The Final-Hour Preservation of Dance, Girl, Dance in Nitrate

The Final-Hour Preservation of <em>Dance, Girl, Dance </em>in Nitrate<em></em>

A slyly feminist film by the only woman directing in the Hollywood studio system of her thirties-and-early-forties heyday, Dorothy Arzner’s Dance, Girl, Dance stands as one of the era’s most groundbreaking—and entertaining—backstage sagas. And as it turned out, a different sort of behind-the-scenes drama developed during the production of Criterion’s edition of the film (now available). Our timing in approaching Warner Bros. about the prospect of restoring and releasing Arzner’s 1940 movie, one of a few titles in the company’s library directed by the trailblazer, ended up being quite fortunate: without our edition on the horizon, the film’s nitrate camera negative—always the best element to use for restoration purposes, when one is extant—could have decomposed completely in storage.

The story starts with Warner Bros.’ commitment of considerable resources to the preservation of its own library, efforts that the company—with which Criterion has enjoyed a long working relationship—has recently been able to streamline. “Really for the last three years, we’ve had an initiative that we jokingly refer to as preservation on steroids,” says Warner Bros. senior vice president of theatrical marketing George Feltenstein, who oversees the studio’s vast back catalog of titles. “We’ve got a large team going after as much content as possible and addressing the preservation needs. And we’re scanning . . . the best surviving elements at 4K, and this becomes what we can rely on in the future, hopefully, as a backup. But with a library as large as ours—and ours is by far the largest in the industry—you can’t do everything all at once.”

The cold-storage vault at Warner Bros.

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