Thursday, January 12, 2017

21 Cool Things About "That Hamilton Woman!"

Here's a list of 21 cool things about That Hamilton Woman, starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, that I have put together in celebration of the film.

1. The movie's based on the real life love affair of Emma Hamilton (April 26, 1765 to January 15, 1815) and Horatio Nelson (September 29, 1758 to October 21, 1805). The two first met in 1793, two years after Emma's marriage to Sir William Hamilton.

Portraits of Emma, Lady Hamilton and Admiral Horatio Nelson
2. That Hamilton Woman wasn't the first (or last) time that Emma and Nelson’s story would receive the big screen treatment. In order of year, the films are:
1919, The Romance of Lady Hamilton, with Malvina Longfellow and Humberston Wright
1921, Lady Hamilton, with Liane Haid and Conrad Veidt
1929, The Divine Lady, with Corinne Griffith and Victor Varconi
1941, That Hamilton Woman (also known as Lady Hamilton), with Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier
1968, Emma Hamilton, with Michele Mercier and Richard Johnson
1973, The Nelson Affair (also known as Bequest to the Nation), with Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch

3. In The Nelson Affair the part of Nelson was played by Peter Finch, whom Olivier had discovered in Australia, in 1948. Finch repaid Olivier by cuckolding him. He was also Vivien’s co-star in Elephant Walk, a movie in which she, unfortunately, wasn’t able to complete. 

4. In the spring of 1940, Leigh and Olivier invested heavily in their stage production of Romeo and Juliet. The play was not a success and had many difficulties, including harsh reviews from critics. The play opened in San Francisco, traveling to Chicago and New York, where it finally closed, leaving Leigh and Olivier broke.

Laurence Olivier & Vivien Leigh as Nelson and Emma in That Hamilton Woman
5. That Hamilton Woman was Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier’s first movie together as man and wife. It was also their third and final screen pairing. Their first two movies were Fire Over England and 21 Days.

6. Upon returning to Hollywood to film That Hamilton Woman, the Oliviers rented a house on Cedarwood Drive, which came with a giant sheep dog named Jupiter. Jupiter was lucky enough to accompany them to the set on an almost daily basis.

Vivien Leigh and Jupiter on the Hamilton set
7. During one of the fight scenes, Olivier's wig caught on fire. A flame from one of the torches dropped down from an extra, landing on top of his head. Luckily, Henry Wilcoxon (playing Captain Hardy) was able to snatch the wig from Olivier's head and put out the fire before any damage occurred to Olivier.

Henry Wilcoxon in action as he whips the wig from Laurence Olivier' s head.
8. When asked about Olivier playing a character with only one arm and one eye, Vivien replied, What does it matter? Larry can do more with one eye than most men can do with two!

9. Gladys Cooper played Olivier’s wife in the film. In real life, Gladys was married to Philip Merivale, Jack Merivale's father. Jack would later become Vivien’s post-Olivier boyfriend. 

10. Hazel Rogers styled Vivien's hair for That Hamilton Woman. She also worked on Vivien’s hair for Gone With the Wind and would later work with her on A Streetcar Named Desire.

11. Vivien’s costumes were designed by Rene Hubert. During the publicity campaign leading up to the various premieres, the costumes could be seen decorating the windows of department stores such as Hudson's Bay and Bonwit Teller. They were then housed back in Hollywood, where they would either be rented out or re-used in other movies. 

12. Another part of the publicity campaign included Vivien dressing up as Emma based on the portraits of George Romney. Romney painted the real Emma Hamilton somewhere around the two dozen mark. Vivien recreated at least five of these portraits; however, she wasn't the first actress to do so. Corinne Griffith also recreated a few of Romney's paintings of Emma for her film, The Divine Lady, back in 1929.

Emma Hamilton, Corinne Griffith and Vivien Leigh
13. Vivien wears this gorgeous, faux diamond and emerald necklace (pictured below) in That Hamilton Woman. The necklace was originally created for Greta Garbo to wear in the 1936 movie, Camille. Greta complained that the weight of her cape caused the leaves of the necklace to pierce her skin, so she refused to wear it. Eugene Joseff, the jewelry designer for both Camille and That Hamilton Woman, brought the piece out of storage for Vivien to wear.

14. The set designer was Vincent Korda, brother of Alexander Korda. Artwork, tapestries and statues were imported from overseas to decorate the lavish sets. Vincent's creations included the British embassy in Naples, which took up an entire sound stage and featured a courtyard; Emma's bedroom, with that gorgeous bed she reclines in; the royal Naples palace; and Emma's London home. 

15. Joesph Breen, of the Production Code Administration, refused to give his approval to the movie as it didn't show Emma and Nelson sorry for their adulterous lifestyle. Korda added the scene of Nelson's father lecturing him, to satisfy Breen and receive approval.

16. The Oliviers missed the premiere of That Hamilton Woman as they’d left the United States for England at the end of December, 1940. On leaving the U.S., Vivien said, I know London is not the safest place in the world right now, but it is still my home and that's where I want to be.

Vivien Leigh & Laurence Olivier in That Hamilton Woman
17. The Hollywood premiere was held at the Four Star Theater on Wednesday, March 19, 1941. Tickets for the sold out show were $5 each, with the proceeds going to the British Royal Air Force Development fund. Many members of the production and cast attended the premiere, including: Vincent Korda, Alexander Korda, Merle Oberon (who was married to Korda at the time), Sara Allgood, Gladys Cooper, Alan Mowbray, Halliwell Hobbes, Henry Wilcoxon and Norma Drury.

Many of Hollywood's big names also came out for the premiere, including: Sonja Henje & husband Dan Topping, Olivia de Havilland, David Selznick, Samuel Goldwyn, William Wyler, Claudette Colbert, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, Gary Cooper, Ronald Colman, Basil Rathbone, Joan Bennett, Charlie Chaplin, Greer Garson, Buddy Rogers and Mary Pickford.

Mary Pickford, Sam Goldwyn, Sonja Henie and Dan Topping attend the Hollywood premiere of THW.
18. That Hamilton Woman premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on April 3, 1941. It broke the box office record for Easter Week.

That Hamilton Woman opens at Radio City Music Hall and all 6,000 seats were sold out!
19. England was at war with Germany and Alex Korda's number one motive for making this movie was propaganda. For doing this, Korda was ordered to appear before a Senate committee on charges of attempting to incite America into war. The hearing was cancelled and a second one was scheduled for December 12, 1941. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, on December 7th, Korda's hearing was dismissed.

20. The movie was reportedly one of the favorite movies of two world leaders: Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill. According to one of his assistants, Churchill had watched the movie approximately 6 times by the end of 1941.

21. That Hamilton Woman received four Oscar nominations, winning for Sound Recording, at the 14th Annual Academy Awards, held in 1942. The nominations were for the following :
Art Direction (Black & White) -- Art Direction: Vincent Korda; Interior Decoration: Julia Heron
Cinematography (Black & White) -- Rudolph Maté
Special Effects -- Photographic Effects by Lawrence Butler; Sound Effects by William H. Wilmarth
Sound Recording -- General Service Sound Department, Jack Whitney, Sound Director (Winner)

Screen Guide, February 1941
Charmed Lives by Michael Korda
Various newspaper articles
Oscar info from AMPAS

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Seven Things About Vivien Leigh

To celebrate Vivien Leigh's birthday today, I've put together this fun list of seven general things in regard to Vivien Leigh and her work.

Conrad Veidt and Vivien Leigh in Dark Journey
1. When it came to the lead female role in Dark Journey, Vivien Leigh wasn't the first choice to play Madeleine. Miriam Hopkins was originally scheduled to play the French spy opposite the sly role of Conrad Veidt. She dropped out due to differences with the film's director, Victor Saville. Instead, Miriam starred in, Men Are Not Gods, which Vivien was rumoured to have been the lead actress.

Ivor Novello and Vivien in The Happy Hypocrite
2. Vivien Leigh and Ivor Novello treaded the boards together, for the first time, in The Happy Hypocrite, in 1936. But they also appeared onstage together, for a second time, for a one week performance during the Annual Garden Theater Party.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind
3. Vivien Leigh hated tea! Even though she was British and born in the tea capital of the world, Darjeeling, Vivien didn't enjoy the drink. She even remarked once that she thought the tea-time ritual was a waste of time!

A scene from Sidewalks of London showcasing the borrowed jewelry.
4. In Sidewalks of London, Vivien's character, Libby, gets to wear some awesome jewelry. The bracelet, earrings and ring were on loan from Boucheron of Bond Street. The cast and crew (including Vivien) all thought these pieces were costume jewelry. They didn't know they were the real thing until after the movie was finished. Producer Erich Pommer and Boucheron didn't want the jewelry to disappear during filming.

5. While Vivien was in Hollywood making Gone With the Wind, she learned how to play the accordion. According to Hugo Vickers' biography, she became proficient enough to play Swanee River and Banjo On My Knee.

Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in That Hamilton Woman
6. Most Vivien Leigh fans already know that That Hamilton Woman was one of Winston Churchill's favorite movies. By the end of 1941, Churchill had purportedly watched it approximately half a dozen times. Coincidentally, it was also one of Joseph Stalin's favorite movies.

A studio portrait of Vivien Leigh
7. While Vivien Leigh was in Hollywood, she developed a fondness for college football, American-style. Her favorite team was UCLA. When they didn't make the Rose Bowl tournament that year, Vivien was very disappointed. One Hollywood magazine even called her a demon fan when it came to football!

Thanks for joining me today in celebration of Vivien's 103rd Birthday!

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!