Right, that too as RAH has stated many times here that it was almost criminal what happened with certain film elements. I think such films as Jesse James and Leave Her to Heaven were among those type of Technicolor films.
Around 1976, with an apparent fear of nitrate stock, certain execs at Fox decided that it would be appropriate to "convert" to safety any and all nitrate holdings.There are two ways to perform this. The first, and least expensive, would be to create new safety fine grains from each of the original black & white nitrate Technicolor records, and then re-composite said records to a new color dupe negative. This would be performed after a test print had been produced, checking for dupes, alignment of records and other potential problems.The precise same methodology would deal with black & white productions, less the alignment tests.These actions would have preserved the library AT ITS ORIGINAL QUALITY.Once all elements would be produced, tested and answer printed, the original nitrate elements would go into archival storage, lest they be needed again. The LoC, UCLA, GEH, or MOMA would all have been perfect places to shepherd the elements.The other way to "preserve" an entire library would be the route taken by Fox, one of the most notoriously idiotic things ever done in the history of film, and IMHO worse than the great silent purge at Universal, c. 1948.What these knights of film preservation did, was to take original Technicolor negatives, and without testing, combine the records to a single safety color dupe negative stock called CRI, thus saving one generation of loss, and not going through an intermediate stage.CRI stock was not meant for archival printing, and generally has a shelf life of less than ten years, properly stored, before it quickly begins to fade.The fact that proper alignment was not done was error one.The fact that CRI stock was used was error two.Had proper testing been performed, there would have been nothing wrong using CRI as an immediate printing element, but not for archival use. While the resultant prints could potentially, if created from fully exposed negatives, be very pretty, there were registration errors printed in, and color timing generally did not replicate the original intent of the filmmakers.Once the CRIs were produced, the lab then made error three.New separation masters, from partially registered, improperly graded, and in many cases, overly dupey and contrasty CRIs were struck. These new "archival" elements, replicated in quick and dirty separated records, what had been improperly exposed to the CRI.Once all of these miracles were performed, every original nitrate Technicolor three-strip negative was junked. Every (I believe one survived) set of three-strip nitrate fine grains were junked.Every black & white nitrate negative was junked.Every black & white fine grain master was junked of Fox's holdings. A small number may have survived at archives.Fortunately, the Fox nitrate studio prints went to UCLA.Rumor has it, that the nitrate elements were taken out into the Pacific on barges, and dumped, but that may just be rumor.Today, because of the unprofessionalism of those who came before them, do the best that they can with what survives.None of the Techniciolor films have been restored, no matter what you may read. Films such as The Black Swan, which won the Academy Award for Best Color Cinematography, and Leave Her to Heaven, with its beautiful Technicolorish tones are digital clean-ups based upon the extant elements, with a good attempt at making them look nice. But far from original.While digital technology is helpful, it cannot repair the damage done to these films.Every time I think of this unfortunate situation, Henry Hull's words, as spoken in both Jesse James and The Return of Frank James come to mind.Fortunately, every other studio had the foresight and technical knowledge to take care of and properly store their libraries.Let's look to the bright side.RAH