Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Vintage Bride: Vivien Leigh, Part Two

When Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier first met, they were both married to other people: Vivien had married Leigh Holman, a barrister, in 1932 and Olivier had married Jill Esmond, an actress, in 1930. After carrying on an affair for some time, Vivien and Larry finally decided to leave their respective spouses and move in together, in 1937. However, they weren't able to obtain divorces from Leigh Holman and Jill Esmond for another three years.

Marriage rumours started following the couple around as early as September, 1939. Photoplay jumped on the wedding train, too, with this imaginative drawing of what Vivien Leigh should wear for the ceremony. They called it a navy blue with pink accents, dinner costume of faille taffeta that will be a stunning addition to any trousseau after the ceremony. 

I feel that when a man loves a woman and vice-versa, there isn't much sense in keeping it quiet, Vivien Leigh said in a newspaper interview. In January, while Vivien was vacationing at Lake Arrowhead, the divorce proceedings finally began.

Vivien's mother, Gertrude Hartley, weighed in on the future Oliviers, After the divorces, they will be happy as larks. They adore each other. After all, that's all that anyone can demand from life.  Olivier and Leigh's respective divorces became absolute later that year in August.

Now that they were officially divorced, they could at last become Mr. and Mrs. Olivier. Vivien and Larry decided to keep their upcoming marriage and all of its details a secret. The only people who knew in advance were Ronald Colman and his wife, Benita Hume. Benita even went to her jeweller and purchased Vivien's wedding ring, as a ring for herself, so as to not arouse suspicion for the happy couple. Garson Kanin was then drafted as best man and Katharine Hepburn as maid of honor.

On Thursday night, August 29, Vivien, Larry, Garson Kanin and Katharine Hepburn drove to Santa Barbara. The ceremony was held at the San Ysidro resort ranch belonging to Ronald Colman and/or Mr. and Mrs. Al Weingand (I've never looked into the ownership of the ranch, so depending on which biography you read, the owner somewhat varies).

As soon as Thursday became Friday, at 12:01 am on August 30, 1940, the couple were married by Judge Fred Harsh. They exchanged wedding vows outside, in the garden facing east toward England.

"Larry and I sat talking about whether or not we really should get married and then we arrived and stood outside in the open air facing England and it was one minute past midnight and we were married. The service was cut so short by the judge that all we did was to say the " I do's.” I wanted to say 'I love, honour and obey' and I kept complaining that the judge was cutting my best lines but all he said was 'I now pronounce you man and wife. Bingo!’" -Vivien Leigh

Apparently, Olivier had told Judge Harsh that they wanted a very short ceremony"Okay. I'll give you the shortest ceremony you ever saw," the Judge reportedly replied.

According to Katharine Hepburn's biographer, Christopher Andersen (An Affair to Remember), the ceremony itself lasted for only three minutes. "The justice of the peace, by now thoroughly sloshed, kept calling Vivien 'Lay' and the groom 'Oliver.'" 

Strangely enough, though they'd been part of the wedding planning, the Colmans didn't attend the nuptials. Instead, they went out on their yacht and waited for the newly married Oliviers to join them. The happy couple didn't arrive until after 3:00 am and then celebrated with a small white cake and champagne. Vivien and Larry spent their honeymoon on the Colmans' yacht before returning to Hollywood.

News of the marriage had broken by the time the Oliviers returned to Hollywood --they made headlines around the world-- and were greeted with a press conference, from which these pictures originate. The caption on the above picture reads: Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh having won freedom from former mates say it with smiles as Mr. and Mrs. O. Honeymoon is now over.

Read about Vivien's wedding to Leigh Holman here.
Read about Olivier's wedding to Jill Esmond here.

Next Sunday's vintage bride will be Vivien's daughter, Suzanne Holman Farrington.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Vintage Bride: Vivien Leigh, Part One

Vivian Mary Hartley first met Herbert Leigh Holman, a barrister, in the winter of 1932. It was February and she had just announced to her parents her intention of becoming an actress. Leigh Holman was 31 and Vivien was 18.

Vivien's first glimpse of her future husband happened when she and friends went to Holcombe (a town in England) to observe the Dartmouth Draghounds. Holman rode through town, cutting a romantic figure on horseback and saluting one of Vivien's friends as he passed them. He had "pale, serious eyes and blond wavy hair" and bore a strong resemblance to the film star and stage actor, Leslie Howard.

The pair were formally introduced at the South Devon Hunt Ball held on Torquay Pier. For this event, Vivien chose to wear a sea-green ball gown that matched her eyes. Five months later, Holman proposed to Vivien and she accepted. Her engagement ring was a small diamond ring.

The couple exchanged vows in a Roman Catholic ceremony held on Tuesday, December 20th, 1932 at St. James Church, Spanish Place, in London. Ernest Hartley, Vivien's father, walked her down the aisle.

Vivien wore a long-sleeved, white satin gown and carried a bouquet of roses mixed with baby's breath and fern leaves. Her hair was styled in the latest fashion, covered by a crocheted Juliet cap with a floor-length veil attached. Vivien's wedding band was "an eternal ring of diamonds."

Two of Vivien's wedding attendants with matching ringlets and ruffles
The bridesmaids' dresses, like the bride's dress, were made from satin, but were peach in color with puffy sleeves. The bridesmaids carried bouquets of chrysanthemums.

After the reception, held at a London hotel, Vivien changed from her wedding dress into "a blue suit trimmed with silver fox fur." The couple then embarked on a three week honeymoon, traveling through Austria and Germany, before returning to London and settling into life as Mr. and Mrs. Holman.

The Happy Couple
Their union produced one daughter, Suzanne, born in 1933. Vivien left Holman in 1937, moving into a new home with the also married Laurence Olivier. The couple would later divorce in 1940, leaving Vivien free to marry Olivier. Leigh Holman never remarried.

Items in quotation marks are from Anne Edwards' book, Vivien Leigh: A Biography

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gone With The Wind, Indeed!

Photoplay, March 1937
by Kirtley Baskette

Call out the riot squad! A new Civil War is raging! Who will play the principals in the world's best seller?

Time was when you could call a man a rat in Hollywood and get yourself a stiff poke in the nose. But now what you get is— "Rhett? Rhett Butler? Well— I don't know about that 'profile like an old coin' stuff, but I've been told I am rather masterful, and— "

Yes, and there was a day when you could call a woman scarlet in this town and find yourself looking into the business end of a male relative's shotgun. But now it's—"Scarlett? Scarlett O'Hara? Oh, do you really think so? Well, I wish you'd say that around Mr. Selznick. Of course, my eyes aren't exactly green, but unless they use Technicolor—”

Ever since that very small but very un-Reconstructed Rebel, Mistress Peggy Mitchell, of the Atlanta Mitchells, wrote a book called "Gone With the Wind," which went like a seventy mile gale over the country and whipped up a grade-A tornado, a civil war, the like of which Jeff Davis never dreamed, has been raging uncontrolled way out in Hollywood.

Houses are divided, brother against brother, husband against wife, butler versus pantry maid.

"Why, Judge," a woman told the court the other day, "this bum says the only man to play Rhett Butler is Warren William. How can I go on living with a cretin like that?"

"Yeah," countered the defendant, "and, Your Honor, she embarrassed me before my friends plugging for Ronald Colman. Ronald Colman—imagine! My business dropped off."

"Divorce granted," murmured the court, "although personally I've always thought Gary Cooper would be a natural for the part."

What is considerably worse, actors and actresses who have never been South of the Slot in San Francisco or below Twenty-third Street in Manhattan, whose closest tie to Dixie in fact, is a faint resemblance to Virginia ham, wander around calling people "Honey" in a languid, molasses manner. Mugs who always thought Pickett's charge was a labor demonstration, now demand real mint in their grog. Even the high yellows down on Central Avenue are brushing up on their southern accents.

It's really pretty awful. Of course if you haven't read the astounding book that has leaped clear out of the ordinary fiction league to become the marvel of modern American literature, all this may leave you as dizzy as a six-day bicycle rider. In that case, all I can say is that if you're around number sixty-seven on the waiting list and sound of wind and limb there is still hope.

But if you have, you'll understand why nerves are snapping from Burbank to Brentwood as the two juiciest parts in the history of Hollywood dangle like ripe luscious cherries just above tiptoe reach. For "Gone With the Wind" is all set to be made into the greatest moving picture of all time (they admit it). Only there isn't any Scarlett O'Hara. There isn't any Rhett Butler. The suspense is terrific.

Furthermore, the curious effect of this book, which now hovers around the million sales mark, is that the minute a gentle reader closes the back cover with the wistful hope that Scarlett will get another crack at Rhett someday, a crusading, militant, in fact belligerent one-man casting department is born. Yes Ma'am, and with a lusty squall.

So look what happens. Sixty thousand letters, wires, communications of all sorts, sent direct or forwarded by critics, columnists and radio commentators have poured in and keep pouring in to sweep the excitement higher and higher. The result is the biggest screen sweepstakes of modern movie history. The prize: fame, fortune and the greatest eager, ready-made audience any star ever dreamed about.

Who will win? Well— here are the favorites, complete with clockings, handicaps, and pole positions.

You pays your money and you takes your choice:

Ladies first, which means Rhett Butler—

Clark Gable is the odds on favorite. He probably will play the part. If he doesn't there may be a Revolution. The nation-wide choice, by a wide margin, he runs neck-and neck with Warner Baxter in the South, which, incidentally, will have plenty to say about the casting of this picture. Gable is also the big Hollywood favorite, although if you can't see him you can't see him at all. It's that way. Letters have poured in threatening boycotts and reprisals (honest) if he's cast as Rhett. The same if he isn't.

Clark is the right age, the perfect build, the effective sex quotient. On a very touchy point— whether or not he can put on a southern accent and wear it becomingly— he is doubtful. He would give a year of his life to play Rhett— why not? It would be the biggest monkey gland his career could conceivably manage.

But— Gable is among the most jealously hoarded of M-G-M stars. And Selznick International, not
M-G-M, copped this prize story of the century. M-G-M turned it down! Selznick International means John Hay Whitney and David Oliver Selznick. But again— David Oliver Selznick is married to Louis B. Mayer's daughter. Would Gable be available? What do you think?

Fredric March is the only actor so far officially tested for Rhett. Was the early choice, but seems to have faded in the back stretch. Would be available, eager and willing to play Rhett on a moment's notice. Runs about third in the terrific straw balloting which increases every day. Is regarded by millions as a great actor— many others do not agree. Played the other great sensational best seller title part, "Anthony Adverse." Consensus of opinion is that Fredric would be an adequate Rhett but that's all. Lacks the sinister sex considered absolutely essential to a great performance.

Warner Baxter has surprising support from Atlanta and the deep South. Is the best "sympathy" actor in the race. His recent sock hit in "To Mary—With Love" is considered an apt build-up. Warner has the strong support of all who picture Rhett Butler as a man who suffered and suffered. Is keeping his fingers crossed day and night because if he landed it would be "In Old Arizona" all over again for him. His contract, of course, is with Twentieth Century-Fox, which makes him eligible. Darryl Zanuck, who is a borrower of stars in the talent market, wouldn't dare bite the hand that feeds him and keep him locked up in the closet. Warner, too, is about the right age, a little on the oldish side. His weakness, too, is no powerful sex appeal.

Ronald Colman popped into the running through an erroneous press dispatch. But once in has remained a strong contender. Chief advantage is his spot as long term contract star with Selznick International, his decided romantic charm, suavity, age and sympathetic personality. Chief disadvantage his ever-lovin' britishness, hard for the folks down South to swallow when the story is almost a sectional issue.

Those are the favorites. But Cary Grant, Basil Rathbone, Edward Arnold haven't given up yet.

Now gents—it's your turn. For Scarlett O'Hara—

Tallulah Bankhead—shared the same bum steer announcement that brought Ronald Colman in. Was tested by Selznick twice, once in Hollywood while on the stage in "Reflected Glory." It was a simple color test but it gave the news-hawks ideas. Tested again in New York by Director George Cukor. Is a professional choice, being considered the best actress of all the candidates. Would satisfy Dixie, hailing originally from Alabama. Her pappy represents that state as Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington. Talu could probably recapture a sugar-lipped drawl, all right, but the years and an aura of sophistication are against her. The part would be like long delayed manna from Heaven for her, bestowing the great screen break her rooters have long wailed has been denied a great artiste. Only a luke warm choice in the popular response. But vigorously opposed by an opinionated minority.

Miriam Hopkins is the red hot choice of Atlanta and the South. Leads other actresses by a nice margin in the letter deluge. One reason, she hails from Bainbridge, Georgia, right close to home. Is a good subject for color, if it is used, except that she'll have to wear a wig. Played Becky Sharp, the character generally compared with Scarlett O'Hara, but that might work against her.

BETTE DAVIS is the number one Hollywood selection. Just missed cinching the part by a matter of minutes. On her way to England, Bette was told by Warner's New York story board they were buying a great story for her, "Gone With the Wind." But by the time they wired Hollywood for an okay, the hammer had dropped. The day His Majesty's courts decided that Bette was a "naughty girl" and "must go back to jail" her low spirits were lifted by a columnist's clipping calling her the ideal Miss O'Hara. Answers to Scarlett now around the Warner lot. Bette is the only Yankee girl to score below that well-known line. Ranks third in the Cotton Belt. Is considered to be just the right age to handle the assignment and blessed with the right amount of— er— nastiness. No complaints from the home folks on her southern accent in "Cabin in the Cotton" or as Alabama Follansbee in "The Solid South" (stage).

But— Bette is in the doghouse, chained and collared, and one of the main issues of her legal whipping was her loan out demand. Warner’s can- probably would- keep her in the cooler. Selznick, in fact, is supposed to have said, "Bette Davis? Great— but could we get her?"

Margaret Sullavan holds second spot in returns from down yonder. Is a Virginia girl, and knows what to do when a lady meets a gentleman down South. Handled brilliantly the lead in "So Red the Rose," another Civil War picture. Fractious and fiery enough to make Scarlett a vivid character. Tagged next to Bette Davis in Hollywood.

And the Field— Katharine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert and Jean Harlow.

Now as if puzzling about all this were not enough to set a body weaving baskets in the clink, Messrs. Selznick and Company announce that they want, for Scarlett and Rhett, not Hollywood stars at all. No— instead they have arranged to canvass all the finishing schools of Dixie, and ogle Junior Leaguers at very lovely teas and discover an "unknown"Scarlett. A similar search, minus the tea, is hoped to dig up an indigenous Rhett.

Thus, they say, everything will not only be peaches and cream for professional Southerners, but what is much more important, two brand new stars will be born. Why take other studio's stars and build 'em? Isn't this going to be the greatest picture of all time?

Well— as to the first idea— it's great if it works, is the opinion of the Hollywood wise ones. But it won't work, they say. Whom are you going to find in the sticks to handle parts like those? Whom could you dare gamble on?

And that "greatest picture of all time" stuff? It smacks strongly, I grant you, of the old mahoskus. It's press agent oil of the most ready' viscosity and has flowed freely around every epic from "The Great Train Robbery" to Shirley Temple's latest cutrick. But this time the answer that snaps right back out of your own skeptic brain is, "Why not?"

These gentlemen— Whitney and Selznick —  have, and they know they have, the greatest screen story of our day. If you don't think so, here's the cold cash proof: The day after they laid $50,000 on the line for the picture rights, another studio offered them $100,000. The next offer was boosted to $250,000. The last bid, not long ago, was $1,500,000 and an interest in the picture besides! Tie that.

They said "No" and they are still saying the same. Mr. Whitney and Mr. Selznick are not ribbon clerks. They shot $2,200,00 on "The Garden of Allah." They will pinch no pennies on "Gone With the Wind." If color will help it (and it probably will) they'll shoot an extra million. Sidney Howard is writing the script. George Cukor will direct. Walter Plunkett is designing costumes. These men are all top flight.

So you can be reasonably sure of this— when you finally you see "Gone With the Wind" you'll see a picture dressed in the best trappings of modern production, primed with meticulous preparation, artistic thoroughness and as many millions as it can comfortably stand.

But as for who will be Scarlett and who will be Rhett— well, the riot squads are doing a nice business, thank you. And good citizens of Hollywood scowl across Cahuenga Pass at North Hollywood muttering "Dam' Yanks!" While out in Beverly Hills the South Side of the Tracks is threatening to secede if somebody will only fire on the Brown Derby.

It looks as if we'll fight it out on this line if it takes all summer. Everybody's welcome, and usually it doesn't require a second invitation. Just casually mention the subject. You'll see. Matter of fact, the only person I can think of off-hand who doesn't seem to be at all upset about the matter is the lady who wrote the book.

Early in the fray, Margaret Mitchell allowed it would be nice if a Southern girl could play Scarlett. But the reaction was so violent that it must have surprised her. At any rate she announced the other day it was her one desire to remain only as the humble author, and to a close friend she confided:

"I don't care what they do to 'Gone With the Wind' in Hollywood. Just so they don't make General Lee win the war for a happy ending!"