Blu-ray explosion.

“To get to Blu-ray, every frame has to be scrubbed,” explained George Feltenstein, senior vice president, catalog marketing, Warner Bros. Digital Distribution.

“Funny Girl,” directed by the Oscar-wining William Wyler and also starring Omar Sharif, is based on the hit 1964 Broadway musical that made Streisand a star as the popular singer/comedian Fanny Brice. Streisand took home an Oscar for lead actress -- she shared the award with Katharine Hepburn of “The Lion in Winter.”

"Funny Girl” was restored by the traditional photochemical method 12 years ago. However, the film’s original negative was in such bad shape, it couldn’t be used back in 2001. “It was full of scratches and torn in many places because they made a lot of prints off of it,” said Grover Crisp, executive vice president, asset management, film restoration and digital mastering for Sony Pictures Entertainment.

So that restoration was forced to use second- and third-generation materials, “which lessens the overall image quality," said Crisp.

But thanks to new digital tools, the original negative was used for this painstaking digital restoration at Sony Pictures’ Colorworks.

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The original negative had also faded over the years “but with the color correction system that we have we can pretty much dial that color back in it," said Crisp.

“The Big Parade” received its face-lift back in 2005.

“Warner Bros. funded the film preservation and did the photochemical restoration at that time,” said Feltenstein. That restoration, he said, “brings you a nice raw film element but that doesn’t get you to Blu-ray."

Ned Price, vice president, mastering, Warner Bros. Technical Operations, oversaw the digital restoration, said Feltenstein. "I saw a bit of it yesterday and it’s spotless. It’s remarkable.”

Film preservationist/historian/documentarian Kevin Brownlow, who found the long missing original nitrate negative of "Big Parade" at the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., will be introducing the screening Saturday. 

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