While sound was rapidly merged with the image, color proved more difficult. Many early films were hand-painted, and various mechanical methods of suggesting color were developed. But the technology necessary to reproduce color comparable to that perceived by the eye only developed during the 1920s and attained a full palette in 1933 with the introduction of three-color Technicolor. Ironically, by this time, black-and-white was assumed to represent "reality" on screen and color was first used primarily in musicals, fantasies, and large-scale spectacles. Color replaced black-and-white as the dominant medium during the late 1950s, perhaps because it could be marketed as an alternative to black-and-white television.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.