Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Vintage Bride: Scarlett O'Hara

Today's vintage bride is the fictional heroine of Gone With The Wind, Scarlett O'Hara.

Scarlett O'Hara, at the young age of 16, married Charles Hamilton in the spring of 1861. The Civil War had just begun and beaux were marrying their young ladies before heading off to war.

Scarlett's entire wedding happened two weeks after she said yes to Charles' proposal. Her mother, Ellen, wanted her to wait, but her father, Gerald, agreed to the short engagement.

Gerald and Ellen O'Hara with their daughter Scarlett and new son-in-law Charles Hamilton
Ellen had wrung her hands and counseled delay, in order that Scarlett might think the matter over at greater length. But to her pleadings, Scarlett turned a sullen face and a deaf ear. Marry she would! And quickly too. Within two weeks.

Learning that Ashley's wedding had been moved up from the autumn to the first of May, so he could leave with the Troop as soon as it was called into service, Scarlett set the date of her wedding to the day before his.

Scarlett has eyes only for Ashley
Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Thomas Mitchell, Barbara O'Neil, Vivien Leigh and Rand Brooks
In the midst of this turmoil, preparations went forward for Scarlett's wedding and, almost before she knew it, she was clad in Ellen's wedding dress and veil, coming down the wide stairs of Tara on her father's arm to face a house packed full with guests... [with] hundreds of candles flaring on the walls... and Ashley, standing at the bottom of the steps with Melanie's arm through his.

It's hoopless dresses in this publicity shot for GWTW.
In the book, Scarlett and Charles were married the day before Ashley and Melanie's wedding was to occur. In the movie, the wedding days were reversed.

From the movie:
Melanie (kissing Scarlett) Scarlett, I thought of you at our wedding yesterday and hoped yours would be as beautiful. And it was.
Scarlett (like a sleepwalker) Was it?
Melanie (nods emphatically) Now we're really and truly sisters.

Leslie Howard as Ashley with Vivien Leigh as Scarlett

Barbara O'Neil as Ellen O'Hara

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara
In the book and movie, Scarlett wears her mother's wedding dress. Since the engagement was so short, there was no time to alter the gown before the wedding. Walter Plunkett, the costume designer for Gone With The Wind, took this into consideration when creating the wedding dress. He fitted the dress to Barbara O'Neil's measurements, so that viewers of the movie could see the improper fit on the current bride, Scarlett.

Reproduction of Scarlett's wedding dress-- front view

Reproduction of Scarlett's wedding dress-- back view

Italicized quotes are from the book, Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Vintage Bride: Jill Esmond

On July 25th, 1930, Jill Esmond officially became the first Mrs. Laurence Olivier. Jill, a British actress, was 22 years old and her bridgegroom, Larry, was 23. Jill Esmond came from acting royalty. Her mother was the famous stage actress and suffragette, Eva Moore. Her father was the actor, playwright and manager, Henry V. Esmond. Together, Eva and Henry were the royal couple of the British stage.

The bride's parents, Eva Moore and Henry Esmond

Jill and Larry first met in 1928 when they co-starred in the play, Bird in Hand: Olivier played a squire's son and Jill played an innkeeper's daughter, his romantic counterpart. In 1929, the couple found themselves separated by an ocean. Jill had traveled to New York City with the play, Bird in Hand, while Olivier remained in London.

After being separated for a few months, Olivier was given the opportunity of starring in a play called Murder On The Second Floor, to be produced in New York City. Olivier recalled,  I managed to find a chance to play in New York and I jumped at it. The show- Murder On The Second Floor- only lasted five weeks. But I got to see Jill.  Once reunited in NYC, the couple decided to select Jill's engagement ring together and purchased the ring from Tiffany's.

In 1932, Silver Screen magazine ran a super sweet article on Jill and Larry (whom they referred to as Lorry). They included the following details on the Oliviers' wedding, which is basically one of the fluffiest things I've ever read. Here's the excerpt:

On or about July 11, 1930, A.D., Jill and Lorry were sitting on a river bank at the country estate of some friends. There were birds in the trees. The grass was green. The river whispered lazily by them. The sun was at its zenith and all was tranquil. Lorry suddenly turned to Jill.

"All this gadding about," said he, "is silly. We've got to be married."
"That's a noble idea," replied Jill. "When?"

Lorry counted the days on his fingers. There was work in the offing, and it looked as if their honeymoon would be molested by the fall openings.

"Say two weeks," said Lorry.
"Two weeks," said Jill.

They were married on July 25 and there were TWO bishops on hand- the wedding was very fashionable- and the guests were notable. Followed the honeymoon.

"No more being separated," said Lorry.
"Right'o," said Jill

And two very brave young people, both in a profession which is legendary for keeping people apart, made a pledge. 

Jill and Larry were married at All Saints, located on Margaret Street in London. The ceremony was officiated by Bishop Perrin. Jill's brother, Jack Esmond, drove her to the church, but it was her mother, Eva Moore, who walked her down the aisle. Jill's father had sadly passed away in 1922.

Jill's floor-length wedding gown was made from parchment satin and featured an embroidered sweetheart neckline with side ruching and long, fitted sleeves. Her tulle veil flowed from her art deco headdress, made in part from cream-colored pearls. For Jill's formal wedding portrait (above), she's photographed with a small bouquet of lilies secured with ribbon. For the actual wedding, she carried a larger bouquet of what appears to be daisies accented with fern leaves and wrapped in tulle.

Laurence Olivier rented his morning suit for the wedding, which featured striped pants, a dark colored jacket with a lighter shade for the vest. ...He looked a complete Charley in hired morning clothes: sleeves too short and trousers failing to hide his actor's love of costume: white spats [black and white shoes]. A button hole marched with a pointed pocket handkerchief- gaudy but not neat. He was the proudest of grooms, his brow nobly plucked by Jill, and his Ronald Colman moustache his hour consuming pride, and the bride he had first proposed to almost two years before was his for ever. -Tarquin Olivier on his parents' wedding, from My Father Laurence Olivier

Eileen Clark had the distinction of being maid of honor. She and the little girl, who attended to Jill's train, both wore short-sleeved dresses, leaf green in color, with matching necklaces. The best man was Denys Blakelock.

Newspaper clipping

The happy couple greeting guests at their reception

After the ceremony, the reception was held in the garden at Eva Moore's home at Whitehead's Grove. The couple were to honeymoon at the house of a friend of Eva's at Lulworth Cove in Dorset, right on the sea.

Larry and Jill had only one son together, Tarquin, born in August, 1936. The Oliviers' marriage came to an end, in 1937, when Larry left Jill and moved into Durham Cottage, in London, with Vivien Leigh. The couple later divorced, in 1940. This was Jill's only marriage, but the first of three for Olivier.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Vintage Bride: Suzanne Holman Farrington

Wedding bells rang for Suzanne Holman, the only child of Vivien Leigh and her first husband, Leigh Holman, on Friday, December 6th, 1957. The lucky groom was Robin Farrington, a 29 year old insurance executive.

The couple, reunited after Suzanne's vacation with her parents, discuss engagement rings.
Robin, on meeting Vivien Leigh for the first time, said,  "I was very nervous, and as she came into the drawing room I walked forward to shake her hand. Unfortunately, the cat inserted itself onto my toe and I have never done such a good rugger conversion. The cat flew across the room. It was a very bad beginning."

Suzanne and Robin's wedding invitation. Photo courtesy of Kendra Bean at

Hundreds of wedding invitations were sent out to family, friends and colleagues. The invites read:
Mr. Leigh Holman and Lady Olivier request the pleasure of your company at the marriage of their daughter Suzanne Mary Holman to Mr. Robin Neville Farrington, at Holy Trinity, Brompton, on Friday, December 6th at 3pm and afterward at [the Hyde Park Hotel for the reception].

Recipients were asked to RSVP to Lady Olivier at her Lowndes Cottage, in London.

Suzanne arrives at Holy Trinity
The wedding took place at Holy Trinity, Brompton, in London. Suzanne arrived with her father, Mr. Leigh Holman, while Vivien arrived separately with Sir Laurence Olivier.

The bride wore a long-sleeved, chapel train wedding gown, with a slight V-neck. The dress featured bows on both the right and left sides. Her short, curly hair was topped with a small circular crown, trimmed in white flowers, with a long veil attached. Suzanne's father walked her down the aisle as approximately five hundred wedding guests looked on; the bride's face covered by her veil.

Mr. and Mrs. Robin Farrington
Suzanne carried a cascading bouquet and what appears to be a small bible during the ceremony.

The Happy Bride
After the wedding, guests were invited to attend the reception at the Hyde Park Hotel. Since this was an afternoon wedding, only champagne was served at the reception, and of course, wedding cake.

Vivien Leigh with her first husband, Leigh Holman
Vivien wore a leopard-pattern coat, topped with a fur scarf. The pattern had been hand-painted onto the silk coat. One newspaper said that Vivien's outfit put all the mink coats and smart costumes in the shade. The gentlemen were dressed in morning suits with striped pants, light colored vests and dark jackets.

First couple unknown (probably relatives of the Holmans or Farringtons), Leigh Holman, Vivien Leigh, Gertrude and Ernest Hartley and partial side view of Laurence Olivier
The newspaper reporters made quite a fuss over the fact that Sir Laurence attended. At the reception, Olivier stayed in the background and was quoted as saying, "I'm staying out of the limelight on this occasion. This is Suzanne's day. She and her mother and her father are what you might call 'on-stage.' I'm just taking it quietly in the wings."

Suzanne and Vivien at the wedding reception
Suzanne was quite happy that Sir Larry attended, "I'm so glad that both my father and stepfather came. I don't find it at all unusual, just very good fun."

Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh
Suzanne and Robin enjoyed a long union and remained married until Robin's death in June, 2002, leaving Suzanne a widow. Together, they raised three sons and were grandparents several times over.

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