Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Happy 100th Birthday, Vivien Leigh

Happy Birthday, dear Vivien!

Vivien Leigh was born 100 years ago today, on November 5, 1913, in Darjeeling, India.

Here she is on the set of "That Hamilton Woman" cutting into her cake, on her 27th birthday.

  In addition to acting on the stage and screen, Vivien modeled for major fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar; posing for all the great photographers of the time.

On Christmas Day, 1938, George Cukor told her she'd won the part of Scarlett O'Hara, her most famous role, a selfish southern belle.

 At the end of August, 1940, she married the love of her life, Laurence Olivier. They remained married until 1960.

 During Vivien's life, she won a multitude of awards for her acting, most notably two Academy Awards, a BAFTA and a Tony.

Vivien, still in stage make-up from her successful play as Cleopatra, listens to the radio as her name is announced as the winner of the Best Actress for "A Streetcar Named Desire."
Happy Birthday, Vivling!

Friday, October 25, 2013

John Rawlings, Photographer

John Rawlings, 1912-1970, was an extraordinary photographer, whose work appeared in fashion magazines such as Vogue and Glamour. He photographed models, socialites, stage stars and film stars, with a career that spanned from the 1930s through the 1960s.

The iconic Vivien Leigh was photographed by Rawlings in 1937. Here, Leigh models a Victor Stiebel evening gown for British Vogue. Stunningly beautiful in this photo, he's not only captured Vivien's glamour, but her intensity as well.


Monday, October 21, 2013

I Married A Witch

In the tradition of screwball comedies, comes this farce, titled, I Married A Witch. The movie is based on the book, The Passionate Witch, by Thorne Smith.

Released in October 1942, directed by Rene Clair and produced by Preston Sturges, I Married A Witch is a romantic albeit fanciful comedy. Jennifer (Veronica Lake) and her wiley father Daniel (Cecil Kellaway) are burned at the stake in the late 1600s by Jonathan Wooley (Fredric March), for witchcraft. Before being burned alive, Jennifer curses Wooley and all his male descendants to be unhappy in love and that the marriages they make will be disastrous for his denouncing her as a witch. An oak tree is planted over Jennifer and Daniel's ashes to keep their souls from ever doing harm again. Wooley's male descendants are then shown through time, all with their shrewish wives doling out tonguelashings.

In the 20th century, 270 years after their burning, a lightning bolt strikes the oak tree, releasing Jennifer and Daniel's spirits from the old tree's roots. Nearby, at a private party, they find Wallace Wooley, a candidate for governor and engaged to Estelle (Susan Hayward), a humourless socialite. After observing them, Jennifer tells her father that her curse is working on the Wooley men. Daniel says that's no curse at all. Jennifer then gets the mad idea that if Wooley were to fall in love with her and she spurned him, then it would be a worse fate than marrying the wrong woman.

First, she needs to be human again as father and daughter are two spirals of smoke. He sets the Pilgrim Hotel on fire. Wooley, Estelle and his friend Dudley (Robert Benchley) are passing by on their way home from the party. They stop for the fire. Wooley then hears someone calling to him from inside the hotel. He enters, finds Jennifer and rescues her from the fire.

Check out those ankle boots!
Screwball antics then ensue for the remainder of the film. Veronica Lake's carefree character, Jennifer, is excellently executed against the stodginess of Fredric March's Wallace Wooley.

Jennifer shows up in Wooley's house uninvited in hopes of making him fall in love with her. No matter how coyly she smiles at him, he won't budge from his fiancee, Estelle.

Whipping up a love potion that will soon wickedly backfire on her.

Wooley and Dudley meet Jennifer's father, who is not at all pleased that his daughter is in love with a mortal. He, of course, has a plan to rid his daughter of her mortal love.

Lake is completely bewitching in this film. In the movie's beginning, she practically purrs out her lines. Since Lake is only smoke, we have to base our first impression of her character on her voice. She and March, for all their reported off-screen dislike of one another, are the perfect match on film. Their great screen chemistry is one of the many pleasures found in this movie.
There's a rumor that Veronica added a 40lb weight to her dress for the scenes in which March had to carry her. Lake was only 4'11" and very thin, so I don't think an extra 40lbs made her that heavy, though March certainly may've had a different opinion on that.

Edith Head designed the costumes for this film. This black chiffon gown is simply gorgeous with its bodice detail and see-through sleeves.

I Married A Witch is in black and white. I love the fact that the studios issued lobby cards in color. Except for this last photo, all the color pictures are from my lobby card collection.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Twenty Questions Vivien Answers Herself

Picturegoer, November 26, 1955

You might say I'd brought it on myself. It all began when I criticized Vivien Leigh (Picturegoer, September 10) for her descent into The Deep Blue Sea, writes Margaret Hinxman.

The comments from readers about that were so various and positive that I thought this surely was the moment for a searching interview with the lady whose recent silence had caused such speculation.

So why not, I suggested in a letter to her, give me an interview and help set the score straight? There were many questions I wanted to ask on behalf of Picturegoer readers.

Her reply was brisk and to the point: Miss Leigh would be pleased to see me for fifteen minutes between performances at Stratford-on-Avon.

They were fifteen minutes I shan't easily forget. I hadn't thought that such a tiny woman could be so awe-inspiring. On the dot I was ushered into her presence.

Trim and self-possessed under vivid stage make-up, she parried some questions, enlarged on others and quite bluntly answered the rest.

She was unfailingly charming. In between times, she toyed with a cigarette, signed autographs, accepted a gift from a Swiss "fan."

And here are the replies she gave to the questions everyone is asking about Vivien Leigh:

Question: For choice, would you prefer now to concentrate on the stage or the screen?
Vivien Leigh: I honestly don't mind. Both are exciting. I love my profession in any form.

Future Plans
Q: It's been reported that you will go to Hollywood to appear in "Anastasia." True?
VL: No. You don't want to believe all you read. I've no immediate plans to film in Hollywood. Of course, we have an interest in the play "Anastasia"; we put it on in London.

Q: What other plans have you for the future?
VL: Two months' rest after the Stratford season (now finishing). I haven't had a break since I started The Deep Blue Sea.

Q: I understand that you've been looking for a good comedy in which to appear. What luck have you had?
VL: I'm always looking for comedies, but they're very difficult to find. When a good part -drama or comedy- comes along, I take it.

Favorite Roles
Q: Do you find it easier playing comedy?
VL: Not particularly. None of it is easy. It's all very difficult. Acting is difficult. That is what makes it so interesting.

Q: What do you most like playing on the screen?
VL: I like to do roles I've played on the stage. I find it helps a great deal with my interpretation on the screen.

Q: Did you enjoy making "The Deep Blue Sea"?
VL: Very much. Although I would have liked to have had more time-- but the Stratford season forced us to a deadline date.

Q: Were you satisfied with the film? Do you think it could have been a better picture?
VL: I thought it was very good. But I wasn't very happy about the flashbacks. I felt the picture should have retained the claustrophobic, intimate quality of the play.

Q: Were you happy working with Anatole Litvah?
VL: He's a fine director. Very understanding and very patient.

Q: What in your opinion are the mistakes you have made in your career?
VL: That's a difficult question. I can't think of any just now. Everything helps to give you some kind of experience in your work.

Q: What in your opinion are the wisest moves you have made?
VL: Shakespeare. It's the most sensible thing any actor could do. This season I think "Titus Andronicus" is my favorite play.

"He's Helped Me"
Q: Some critics have suggested that Sir Laurence has, in a sense, been the power behind many of your stage performances. Do you agree?
VL: Of course. He's helped me enormously. That's quite natural, isn't it?

Q: Do you think that on the stage sometimes he tries to angle the spotlight on to you rather than himself?
VL: I don't understand you. But if you mean: "Does he concentrate on my performance rather than his own?", of course not.

Q: Is he a very exacting person, professionally, to work with?
VL: We're both very exacting people. We both work tremendously hard.

Q: Why do you choose to play these great tragic roles?
VL: I think I've answered that in replying to your fourth question.

Q: Do you feel as a personality that you are right for them?
VL: I'm never satisfied with my performances, but I'm an actress. An actress should play anything she considers worthwhile.

Q: What is your reaction to press criticism? Do you think a lot of it is unfair?
VL: I dislike generalizations. I think a lot of it is thoughtless. After all, an actor lives with a part for months before the critics see it.

Business Brain?
Q: In what way, do you think some criticism is thoughtless?
VL: I think very often an actor is credited with faults in a performance that aren't due to him at all.

Q: It has been said that you have a very shrewd business brain. Do you think this is true?
VL: No, it's not true at all. I'm not particularly interested in the financial side of this profession.

Q: Do you think that, as an actress, you drive yourself too hard?
VL: All actresses are inclined to do that. I don't think I do, any more than any other true artist. The theatre is a very exacting profession.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Vivien Leigh

One of my favorite portraits of Vivien. This stunning picture captures her on the cusp of fame.

This photo of Vivien signed, "With love from Vivien" and a second one, signed "With very best wishes Vivien" sold at a Christie's auction for $929 in November 2009. Each photo measures approximately 7 x 10.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New Facebook Page!

I'll be including photos of Laurence Olivier along with those of Vivien Leigh.

Ain't love grand...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Vivien Leigh Archive

I am so excited. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has acquired the "Vivien Leigh Archive", from her family.

November will mark the the centenary of Vivien Leigh's birth, a two-time Oscar winner and the second wife of Laurence Olivier. Though she played countless roles, she was best known for playing Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind.

This archive, purchased from her family, contains scrapbooks, photos, diaries and letters that all belonged to Vivien Leigh.

Vivien was a prolific letter writer and wrote thousands of letters during her lifetime.

From the V&A website:
The archive also contains more than 7,500 personal letters addressed to both Leigh and Olivier from the likes of TS Eliot, Arthur Miller, Sir Winston, Marilyn Monroe and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother who thanks the couple for remembering her.

Professional correspondence includes letters from Tennessee Williams, including one from 1950 about Leigh's role as Blanche in the film adaption of his play A Streetcar Name Desire, in which he writes: "It is needless to repeat here my truly huge happiness over the picture and particularly your part in it. It is the Blanche I had always dreamed of and I am grateful to you for bringing it so beautifully to life on the screen."

The Victoria and Albert Museum will have a "revolving" display this autumn. Hopefully, sometime soon, maybe in 2014, the V&A Museum will allow persons (such as myself!!!) in to view the entire collection for research purposes. The British Library in London houses the Laurence Olivier Archive, which is availabe to researchers.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Made in Paris

Made in Paris is a delightful romantic comedy set in Paris. It stars Ann-Margret, Chad Everett, Richard Crenna, Edie Adams, John McGiver and the incredible Louis Jourdan. The film was directed by Boris Sagal and written by Stanley Roberts.

Ann-Margret plays the virginal Maggie Scott, a young lady employed in Barclay's department store. The store is owned by Roger Barclay (John McGiver), who decides to send Maggie to Paris on a trial run as fashion buyer on the advice of Irene and his son Ted. Irene (Edie Adams), the fashion buyer for Barclay's, is quitting to get married. Roger stresses to Maggie that she must make sure to get the Fontaine account as Barclay's is currently the exclusive American retailer for this French line.

Irene, a "woman of the world" type, tries to let Maggie know how she keeps Fontaine's account, but is constantly interrupted and isn't able to give her the lowdown. Maggie and Ted (Chad Everett) have a few flirty moments before she leaves for Paris.

Ted calls his good friend Herb Stone (Richard Crenna), a reporter living in Paris, and asks him to look after Maggie during her stay. Maggie arrives in Paris and is met by Herb. He escorts her to Barclay's company apartment. The apartment is beautifully decorated. Maggie, exhausted by her flight, decides to go straight to bed.

Enter Louis Jourdan. Louis Jourdan plays Marc Fontaine, who's been having an affair with Irene and doesn't know she's wed. Fontaine lets himself into the apartment. He mistakenly thinks it's Irene in the bed. Bonus: Louis Jourdan goes shirtless twice!

When he realizes his mistake, he tries to leave, but Maggie wakes up. After a few minutes of frustrating dialogue, Fontaine thinks Maggie is acting childish, so he tears up her invitation to his fashion show for the following day.

 Maggie decides to attempt entry into Fontaine's fashion show the next day anyway. Of course she's caught.

Fontaine takes pity on her and allows her to view the show from his office. He gives her tips on which of his designs will sell really well in the States and which clothes are just for the runway.

While in the office, Fontaine receives a phone call and makes plans for the evening. Maggie eavesdrops and concocts a plan for Fontaine to view her as a woman and not a child. I'd always heard Ann-Margret described as kittenish. Watching this movie, it's easy to see how she achieved this modifier, especially in the film's big musical number. Maggie hits the dance floor in an attempt to seduce Fontiane. Is she successful? You have to watch the movie to find out!

Ooo-la-la! Maggie and Fontaine kiss! What woman woudn't want to kiss Louis Jourdan?

After Roger Barclay receives a telegram from Fontaine, Ted flies to Paris. Maggie informs him that the Fontaine account is fine and she doesn't need his help.

After Ted finds out that Maggie kissed Fontaine, he becomes angry. Ted and Fontaine brawl over Maggie, which, I'm not going to lie, is fun to watch. Maggie leaves the apartment without the guys knowing it. Barclay has also sent Irene to Paris. So Irene arrives at the apartment, but Maggie isn't there. She's out on the town with Herb Stone.

The next morning, after her wild night out with Stone, Maggie makes her decision over which man she'll choose. Whom will it be?
This romantic comedy is as lovely as Ann-Margret. Everyone does a great acting job. The script suffers somewhat and could've been slightly crisper. The amazing costumes are by Helen Rose.  Also, great set decoration by Keogh Gleason and Henry Grace. Standouts of the film are: the big, musical number; the clothing; set decor; and Ann-Margret's hair. I'd rate this film 3 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier on the cover of Plays and Players, October 1955.

Plays and Players was a theatre magazine that began publishing in the 1950's. The magazine deals primarily with the London stage, but mentions noteworthy plays in other major cities. In 1955, Vivien played Viola in Twelfth Night, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth and Lavinia in Titus Andronicus. All three plays co-starred her husband, Laurence Olivier.

There is a half page review of Vivien as a Shakespearean actress. It ends with these words: Let nobody say then that Vivien Leigh is a beauty who cannot act, when she is prepared to risk her reputation in parts for which she is physically unsuited, playing them better than most people would have expected. Vivien Leigh is an actress and an adventurous spirit in the theatre, who is prepared to extend her range at a time when most leading ladies are content to go on playing the same type of part over and over again.

How truly amazing it must have been to see Leigh onstage in these roles. It's a shame that none of these plays were ever filmed, so that decades later, other generations could enjoy them.