Friday, October 14, 2016

Fashion Friday #13: The Lady of the Camellias

In 1961, Vivien Leigh embarked on a world tour, leading the Old Vic Company in three different plays with stops across three continents: Australia, South America and North America. One of the plays performed was The Lady of the Camellias.

In The Lady of the Camellias, Vivien plays a nineteenth-century courtesan named Marguerite Gauthier. The play was based on the book La Dame aux Camélias, by Alexandre Dumas fils (the son of Alexandre Dumas, writer of novels such as The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask). The character of Marguerite was based on Marie Duplessis, a real life courtesan that Dumas knew and loved. Sadly, Marie died of consumption (tuberculosis) at the young age of 23.

Over the years, La Dame aux Camélias has been adapted for the stage, ballet and film. The story also inspired Verdi's opera, La traviata. It's most famous film rendition is Greta Garbo's Camille, made in 1936 and co-starring Robert Taylor.

The costumes and sets for the Old Vic's production in 1961 were designed by Carl Toms. Mr. Toms really did his research. The time-frame of the play was moved from the 1840s to 1865. This put Vivien back into those hooped skirts she wore as Scarlett O'Hara in that little movie called Gone With the Wind. For The Lady of the Camellias, Vivien wore six different costumes.

Vivien Leigh with her co-star, Jack Merivale (Photo by Anthony Buckley)
The play opens in April, 1865, and in Act I, Vivien makes a stunning entrance on stage in a white opera cloak. One first hand account says that  A gale of admiring gasps always sweeps through the theater as Miss Leigh enters in a floor length cloak of frothy white ostrich feathers over her billowing white ball gown. I think I'd gasp out loud, too!

Vivien Leigh as Marguerite (Photo by Athol Shmith)
Beneath her opera cape, Vivien wore a hooped, white ball gown. The gown was adorned with ribbon and white camellias. The white flowers meant that Marguerite was ready to receive her gentlemen callers.

 Vivien Leigh in The Lady of the Camellias by Athol Shmith, 1961
The upper part of the bodice, or corsage as it was called in the 19th century, is trimmed in silk, ending in a tied bow. The bodice also features short, puffed sleeves, while the scooped overskirt is caught up with flowers and bows. All in keeping with ball gowns of the mid-1860s. The bottom of the dress ends in cartridge pleats.

The next costume, from The Lady of the Camellias, is a two piece ensemble with a short jacket. Jackets were actually very common in the 1860s. There were many different styles of ladies' jackets, which all came with their own names, such as the Pauline, the Senorita, the Zouave, the Eustache, the Robe, the Home jacket and many more.

Vivien's jacket is made from black velvet. The collar and lapels are turned back and trimmed with an ivory gauze featuring what appears to be a fluted ruffle. The same ruffle is also seen on the jacket's cuffs. The coral coloured, silk vest and jacket are made together as one piece. The second piece of the ensemble is the pleated, hooped skirt, which is also made from the same pink silk as the vest.

Vivien's dress as it appeared on the auction block. The dress was actually auctioned off twice. It made its auction debut back on December 17th, 1993, selling for just $459. Then it hit the auction block once more in 2012 as part of the Hollywood Legends sale. This time it sold for $3,200.

Label inside Vivien's gown
Next on the list is this black and white, evening gown. The dress features a low scooped bodice trimmed in a white, fluted ruffle, with an overlay of sheer, black material. The bodice's white sleeves are short, with pleated, black, sheer layers covering them. The top of the sleeves are caught up with tiny flowers at the shoulder.

The pictures above and below are drawings of Vivien as Marguerite, by the costume and set designer, Carl Toms. Here we can see the entire dress from the front along with a partial view of the back. Ball gowns in the 1860s were adorned in many ways (lace, ruffles, pleats, flowers, ribbons, bows, etc).  I can't really tell, from this bottom image, if those are suppose to be white ruffles or pleats, cascading down the backside of the gown. Either way, it's a stunning effect!

Next, we have another masterful example of Carl Toms' creative genius for Vivien in the role of Marguerite. He's imagined Marguerite in a summer dress, also consistent with the time period of the play.

Vivien shines in this lovely gown. Note the difference in color between Carl's illustration and Vivien's actual dress. Either the color of the dress was changed to the yellow pictured below or the photo below was colorized.

Photo by Anthony Buckley
The gown features long, puffed, bishop sleeves made from a semi-sheer material. The sleeves originate in pleats at the shoulder and end in cravat cuffs at the wrist. At the top of the dress is a cravat (necktie) collar. The collar and cuffs were made to match each other. The gown also features a floral/leaf design, repeated throughout the fabric. The print is more visible in the color photo, than in the black & white ones.

Bobby Helpmann, Vivien's good friend, directed her in The Lady of the Camellias. On Vivien playing the role of Marguerite, he said: It has come just at the right moment in her career. Edwige Feuillère and other French actresses are apt to overstress the grande dame aspect of the character and forget that she was a great courtesan. Miss Leigh blends the two aspects to perfection and has never looked lovelier than in the costumes Carl Toms has designed for her. She is a far greater actress than many people are ready to admit. Once she has made The Lady Of The Camellias her own on this tour, I want to see her play it in the West End, and score what may well turn out to be the most spectacular success of her career.

Thanks for joining me for this week's Fashion Friday post!

Paragraph 5 quote:
Elizabeth Reeve, New Zealand, Autumn-Winter 1962

Friday, October 7, 2016

Fashion Friday #12: Gone With the Wind's 21st Anniversary

Gone With the Wind celebrated its 21st anniversary in March, 1961. The celebrations were held in Atlanta, Georgia, in conjunction with the Civil War Centennial. Newspapers around the world ran headlines such as Scarlett turns 21. The three day event took place from Wednesday, March 8th to Friday, March 10th.

The luminaries began to pour into Atlanta on Wednesday. Olivia de Havilland,  David Selznick, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, George Murphy and several MGM business associates arrived together on a Gone With the Wind Delta Special flight. Thomas Mitchell, whom we all remember as Scarlett’s Pa, was too ill to attend the festivities. There was a large parade, with Olivia de Havilland in the lead car-- an open convertible-- that traveled down Peachtree Street.

Vivien didn’t arrive in Atlanta until the following day. After crossing the ocean, her plane landed first at Idlewild Airport (now JFK).  Vivien’s chosen outfit for the day was a two-piece tweed suit. The fawn colored suit featured large buttons and a fur collar. Her hat and shoes matched her suit perfectly in color. She topped her outfit off with a pair of dark sunglasses.

Unfortunately, when Vivien landed in New York, she agreed to a small press conference. The first reporter, who asked her a question, definitely asked her the wrong question. The journalist asked Vivien what part she played in Gone With the Wind.

Her response: Have you seen the picture? Have you read the book? When the fellow confessed that he had not done either, Vivien replied, Since you are not informed, gentlemen, there is no sense in continuing. But the reporter asked another question, Do you mind telling me what film you are going to do next?

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone and I’m not playing the Roman spring! Then she swept from the room in true Scarlett O’Hara style. According to Dorothy Kilgallen, her response was far saltier than what she was actually quoted in the papers.

Vivien arrived in Atlanta on Thursday. Joseph Baird of The Christian Science Monitor wrote: Miss Scarlett O’Hara of Gone With the Wind  fame came home after 20 years of wandering in foreign parts, and the people took her to their hearts like a long lost daughter.

After disembarking, she received a bouquet of red roses from Mayor Hartsfield. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, who was in Atlanta for the special occasion, also greeted Vivien at the airport. On the list of activities for the day was a visit back to the Cyclorama with Olivia de Havilland. Vivien had originally toured it on her first visit to Atlanta. Also on the list was a scheduled press conference. For this event, Vivien wrapped herself in a mink coat and capped her head in an amazing --you either love it or hate it (I love it!)-- hat.

This was a much easier press conference as all these reporters knew whom she’d played in the movie. Vivien called herself a middle-aged Scarlett and discussed her upcoming world tour with the reporters on hand. One question that Vivien was asked, How did you, as a British actress, manage a convincing Southern drawl?  She replied, I just studied it for two weeks. She was also asked about walking away from that press conference in New York. She said she felt sorry for him because he had never read such a marvelous book. I love the book and I love Scarlett.

On Thursday night, a costume ball was held at the Biltmore Hotel, hosted by the Governor of Georgia, Ernest Vandiver. Antebellum skirts swooshed through the hotel as ladies dressed up in crinoline dresses and the men dressed up as Confederate soldiers and gentlemen of days past. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, recited part of Stephen Vincent Benet’s Pulitzer Prize winning, epic poem about abolitionist John Brown, titled John Brown’s Body.

Radie Harris accompanied Vivien Leigh to the ball.
Vivien wore an original ball gown, specially created for the 21st anniversary gala. One source that I have says the dress was made from satin, while another says it was made from silk. In either case, the white gown had a billowing skirt, which trailed behind Vivien when she walked. The dress featured a green velvet waistband with flowing ribbons down the backside of the skirt.

The very fitted bodice showed off the gown’s gorgeous embroidery. Green-blue sprays of flowers were embroidered onto the gown and peppered with pearls and rhinestones. Vivien’s accessories for the evening included a three strand pearl necklace with a diamond drop pin around her neck, while diamond hair barrettes adorned her coiffure. She topped the gown off with long gloves and a fox fur wrap, both white to match her dress.

David Selznick wore a traditional tuxedo, while Olivia de Havilland glowed in a gold ball gown. She accented her sleevless lace evening dress with elbow length gloves.

The next evening Gone With the Wind re-premiered at the Loew’s Grand theater-- the same theater where the epic movie had its original premiere back in 1939. George Murphy played Master of Ceremonies.

On a special platform, Vivien told the crowd that It’s wonderful… it’s wonderful to be back. Her gown of choice for the evening was a sleeveless, white number with a small bow on the bodice. The ball gown featured sheer layers over the skirt, gathered in the back, for a cascade effect. She paired her dress with long white gloves, pearls and a brooch.

David Selznick presented a leather bound copy of the Gone With the Wind script to Mayor Hartsfield (who had also been mayor in 1939), along with portraits of Margaret Mitchell and Clark Gable. The portraits were unveiled by Vivien Leigh (for Gable) and Olivia de Havilland (for Mitchell).

This last picture is a screenshot from a youtube video on the festivities in Atlanta. From this angle, the side of Vivien's dress is visible and one gets a partial glimpse of the backside of her gown.

Thanks for joining me for this week's Fashion Friday post!

Boxoffice Magazine, March 1961
Radie's World by Radie Harris
The Christian Science Monitor, March 13, 1961

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fashion Friday #11: A Streetcar Named Desire

Vivien Leigh arrived back in the United States on August 1st, 1950, at the Idlewild Airport (now JFK), in New York. She was on her way to Hollywood to begin filming A Streetcar Named Desire. Vivien had originated the role of Blanche on the London stage and would now play her in the movie version. After meeting up with her new director, Elia Kazan, the two of them traveled by transcontinental train to California, stopping off in Wisconsin for a quick visit with her good friends, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

Vivien Leigh and reporters, August 1950
Vivien Leigh and Elia Kazan arrived in Pasadena on August 6th. Vivien stepped off the train, looking as young and relaxed as the day she started Gone With the Wind, with a huge smile on her face and white sunglasses in her hands. “Gadge and I have gone over the script line by line in New York and on the train coming out here,” Vivien told reporters. Gadge was Kazan's nickname.

Elia Kazan and Vivien Leigh
The outfit Vivien chose, to meet and greet everyone, was a two-piece silk ensemble, gray with yellow polka dots, with a full skirt and topped off with a jaunty little hat. She wore the same outfit on multiple occasions, a habit she started with the rehearsals for the London stage version of A Streetcar Named Desire.

When asked whether or not she and Olivier would be staying in the states for an extended duration, she replied,  “Our stay must be limited because we have to return to England to prepare for the great national drama festival, which is the centenary of one held in 1851. It is an event that will fulfill itself in all branches of entertainment, and we both hope to contribute to it as notably as possible. Therefore it will require much time and effort in preparation. Mr. Olivier could not accompany me, because he was concerned in England with the opening of a new play, but as soon as the London premiere is held, he will fly to Hollywood. I expect his arrival next Sunday. He has signed, of course, for a picture at Paramount, the adaptation of Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie.”

Olivier arrived in Hollywood a week after his wife, on August 13th, accompanied by Vivien’s daughter, Suzanne Holman. Vivien and William Wyler greeted the pair at the airport. Olivier showed off his new mustache for his upcoming movie, Carrie. After embracing, Vivien told reporters, “I can’t get used to his mustache. He felt he had better wear it until Mr. Wyler had determined whether or not it would be right for the picture.” Olivier admitted to not liking the mustache. The couple also admitted to reporters that they “would like to tour America sometime on the stage…”

“I never see Larry when he’s writing and directing, so I’m delighted that he’ll just be acting in Carrie Ames for Willie Wyler and Paramount. Even with both of us busy, we may have some time together.”

Another person brought over from the play's Broadway production was costume designer, Lucinda Ballard, who would later receive an Academy Award nomination for her costume designs for the movie. One of the things I most enjoy about Blanche's clothing is that Lucinda seemed to have captured Blanche's very being with her designs. She used soft feminine lines with delicate layers of silk, chiffon, lace and ruffles, reflecting Blanche's fragile state of mind and flirty girlishness.

The first costume from A Streetcar Named Desire is this blue number. The blue chiffon gown has what appears to be a faded covering of pink chiffon, with a ruffled collar and cuffs. Blue silk trim runs through the ruffled collar, ending in a bow at the bodice. The trim also runs through the sleeves' ruffled cuffs.

Vivien wears this gown in several scenes throughout the movie. Here she's pictured with Karl Malden.

Here's another photograph of Vivien wearing the blue dressing gown, captured in a light-hearted moment during a break in filming. She's posing with Gary Cooper, whom I cropped out to get a close-up view of Vivien's costume.

The second costume from A Streetcar Named Desire is this pink dressing gown. This particular robe was auctioned off a few years ago as part of the Debbie Reynolds collection. The pink and ivory silk gown features embroidered silk flowers on the chiffon sleeves with a ruffled collar, cuffs and bottom trim. The auction's catalog noted that the gown was in very fragile condition and that its original color had been hot pink.

Here's Vivien wearing this pink gown, in a scene with Karl Malden. 

It's also the outfit she wears when she tells Karl Malden (in that incredible scene) she wants magic, not realism. I don't want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I do misrepresent things. I don't tell truths, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that's sinful, then let me be punished for it!

Here's a screenshot of Vivien, again in the pink gown, and Karl together right before he turns on the lights! Both Vivien and Karl won Oscars for their performances: she for Best Actress and he for Best Supporting Actor.

Thanks for joining me for today's Fashion Friday post!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fashion Friday #10: House of Balmain

On Tuesday, October 25th, 1960, Vivien Leigh arrived in Cherbourg with her companion and fellow actor, Jack Merivale, aboard the Queen Elizabeth liner from New York. The two were fresh off the stage from co-starring in the play, Duel of Angels.  Vivien stepped off the Queen Elizabeth wrapped in a pale mink coat, with pearl and gold bracelets visible at the cuffs. Vivien’s fur baby, Poo Jones, also accompanied the couple.

Upon disembarking, the couple were asked about their romance.  You know I never discuss my private life, she said. John and I-- why, I've known him for 25 years, since we were both young things, struggling to make our names in London. He is a wonderful person. Jack was asked about a possible marriage between the two of them. Good heavens! That's very flattering, but I'm not going to say anything about it. The couple left Cherbourg for Paris in Vivien's blue Rolls Royce.

While in Paris, they stayed at the Hotel Raphael-- in separate rooms, of course. The couple visited one of Vivien’s favorite designers, Pierre Balmain. Her purpose in visiting was twofold: 1) Balmain would be creating her clothes for The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone and 2) she wanted something new for her personal wardrobe. At the House of Balmain, Vivien tried on approximately a dozen dresses. She finally settled on a dress with a matching coat, after Jack gave his approval of the outfit by saying, That’s the one, darling. You look wonderful.

Jack and Vivien attended the opening night of the ballet, La Belle Au Bois Dormant (aka Sleeping Beauty), on Thursday night. The play was produced by the Marquis de Cuevas and held at the Theater des Champs-Elysees. Cuevas was quite ill and attended the show’s premiere in a wheelchair.

Vivien wore her new ensemble from Balmain’s to the premiere, while Jack wore a classic tuxedo. Vivien's matching coat and dress were both made from the same red patterned, satin, material. The coat featured a collar with lapels, which ended just at the dress’ bodice. The coat’s sleeves were three-quarters in length. The evening dress featured a wrapped bodice, with a low cut V.

Jack and Vivien are pictured leaving the ballet. I know this isn't the best quality, but I wanted to share anyway, to show off the full length of the dress. 

Thanks for joining me for today's Fashion Friday post!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Little Miss Echo

Must She Always Be Little Miss Echo?
by Hubert Cole, originally published in 1940

I doubt that anybody would deny that the biggest screen role-- of the past ten years has been that of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. It would be strange wouldn’t it, if the girl who eventually got the role after so much heated competition, should eventually be killed by it?

That, I believe, is just what is happening. Miss Leigh, having scored one success with Scarlett, is going to echo and re-echo the role down the ages until everybody is thoroughly sick and tired of it. Unless something is done to stop it.

I am not blaming David O. Selznick, who cast Miss Leigh as Scarlett. The rot had set in some time before that. You can trace the Scarlett character back to A Yank at Oxford. That was the time when Vivien, having played two or three colourless ingénues in quota quickies, and then having been signed up by Alexander Korda with a fanfare of windy trumpets to play another colourless role in Fire Over England, first appeared as an unprincipled hussy.

She was, if you remember, the flirtatious wife of the elderly bookseller. She had so many affairs with the local undergraduates that her long-suffering husband at last decided to move his business. But, as she triumphantly announced, they were only moving to Aldershot. It was a very nice and naughty performance, that one in A Yank at Oxford. Her wide and innocent blue eyes contrasted attractively with her less innocent behaviour. She was a kitten with fully grown claws.

On the strength of that performance she was chosen to play the ambitious Cockney girl in Sidewalks of London. (It’s funny how blurbs of publicity follow Miss Leigh around-- as in the later Gone With the Wind campaign, there was a great deal of hullabaloo about finding an entirely new discovery, which ended up with Vivien Leigh getting the part.)

The girl in Sidewalks of London was as determined and unscrupulous as the bookseller’s wife in A Yank At Oxford. She was a little more open about it. She was at less pains to hide the fact that she would ride rough-shod over any obstacles, any ordinary feelings of kindness or gratitude.

And so we come to Scarlett O’Hara. Scarlett belongs to the select few heroines in literature who are intensely interesting and intensely unsympathetic. She is an American Becky Sharp.

She has ambition without principles, strength of purpose without conscience. She was a greater, more detailed study of the girl that Vivien Leigh had already played in A Yank at Oxford and Sidewalks of London. It was as if those two previous roles had been nothing more than a preliminary tryout for the final one.

If, indeed, they had been that --and if the course of training had ended there-- all would have been well. A monster production like Gone With the Wind might conceivably call for two test pictures to give the leading lady practice. But the three pictures together, and the triumph that Vivien scored in the third, seem to be her undoing. She is typed as the tough girl; the outward seeming sweet young thing with the callous core.

That, I am convinced, is why she was cast opposite Robert Taylor in Waterloo Bridge. Somebody, looking round for a subject for Vivien’s next picture, said: “Heck, why not Waterloo Bridge? That was all about a prostitute, wasn’t it?”

And Vivien, who is allowed to have no moral scruples on the screen, was given the part. As it happens, the girl in the story isn’t primarily a prostitute-- and is even less of one than she was in the earlier version, made before the purity campaigners got such a firm hold on Hollywood.

Actually, Myra in Waterloo Bridge is a very charming young woman, though an extremely foolish one. She becomes a prostitute not through willfulness or lack of moral sense, but because she is rather stupid.

That role might have been the opportunity that Miss Leigh was waiting for. It might have been the lucky accident that would have formed a stepping stone from the past series of unsympathetic roles to a new future of more pleasant ones. It might have removed the threat that she is condemned to play Little Miss Echo for the rest of her screen career.

But I’m afraid it hasn’t. Here she is now, off again down the path of mottled morals, playing Lady Hamilton to Laurence Olivier’s Nelson in the new film Alexander Korda is producing in Hollywood.

I’m not quite sure why Korda should be making the film at this time. There is obvious publicity value in the teaming of Olivier and Vivien; there is obvious topical value in the story of a great British admiral; but there is also the strange emphasis (as far as one can judge from the advance pictures) on the intrigue with Lady Hamilton and Nelson’s strange conduct in Naples-- a very unsavoury phase of his career.

And I suspect that the primary reason why he chose the subject was that Miss Leigh is still under contract to him and he thought Lady Hamilton a sufficiently immoral character to suit Miss Leigh’s style. For Korda, like the rest of the producers, apparently now believes that Miss Leigh has only one style.

Perhaps he is right. He should know more about her work than I do. But Waterloo Bridge, at any rate, seems to suggest she can play a young woman of good impulses and healthy outlook as well as she can the other kind. It may not be entirely the fault of the producers and casting managers that Miss Leigh has travelled so far away from the sweet young thing that she used to be in her early stage and screen days.

Two years ago, for instance, she said in an interview: “Quite a number of people were surprised when I appeared as a vamp in A Yank at Oxford, and took an unsympathetic part in Sidewalks of London. But in both cases, I felt that the roles were interesting and out of the rut. Since the films have been completed and shown, the letters I have received have proved I was right. Most of these letters say how glad the writers are that I have not confined myself to pretty heroine characters.”

To that insignificant statement you can add the story, recently published, that long before Gone With the Wind was ever made-- and certainly long before Vivien was approached to play the principle role-- she gave a copy of the book to a friend and autographed it from Scarlett.

In itself, the incident means little, except that Vivien not unnaturally saw herself in a role which was bound to be one of the most important on the screen. But set beside what she said in the interview, it seems to point clearly to the fact that she herself had a preference for unsympathetic roles-- and believes that the film going public likes best to see her in such roles. I believe she has been misled-- both by herself and her correspondents.

There is no doubt she takes her career seriously and laudably aims at becoming a great actress. It is true that many great actresses have played unsympathetic parts and created great reputations in them. It is also significant that, in one of her earliest and worst films, The Village Squire, she played Lady Macbeth.

All the way through, perhaps by chance and perhaps by choice, she has veered toward near villainy, she has appeared as a cold and calculating hussy.

There have been patches when she was just a normal, nice young woman-- but she does not seem to have been particularly interested in those roles. Unfortunately, she has some reason to despise them, for they were parts of no great value: the lady-in-waiting in Fire Over England, for instance, and the heroine in Dark Journey-- though the film itself was pleasant enough.

So, by avoiding being “confined entirely to pretty heroine characters,” she seems to have dug herself into an equally treacherous rut. If I have accused her wrongly of willfully going unsympathetic on us, I am sorry. If, in fact, she is fighting against such typing, I am doubly sorry-- that she has had so little success recently.

There is a great deal of danger in stereotyping her in unpleasant parts. It is difficult-- probably impossible-- for a young actress to become great if she confines herself to unsympathetic roles. Unless Vivien Leigh breaks clean away from Scarlett O’Hara and all the other minor Scarletts, I fear she is going to find herself in the middle of a lot of grief.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Versatile Laurence Olivier

Article originally published in 1941

Versatile Laurence Olivier Stars With Vivien Leigh In "21 Days Together"
Laurence Olivier, whose latest success is as Larry Darrant in "21 Days Together," was born on May 22nd, 1907, in Dorking, Surrey, where his father was a clergyman. Laurence's early education was for the ministry, as it was thought that he would follow in his father's footsteps. The Rev. Gerard Olivier was interested in the drama, and he took his small son to see all the great stage celebrities of the day.

Laurence Olivier & Vivien Leigh in 21 Days Together

 His early schooldays were spent at a choir school in London, from where he went to St. Edward's, Oxford, and he distinguished himself there in pre-clerical subjects. He had become interested in the stage when his father took him to the theatre, and as he grew older and studied the personalites of the various people with whom he came in contact, he longed to dramatise the different characters he met. Eventually he told his father that he wanted to go on the stage. Some clerical fathers might have been upset to hear their son express such a wish, but the Rev. Olivier promptly transferred his son from the pre-ministerial St. Edward's to the Central School of Dramatic Art. His ministerial studies had groomed Laurence well in English and vocal training, and he had made one appearance on the stage when he was fifteen years old, at the Shakespearean Festival Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon; in a special boys' performance of "The Taming of the Shrew."

Laurence Olivier in The Taming of the Shrew, 1922

On London Stage
Before his period of schooling was over, he had played on the London stage. One of the early engagements was with the Birmingham Repertory Company, and he also toured in "The Farmer's Wife." Prior, to this, he had had a very lean time trying to convince casting agents that he was an actor His money got as low as seven shillings and sixpence and he was faced with a bill for a month's rent. He was determined to make good on his own and refused to ask his family for any financial help. Sybil Thorndike, who had known him as a child, secured a walking-on part for him. To gain experience he played in Sunday night shows whenever the opportunity presented itself. Even when important parts came his way, Laurence still played in as many Sunday shows as possible, and among them he created the part of Captain Stanhope in R. C. Sheriff's "Journey's End." When the play was put on at a public theatre he was offered the role, but he chose another offer which had come his way, that of playing the lead in Basil Dean's production of "Beau Geste."

Beau Geste

Two of Laurence Olivier's early stage roles were in Shakespearean productions and today the immortal bard is his favorite playwright. He feels, however, that Shakespeare's work can never be suitably adapted to motion pictures. His only experience with Shakespeare off the screen was as Orlando to Elizabeth Bergner's Rosalind in "As You Like It." He has, of course, played many Shakespearean roles on the stage, and critics have said that these have made him the superb artist that he is.

Visits America
In l929 he paid his first visit to America, playing the role of Hugh Bromilow in "Murder on the Second Floor." He made a sensational success in New York in this play, and it brought him many film offers, all of which he turned down. When he was back in England, however, he decided that he would have a try at a film career. His first picture was made in Germany and it was entitled "The Temporary Widow." He always smiles when he recalls his first day's work at the studio.

Too Many Crooks

He then played in the British films, "Too Many Crooks" and "Poliphar's Wife," and while he was experimenting with picture work he was still carrying on his stage career. It was about this time that he played in "After All," with Elissa Landi, and "Private Lives," with Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence. When the latter play went to New York, Laurence and Jill Esmond, to whom he was then married, went too. They were seen by screen talent scouts and were signed to go to Hollywood. Laurence's first American film was "Friends and Lovers." Then came "The Yellow Passport," in which he renewed acquaintance with Elissa Landi, followed by "Westward Passage," with Ann Harding.

Numerous Films
He returned to England at two days' notice in order to play opposite Gloria Swanson in her first British picture, "Perfect Understanding." Shortly after this he was signed to play opposite Greta Garbo in "Queen Christina," and he dashed off to Hollywood once more, only to find that the role had been given to John Gilbert. So back he went to England. His films since then have included "No Funny Business," "Moscow Nights," "Fire Over England," "The Divorce of Lady X," "Q Planes" and "21 Days Together."

Fire Over England with Vivien Leigh

He went back to America to play the part of Heathcliff in "Wuthering Heights," after which he was sensationally successful on the Broadway stage opposite Katharine Cornell in "No Time For Comedy." His performance in Wuthering Heights," witnessed by producer Selznick, led to his casting in the part of Maxim de Winter in Rebecca," followed by "Pride and Prejudice." Olivier has brown hair and eyes and is five feet ten inches in height. His marriage to Jill Esmond ended in divorce early last year, and soon afterward he was married to Vivien Leigh. He has always been studious, and while not at work on stage or screen he continually reads. He is an ardent devotee of gardening, at which occupation he takes most of his outdoor exercise. He does, however, also swim and ride.

Versatile Actor
Laurence is a versatile actor. He can play irresponsible youth, romantic leading men and tragic roles with equal ease. Despite the fact that he has gained great success with one or two gloomy roles, he would prefer to play comedy. Give him a gay part any day, he says.

No Time For Comedy (from Getty Images)

He is rather a silent individual, but nobody at the studio ever accuses him of being "high hat." In fact, he has his prankish moments. He is not a bit interested in seeing his name constantly in the papers; in fact, he will tell newspaper men, whenever they endeavour to interview him, that he is a boring fellow. He refuses, too, to go to places where the publicity people feel he ought to be seen because press photographers will be lurking around. The publicity department at the studio finds him quite a difficult problem at times.

In "21 Days Together," which commences a Hobart season at the Strand Theatre next Friday week, Olivier is co-starred with Vivien Leigh. Taken from the exciting works of John Galsworthy, the film has been described as one of the year's best romantic dramas.