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.