In the late 1800s, Thomas Edison and George Eastman came up with a way to capture motion on film. Using Eastman's cellulose-based film and a still camera, the two created some of the world's first moving images in black and white. An industry was born.
As early as 1903, filmmakers were experimenting with capturing the color of real life on film. Using filter systems such as Kinemacolor, developed by Charles Urban, black-and-white film was exposed and projected through a color filter system. Film was also tinted to create color. Artists painstakingly tinted film to create washes of color, adding an element of real life to film. One of the earliest examples of this is in the 1915 film Birth of a Nation.
During the 1920s, Eastman Kodak developed more systems such as Lenticular film, two-strip Technicolor and, in 1932, three-strip Technicolor. It was this process that had some success in Hollywood. Walt Disney began producing Technicolor cartoons in 1933. In 1939, Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz both used Technicolor.
Eastman Kodak started offering 16mm portable color home movie cameras in 1936 that used Kodachrome film. Several advances in the flexibility of film stock, color developing and camera size made it easy to travel and shoot color film anywhere in the world. Amateur filmmakers, such as Francis Line, began documenting a world they had longed to, in full color.
As America entered World War II, the U.S. government seized all commercial color film for the war effort.
To learn more about the history of color film, please look here