Showing posts with label Laurence Olivier. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Laurence Olivier. Show all posts

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Going, Going, Gone With the Wind: Highlights of the Vivien Leigh Auction

The Vivien Leigh auction brought in £2,243,617, which is about $3,000,000. The bidding lasted for roughly seven and a half hours, with all 321 items selling. I wasn't able to be in London, so I watched the auction live from my computer. It was very exciting to hear and to watch the bids come in as the prices climbed on certain items. Listed below are a few of my favorite things from the auction.

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind, 1939

Winston Churchill

The biggest seller of the day was a painting by Winston Churchill (Lot 245).  This Study of Roses sold for £500,000 (hammer price £638,750). It's oil on canvas, signed W.S.C in the bottom left corner and measures 20 inches by 14.5 inches. Churchill gifted the painting to Vivien, in 1951.


She wrote to Churchill, I should like to show you where the painting you gave me hangs. It is in my bedroom dear Sir Winston and I look at it every day as I wake and every night as I go to sleep... (Vivien Leigh, letter to Sir Winston Churchill, 14th February 1961, The Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge, CHUR 2/527A). Noting her decor, I think it's only apt that she kept the painting in her bedroom.

Vivien Leigh's bedroom
Churchill's book, Painting As A Pastime, was another big hit with the bidders. It sold for £15,000. Sotheby's listed the first edition book as full blue morocco by Zaehnsdorf, spine lettered in gilt, gilt dentelles, marbled endpapers, some very light rubbing to boards. The personal inscription read, To Vivien Leigh,  from Winston S. Churchill, 1950.

Winston Churchill's inscription to Vivien Leigh, Painting as a Pastime

Gone With the Wind

I really hope that whomever purchased these three items were representing a museum! Vivien's first edition copy of Gone With the Wind sold for £50,000. The book features an inscription from the author, Margaret Mitchell, to Vivien Leigh.


To Vivien Leigh-- 
"Life's Pattern pricked with a scarlet thread 
where once we worked with a gray, 
to remind us all how we played our parts
in the shock of an epic day." 
Margaret Mitchell

The lines are from Robert W. Service's poem The Revelation. Mitchell wrote them on a separate sheet of paper, which Vivien attached inside her book. 

Vivien's personalized copy of the Gone With the Wind script sold for £58,750. David Selznick gave these special, presentation copies as gifts for Christmas, 1939. To read more about her script, and other GWTW scripts that have been sold, please follow this link.



A Gone With the Wind photo album was also auctioned. It's estimated price was £3,000 to £5,000 and it sold for £8,750. The album contained 28 production still photographs from 'Gone With The Wind,' with two photographs from 'Fire Over England' mounted at the end, also with five photographic portraits of Leigh loosely inserted, including three studio portraits, by Lenare (on her wedding day, 1932, photographer's stamp on the reverse), Vivienne (c.1930s, photographer's stamp on reverse), and Dollings (photographer's stamp on the reverse), a photograph of her seated in furs (stamp of C. Norman Probert on the reverse), and a further still from 'Gone With The Wind.'

Clark Gable as Rhett and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett

Appointment Books

Two of Vivien's appointment books were placed on the auction block. The first one, which is dated from January 10, 1937 to November 25, 1939, sold for £15,000. In this book, Vivien noted that she Told Leigh (her first husband, Leigh Holman) presumably about Laurence Olivier. Then, on June 16, she wrote Left with Larry. The second appointment book only sold for £3,250 and was dated for the year 1953. This was also an important time in Vivien's life as '53 was the year she was diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder.



Paintings

The Roger Furse paintings all sold very well, but this one, of Vivien Leigh and Tissy, really brought home the bacon. The selling estimate was listed as £1,000 to £1,500 and it sold for £62,500.


A sketch of Vivien by Augustus John sold for £18,750. It was a Study for Portrait of Vivien Leigh, signed and dated 1942. The medium used was red chalk on paper and it measured 15.5 inches by 11 inches.


Vivien Leigh's own painting of Italian Landscape sold for £6,875. The auctioneer noted that this was the first painting by Vivien to be sold. The selling estimate was listed as £200 to £300.  It's oil on canvas and measures 12 inches by 16 inches. I'm a little surprised that this painting didn't reach the £10,000 mark.


A Streetcar Named Desire

Vivien Leigh's wig, which she wore as Blanche Dubois, in the film production of A Streetcar Named Desire, had an estimated selling price of £400 to £600. It sold for £7,500. The wig came with a photograph of Vivien wearing the wig, for a hair and make-up test.





Lot# 282 was a gorgeous jewelry case, apparently presented to Vivien Leigh, by Laurence Olivier, on the opening night of A Streetcar Named Desire's stage production. From the NYT: The crocodile case is embossed with the initials V.L.O. and 12th October 1949, the date of the London stage premiere of 'A Streetcar Named Desire' in which Ms. Leigh starred and Olivier directed. The selling estimate was £800 to £1,200 and it sold for £11,250.


Jewelry case

Jewelry

Vivien Leigh's watch sold for £25,000! The engraved watch (Vivien Larry Only!! Darling Xmas 1940) features rubies and diamonds. Sotheby's states that it was likely to have been a gift from Larry to Vivien for Christmas 1940, marking their first Christmas together as a married couple.


Vivien Leigh's charm bracelet was Lot 315. The estimated price was £1,000 to £1,500 and it sold for £33,750. Description: the double curb link bracelet set with a six charms including: an oval locket inscribed Lady Hamilton with the initials VL, containing a photograph of Vivien Leigh as Lady Hamilton and a portrait by George Romney; a book inscribed Gone with the Wind, the pages inscribed Vivien Leigh and Scarlett O'Hara, with an engraved image of the character; a round charm with a design of a boat against a sunset, the sky of blue chalcedony; a jadeite pendant carved with a design of a bat; and two chalcedony drops. 


Sotheby's called the last item of the auction the 'Eternally' ring. This stunning little ring was engraved with some kind of floral motif. Inside the ring's band were the following engraved words:  Laurence Olivier Vivien Eternally. The ring's estimated selling price was only between £400 to £600. The actual selling price was £37,500.


Laurence Olivier

I was really surprised that this photo of Laurence Olivier sold for £6,000 (selling estimate £200 to £300). Olivier signed this photo in the bottom left corner-- from L to his V forever --And he spelled LOVE diagonally, in red ink!



Laurence Olivier inscription spelling LOVE diagonally
 A silver, presentation mug to Laurence Olivier: later embossed and chased with scrolls, flowers and fruits and engraved with initials 'LO' and inscription: '12th June 1947 / from G[?]...' maker's mark, London standard and date letter for 1722. The date refers to Olivier's knighthood and appearance in the Honours List. Sold for £3,000!



Books

This first edition of Ian Fleming's book, Casino Royale, sold for £30,000!


Truman Capote's true crime novel, In Cold Blood, sold for £16,250. Capote had inscribed the book to Vivien with the following: for dearest Vivien, with much love, Truman.





Thanks for joining me for this recap of the Vivien Leigh auction! If I missed your favorite item from the auction, then please let me know and I'll add it to the post.

Cheers!


All images are from Sotheby's as are all italicized item descriptions.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Screen Album, 1940

The 1940 summer edition of Screen Album promised to have 100 new pictures and 1,000 new facts, inside its covers, of the day's leading actors and actresses. Both Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier were featured. They each received one full page, which contained one photograph and a biographical article.

I've typed up both articles, which are definitely products of their time, so they should be read with a big grain of salt. Enjoy!

Vivien Leigh on the cover of Screen Album

~~~Vivien Leigh~~~

Vivien Leigh was the 29th, and last contestant, in Selznick's two year search for Scarlett. Two weeks before, she'd arrived in Hollywood, a modern version of the scarlett woman opposite Laurence Olivier... The story starts on Guy Fawkes Day in Darjeeling, India, with the birth of Vivian Mary Hartley, November 5, 1913. Mother Hartley was on vacation from Calcutta's heat. Her stockbroker husband stayed behind to watch the market.  At six, Vivien was transported to a convent near London. The Indian climate's no recipe for an English complexion. After eight years of British fog, she crossed the channel to a French convent. At sixteen, she was graduated, stage struck, from Mlle Manileve's School for Young Ladies in Paris. She underwent at eighteen months of finishing at Baroness von Roeder's Bavarian seminary before entering the Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

A lighter moment at a hunt ball produced Barrister Herbert Leigh Holman. In three weeks, Miss Hartley was Mrs. Holman. Three more weeks and she was back at the Academy to finish her course. A year later, daughter Suzanne was born. Herbert made a good living, augmented  by a private income. Herbert's wife could afford to harass the agents til she got the right roles. So, as Vivien with an E and, because she loved her husband, surnamed Leigh, she visited agents. Two small film roles got her a part in a play, which led to discovery in the mask of virtue.


She was Vivien now, with the 'e' for glamour and the Leigh for the love of her husband. Hollywood shoved contracts at the most talked about actress since Bankhead. Vivien politely declined in favor of two films per year with Korda. The Holmans, meanwhile, were as happily married as an English lawyer and London celebrity could be. Then came Korda's Fire Over England and-- Laurence Olivier. They'd met a year before in mediocre film. Nothing happened. Now Leigh forgot home and husband to be Shakespeare's mad heroine to Olivier's melancholy Dane. Under love's stimulating influence, their careers went soaring swiftly skyward.

They kissed and parted when the Gold Coast lured Larry in the fall of '38. Vivien languished-- but not for long. December 1st saw them reunited in Hollywood. Sly Larry took her to dinner with agent Myron Selznick, brother of producer David. The brothers Selznick saw the spittin' image of Scarlett O'Hara-- 5'3", 106 pounds, reddish-brown hair that photographs black and green eyes. The identity of Scarlett was revealed to the world. But were their faces scarlet when they discovered the scandal to be hidden from the newshawks! The lovers were warned never to be seen together. A watchman patrolled Leigh's home. It was no use. Neither made any effort to keep their love affair secret. Inseparable, Larry coached his Vivien, taught her how to outwit Gable, the scene stealer.

Atlanta premiere time came and Leigh's ultimatum that she wouldn't join the fun unless Larry came, too. Larry went. Mysteriously absent from New York's premiere, Leigh was with Olivier. News of her divorce broke soon after GWTW. Holman named Olivier co-respondent in an uncontested suit, January 5, 1940. He was awarded custody of Suzanne, now in a convent. On January 29th, Vivien Leigh was named as co-respondent in the Olivier case. Simon Olivier was given to his mother. And it's off with the old, on with the new.

~~~Laurence Olivier~~~

Like so many Britons of talent, Olivier is not really English. The first Olivier in England was French Huguenot. Since then the loyal Oliviers have married French and the name is pronounced O-leev-yay. To make your flesh creep, Olivier tells you his father was a priest, legitimizes himself then by adding "Episcopalian." Priest Gerard Olivier had three children: Gerard, Jr., Larry and Sybille. When his childish treble still had a five year future, Larry was stuffed into an Eton collar and sent after Gerard to choir school. Here they studied catechism, singing and frivolously enough, acting.

At 10, Larry was Brutus to Gerard's Caesar. Four years later, at Stratford-Upon-Avon, the school celebrated Shakespeare's birthday with a presentation of The Taming of the Shrew. Then, at an exclusive public school, Larry had Heathcliff pummeled into his personality. The boys distrusted this choir school exotic who recited catechism and poetry with such fine feeling. Larry's mother had just died and the sensitive kid needed sympathy. He got beatings. His father's remarriage was another bitter blow. Larry went on the stage, resolved never to take another penny of his father's money.

Like any self-made man, Larry speaks proudly of his first humble job. "We called ourselves the Lavatory Players," he says. "We toured God's country. Dressing rooms were scarce and lavatories gave you privacy." Larry soon quit the lavatory squad, but there were those among his new associates who would gladly have kicked him back-- and locked the door. This was Larry's jinx phase. If he took a part, then the play folded, and vice versa. Ruefully, he recalls quitting Journey's End to contest the Beau Brummel role with Maurice Evans. Laurence won and Evans stepped into Journey's End. Brummel folded in a week and JE was a two season sensation.

His unholy talent expanded in America. He made a picture with Ann Harding. She folded. Same thing happened to Elissa Landi. Finally, they gave him Garbo in Queen Christina. Garbo sulked like a girl whose parents have picked her a distasteful bridegroom. Finally, she walked out on him altogether, saying, as she departed, "Life is a pain." She wanted and got Gilbert as a leading man. But at the same time, she'd not only saved herself from the hellbent Landi-Harding path, but broken Olivier's spell.


The last act in this jinx drama was Olivier's expiation. He produced a show himself. Despite a Priestly script and stellar performances by Ralph Richardson and Greer Garson, it flopped-- and the ghosts of plays and players were laid forever from Olivier's conscience.

In '36, he made Fire Over England with MRS. Vivien Leigh Holman. Together they journeyed to Denmark, he to be Hamlet and she to be Ophelia, at Elsinore, original site of the play. On broadway, he met another girl, Miss Jill Esmond. It was lightning love, hitting hard and burning out quickly. Wooed back to Hollywood for Wuthering Heights, his Juliet joined him to do Scarlett opposite Gable. They played Romeo and Juliet on Broadway-- to a poor press and a packed house. With Vivien as Juliet, he really meant that balcony scene. Ordinarily though, this 33 year old professional goes about love scenes thoughtfully. "Kissing," he says, "is a job." By marrying Leigh he'll achieve a very happy medium between business and pleasure.




Saturday, February 25, 2017

11 Things About Vivien Leigh & the Oscars

Vivien Leigh took home two Best Actress Oscars; one in 1940 and one in 1952. Here's a list of 11 things about Vivien Leigh and the Oscars.

1. Vivien Leigh, a British actress, won both Oscars for her portrayal of Southern women. She earned her first Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. She earned her second Oscar as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Vivien as Scarlett in Gone With the Wind
2. Vivien won both of her Oscars during leap years, 1940 and 1952.

3. She was the first British actress to win an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Vivien and Oscar, 1940
4. Vivien knew in advance that she had won for her portrayal of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. The names of the winners were released the day before the ceremony to the newspapers. The LA Times ran the winners' names the day of the ceremony, instead of the day after.

5. According to Laurence Olivier's son, Tarquin, Olivier experienced a little bit of jealousy over her win and his loss (for Best Actor for Wuthering Heights):  On their way home, he grabbed her Oscar and 'It was all I could do to restrain myself from hitting her with it. I was insane with jealousy.' (1)

Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier
 6. Vivien wasn't able to attend the 1952 Academy Awards. She was appearing onstage in New York, as Cleopatra, in dual plays. She heard her name announced as the winner, via the radio, in her dressing room at the Ziegfield Theater.

Vivien dressed as Cleopatra, March 1952
7. Greer Garson accepted the Best Actress Award, for A Streetcar Named Desire, on Vivien's behalf, at the 1952 award ceremony. Greer: It's an honor and a thrill to accept this for you, Vivien. I hope you're listening in New York We're all very excited about it. God bless you and congratulations. I know she'd want to thank you if she were here herself. (2)


Bette Davis, George Sanders, Karl Malden (Best Supporting Actor), Greer Garson and Humphrey Bogart (Best Actor)
Vivien's co-star in A Streetcar Named Desire, Kim Hunter, also didn't attend the ceremony. Bette Davis accepted on her behalf.

8. Harry Cohn presented Vivien's Oscar to her later that year in London.

Vivien Leigh and Harry Cohn
9. In March 1953, Vivien arrived in Hollywood, from Sri Lanka, to continue filming Elephant Walk. While there, she planned on attending the 1953 Oscars and was scheduled to present the Best Actor Oscar. Her chosen dress for the evening was a stunning, ivory satin gown. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to attend due to a mental illness breakdown and had to return to London for treatment.

10. While Vivien was recovering from her breakdown and Olivier was in Italy, making a movie, thieves broke into their London home, Durham Cottage. They stole her Oscar for A Streetcar Named Desire, along with silverware and clothing.

Vivien as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire
11. In 1993, Vivien's daughter, Suzanne Farrington, sold some of her mother's things at a Sotheby's auction. One of the items placed on the block, was the Oscar Vivien had won for Gone With the Wind. The high bidder paid $510,000 for the statuette, which was the highest amount paid for an Oscar, at that time.


1. My Father Laurence Olivier by Tarquin Olivier, page 86
2. 1952 Oscars' video of Greer Garson accepting award

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Knight Was Made For Love

Confidential
March, 1961
by John Blough

About the only thing missing in the recent divorce of Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh to make it the most adroit comedy of manners in many years was a credit line for Noel Coward.

For here, observers are generally agreed, is a matrimonial mix-up that screams for the classic Coward coolness, where everybody was very nice, old chaps, even if there was a deuced lot of cheating going on. The kind of stuff, in short, that has made deah Nuhl's plays tops in weird love situations.

Conditioned to seeing such things on the stage, the general public nevertheless sat bolt upright when the Olivier-Leigh design for living and loving was revealed recently.


Sir Larry, it seems, chaps, admitted adultery with a gal named Joan Plowright in a London hotel and Lady Olivier, so help us, said she had been a bit more than indiscreet. In fact a bit more than once; two times, to put it succinctly, once in Ceylon and again in London. Like a true blue British Lady, though, Vivien didn't name the gentlemen involved in these far off Broadway personal productions of Twice Upon a Mattress. 

Triangles, of course, are nothing new, offstage or on, and therefore you can't be blamed for asking: "So what's unusual about this situation? Here's Larry, a handsome gent, going for another girl? Blimey, it's done more times than you can shake a private eye at."

And of course it's done, chums! But what makes his case even curiouser is the fact that the lass Larry lolled about with happened to be married to a TV actor named Roger Gage. Yet Roger, to everyone's surprise, admitted he had committed adultery, too. In, of all places, Helsinki, which seems like a long way to go for a roll in the hay.

There you have it, a four way adultery tablet, which the Court seemed to swallow as easily as a cold tablet with the same quadruple benefits. Only in this case it would have been cheaper for Sir Larry to stick with the bottle instead of the babe, because the Court assessed him the cost of both cases; to wit, Olivier vs. Olivier; and Gage vs. Gage.

Joan Plowright, with her first husband, Roger Gage
Thus, as Time might put it, after 20 years of marriage, no children, came divorce to Sir Larry and Lady Olivier.

But if Time put it that way, friends, they would have missed a pip of a story, because the saga of Sir Larry and his Lady is a lulu. In the first place, the recent divorce action brought Larry's love life to full circle, a coincidence generally missed by the raised eyebrows set.

It started with a kiss and ended with a kiss. Only the women were different.

At the time he met Vivien, Larry, then without that impressive Sir subsequently appended to his name, was very much married to a good looking actress named Jill Esmond. They were rapidly gaining distinction as a husband and wife team; but at the time Vivien blew into Larry's life he was playing solo at a London theatre, the star of Fire Over England.

Well, sir, faster than you could say Hamlet's soliloquy, Larry was rhapsodizing over his new costar, who happened to be beautiful, charming and all those things a guy sees when he first gets that way over a dame. The girl, natch, was Vivien and the fact that, in addition to being desirable, she was also married seemed not to bother Larry. In no time at all, the Fire Over England being acted onstage, was a pitiful glow compared to the roaring blaze Larry and Vivien were generating backstage.

As the conflagration spread, fanned by the winds of gossip, Vivien's husband, a London lawyer named Herbert Leigh Holman, got downwind of it and what he smelled seemed more like something out of Denmark than out of a Chanel bottle. Mrs. Olivier, the charming Jill, also sensed that more was in the wind than dramatics, but before any action was taken, Jill found herself jilted and Holman found himself minus a wife.

Because when Fire Over England folded, Larry and his new-found love loaded their make-up kits on a Cunarder, crossed the Big Pond, and set up housekeeping in Hollywood. Behind them they left Larry's son, Tarquin, and Vivien's daughter, Suzanne.

To romantic souls, only great devotion could have caused two such notable public figures to commit desertion. Certainly the love they bore for one another served to prove it. They were so enslaved by Eros that three years passed before either of them appeared to notice they hadn't been married. In the meantime, Larry had introduced Vivien to David O. Selznick, who was then on a talent hunt for an actress to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind; she tested for the role and the rest is history. Both Vivien and Larry went onward and upward with the Arts, success dogging their every footstep.

To Hollywood they were a perfectly matched couple; they were both talented and easy to look at, even if they did seem, at the time, to have eyes only for each other.

I never saw a happier couple, Katharine Hepburn, echoing the sentiments of the Oliviers' circle, remarked when the couple were finally married. The wedding, which caught most of Hollywood by surprise, took place at Ronald Colman's ranch at Santa Barbara, long a favorite spot where the British elite wold meet to eat, munch crumpets and compare bankbooks.

The honeymoon was scarcely over when Vivien, a ball of fire on screen as well as off, was stricken with TB and sent to a sanitarium in Switzerland. During the years she remained there, Larry visited her regularly and, to all appearances, was a perfect model of an upright husband.

But he also had his career to consider. Triumph followed on triumph for him and, as always happens, beautiful women heaved themselves whole-heartedly at him. They got short shrift for all their short breaths. Larry seemed determined to surround himself with males for protection and for companionship. Thus, if Vivien did hear stories of the way sirens schemed to play offstage Juliet to her romantic Romeo, Larry's friends could assure her it was just so much nonsense.

Naturally, Vivien had her fears for Larry, a friend of the couple recalls. What woman wouldn't worry about another female taking her man away from her? But when she realized that Larry welcomed the company of men-- when he didn't have her around-- she was persuaded their marriage was still valid.

Once she was released from the sanitarium, Vivien again fitted perfectly into the pre-togetherness picture the loving couple had conjured up for themselves. When WWII broke out, they worked tirelessly in the war effort, entertaining British troops anywhere they were sent. These laudable patriotic efforts, however, taxed Vivien's strength and prevented her full recovery, something that was not immediately evident.

At cessation of hostilities, the Oliviers resumed their separate careers, Larry to make it big with his movie and stage version of Hamlet and Vivien to soar to triumph as a nymphomaniac in the film rendition of A Streetcar Named Desire. 

Playing the role of a pathetic woman whose sexual desires eventually bring her to an insane asylum was no easy part for the actress. A thing like that called for consummate skill and Vivien, doubtless realizing this, threw herself feverishly into the role. The ways it absorbed her was the wonder of the Oliviers' circle, many of whose members commented on how Vivien lived with it. She often startled friends with the gestures, voice and lines of Blanche, the lady who couldn't leave sex alone, When the picture was released, Vivien was established as one of the finest actresses in Hollywood.

Instead of resting on her laurels, and unaware that she was not fully recovered from her TB bout, Vivien meekly consented to go on tour with Larry in two Caesar plays, Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra and Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra.


Vivien was always ready to do anything Larry wanted, a friend recalls. Although she knew she was an accomplished actress, she meekly accepted his direction. He picked her movie roles and in general told her what to do. Vivien always felt that the male partner should dominate.

Surprisingly, she did a complete about face. When the tour of the two Caesars ended, Paramount asked her to do a movie with Larry based on the book Elephant Walk, a story of a faded beauty who rules a Ceylon plantation.

Olivier turned thumbs down on the deal, and intimated that his refusal included Vivien also. For once, she defied him, but not completely. Although Olivier became reconciled to Vivien's rebellion, he insisted that an old friend of the couple, a young actor named Peter Finch, go along to keep her company. Olivier's attitude had one Hollywood wit wondering whether Larry thought that Dana Andrews, Vivien's co-star, and a herd of elephants featured in the picture, weren't enough to keep her from feeling lonesome. Less charitable people called it just plain jealousy on Olivier's part.

Whatever the actor's misgivings, trouble brewed, bubbled and boiled over.

Although Finch was on hand as family friend and protector in Ceylon, Vivien soon showed him he was only one of a number of handsome young men who could offer solace on their own. She began to be plagued with insomnia, and when her fears and tautness became evident to Andrews the star suggested that Vivien see a psychiatrist, I don't believe in them, she said curtly.

It soon became evident that what she preferred was Yoga, and we don't mean Berra.

It was Eastern philosophy. The guy who introduced it to her was an actor friend of Peter Finch named John Buckmaster.

Buckmaster taught Vivien the finer points of the Oriental cult and also spent many nights sitting outside her bedroom in a trance. Some unsung wit on location once had the presence of mind to snap a memorable picture of Vivien, legs crossed in traditional Yoga posture, with a snake curled around her shoulder.

Larry could have saved himself a lot of heartache if he'd seen this picture earlier, a press agent says, but he was sure that with Finch chaperoning her, Vivien was in good hands.

The only trouble was that Finch, Buckmaster and Vivien made it a very cozy threesome. And, meanwhile, Vivien's ordinarily sunny disposition turned to arrant rudeness and temper tantrums.

She cried on the set. Twice she forgot her lines. On several occasions she locked herself in her dressing room and refused to come out. Behind the closed door, she listened impassively to the importunities of the company manager, while outside, his face a placid mask of contentment, Buckmaster sat cross legged, lost in Nirvana. But then the day arrived that Vivien began answering conversations in Elizabethan English, the company knew the end was near. Before long Vivien collapsed, sobbing and screaming.

When Olivier flew over to take her home, he found that Finch had long since left town after refusing to talk to his friends of the press, and that Buckmaster had suffered a breakdown the day after Vivien's collapse.

Hollywood's great, shrivelled, golden heart went all out to Larry and Vivien in this moment of dire distress and every studio wondered anxiously whether Vivien would work again. After all, she was box-office. Their fears were groundless. Six months later Vivien was her happy self again and had returned to the London stage where she played opposite her husband, now Sir Larry, in The Sleeping Prince.

Then an unfortunate recurrence of her old malady sent her back to the Swiss sanitarium. When The Sleeping Prince became a movie, retitled The Prince and the Showgirl, Marilyn Monroe played the role created by Vivien. It was one of Larry's most disappointing productions and, definitely, the biggest turkey Monroe ever turned in in the name of Art. As if Larry didn't have enough woe trying to forget his mishaps with MM, Vivien was released from the sanitarium, but, instead of rushing to her husband, she headed for America where she made a sensational announcement.

She was, she told the press, expecting a baby. Whether this news- which proved erroneous- had a jarring effect on Sir Larry, busy pitching cinematic woo with Monroe, has never been recorded. Later, after Vivien had discovered she wasn't pregnant, another slight touch of unusual domesticity brought the wrath of the British press down on her head.

To everyone's astonishment except Sir Larry's (who later claimed he sanctioned the arrangement), Vivien got in touch with her ex-husband, Barrister Holman, and went vacationing in Italy with him and their daughter Suzanne, then 23.

Proper Britishers fumed at the scandalous holiday and a lady member of Parliament huffed that it was a terrible example for people in high places to set before our children.

If anyone expected Vivien's informal vacation to break up the Oliviers, or introduce what the French call a ménage à trois to proper British households, they were disappointed. The Oliviers were in business as usual. This was obvious when Larry finished a walking tour of Scotland with his son and returned home.

He and Vivien embarked on a Shakespeare kick in the Bard's birthplace. Togetherness seemed in order again, even when Vivien returned to the States to star in the Broadway production of Duel of Angels. Prior to departure, however, she incurred Olivier's displeasure, and aroused the delight of the British press, when she slipped on a red satin bathing suit and black mesh stockings and made her TV debut as Sabina, the talkative, never-say-die seductress in Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth.

Chortled the London Daily Herald: Well, it if isn't granny in tights.

More circumspectly, the London Daily Mail gasped: Legs!

Olivier just subsided into moody silence, an obvious picture of a man conditioned to problems. Besides, he had another problem, no one seemed to know about, Vivien in particular. Larry, it seems, was in love again.

The object of his affection was a shy English actress with dark, close cropped hair and round, rag doll eyes. Her name was Joan Plowright and she came to Sir Larry's attention as the bright hope of the English Stage Company. He promptly signed her to play his daughter in The Entertainer. This was followed by a role opposite him in Rhinoceros. The daughter of a Lincolnshire newspaper editor, Joan broke into show business as an amateur, got into the Old Vic on a scholarship and then toured the countryi n repertory.

Vivien Leigh and Jack Merivale
Just as he had with Vivien, Sir Larry saw her on a stage and flipped. Vivien, meanwhile, appearing in New York, was keeping busy after hours with one of her co-players, a handsome young actor named John Merivale, son of the noted Gladys Cooper and the late Philip Merivale.

Then Vivien got the word that Sir Larry wanted to wed Joan Plowright. Keeping the traditional stiff upper lip, Vivien announced: Lady Olivier wished o say that Sir Laurence has asked for a divorce in order to marry Miss Joan Plowright. She will naturally do whatever he wished.

Said Sir Larry: It is too private an affair to discuss just now. I must think.

Still thinking, Olivier came to New York in Becket hard on the heels of his lady love who had arrived a week earlier to open in A Taste of Honey. Finally, what he had been thinking about came out in court: Vivien had cheated in Ceylon (with a person unnamed) and in London with another person also unnamed; Larry had cheated with Joan, who had cheated on her husband, who had cheated with another person, unnamed, in Helsinki.

Obviously, a four way confession of sin like this, if made earlier, would have prevented Olivier from obtaining a knighthood, whatever his merits as an actor. But since it happened after honors had been granted to him, there wasn't much anyone could do about it.

The recent turn of events may have left Sir Larry in a daze, but there'll always be the Knight.






Friday, January 27, 2017

Fashion Friday: Laurence Olivier's Knighthood

In 1947, while Laurence Olivier was filming Hamlet, he received a letter asking him if he’d be interested in a knighthood. Even though he wasn’t suppose to mention the letter to anyone, he couldn’t resist and called his wife, Vivien.

Vivien was in Paris, being fitted for her costumes for Anna Karenina. Felix Barker, in his book The Oliviers, summed up their exchange:  "You won’t take it, of course?" she asked with mock innocence. "Of  course not!" he answered, and promptly sat down and wrote to say that he would be honored to accept.

Olivier’s impending knighthood was officially announced on June 11, in the King’s Birthday Honors List, for his stage and screen contributions. In his appointment book for July 8, he marked the upcoming investiture as the following: Buckingham Palace, 10:15. He drew a sword on the page beneath the date.

The Oliviers, photographed at Durham Cottage
The ceremony took place on Tuesday, July 8, at Buckingham Palace. Afterward, Olivier shared with the reporters, covering the event, that being knighted had unnerved him more than a first night.  I was nervous. I like to have a 'dummy run' before I do anything. There wasn’t any rehearsal [for being knighted]. Olivier's nervousness did not show. In fact, he looked very confident as he walked up to the King and knelt down on one knee.

Sir Laurence Olivier and his friend, Sir Malcolm Sargent, were knighted at the same ceremony.
It's kind of strange to consider, but Olivier did not own a proper morning suit for the occasion. Luckily, two friends pitched in to help him out. Anthony Bushell lent him his morning jacket and Ralph Richardson lent him the waistcoat. However, as Olivier would later joke, his pants were his own!

Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier
The black morning jacket featured black-braiding, which is a silk trim. The braiding can be seen around the jacket's collar, lapels, front pocket, sleeves and tails. The interesting thing to note is that the silk trim, at the bottom of the sleeve, gives the appearance of a turn-back cuff, for an extra touch of elegance. 

Vivien dressed quite elegantly in simple black. She wore a wide-brimmed hat with a veil that covered her face. Her black suit featured a nipped in waist, slanting pocket flaps and oversized pearl buttons, at the jacket's closure and cuffs. The frilly, ruffled collar of her white blouse peeks out from the suit's jacket. Vivien and Larry's biographers report that she wore no jewelry for the occasion, but as we can see in these pictures, that's not true. Vivien wore small earrings, which look flower-shaped, and a strand of pearls. 



       Here's a list of 5 Cool Things About Olivier's Knighthood:

  1. Olivier was a blonde when knighted. He was in the middle of filming Hamlet, so his hair had been bleached blonde for the role.
  2. Alexander Korda closed down the Anna Karenina set for the investiture.
  3. Olivier, at 40, was the youngest actor to be knighted. 
  4. He'd been skipped over the Honors List before, due to his divorce and subsequent remarriage to a divorced woman.
  5. Olivier was the fourth most popular British actor when knighted. The top three actors were James Mason, Stewart Granger and Ray Milland. 


Thanks for joining me for today's Fashion Friday post!




Friday, January 20, 2017

Fashion Friday: That Hamilton Woman

That Hamilton Woman! is a 1941 movie about the real-life romance of Emma Hamilton and Horatio Nelson, starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. René Hubert, the man tapped to be the costume designer for the film, was no stranger to Vivien. He had previously worked with her on three movies:  Fire Over England, Dark Journey and A Yank at Oxford. René was born in Switzerland, in 1895.

Vivien Leigh and designer René Hubert
When it came to fashion, René's motto was that a woman should dress her personality, then everything else would fall into place. Your clothes must never overshadow you. You must triumph over them, for beauty's greatest asset is the lack of self-consciousness. René designed many sets and costumes for revues/plays in Europe, including designs for Max Reinhardt. By the age of thirty, his most famous client was Gloria Swanson, whom he began designing for in 1925. During his career, Rene received two Oscar nominations for costume design: Desiree, 1954 and The Visit, 1964.

That Hamilton Woman! opens at the British Embassy in Naples. We catch our first glimpse of Vivien as the young Emma as she arrives in Naples, along with her mother, at the home of Sir William Hamilton.

Vivien Leigh and Sara Allgood 
Vivien wears a large hat, based on one from a George Romney painting of Emma Hamilton. The hat features oversized black bows on top and a streaming, grey chiffon, scarf wraps around Vivien's chin. She wears a floor-length grey cape, with a multi-tiered capelet. Beneath the cape she wears a matching grey, chiffon dress cinched at the waist with a black sash. The close-fitting, long sleeves of the dress end in a small ruffle at each wrist.

Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh


Sir William arranges to dine alone with Emma on her first night in Naples. The costume for this scene is a sweet dress made from a light, pink organza. The dress features elbow length sleeves, with banded ribbon midway through the sleeves and a low, ruffled collar, which extends to the shoulders, covering the bodice. A large, pink bow sits in the center of the ruffled collar.


Vivien wears a super-cute, three piece, sailor outfit, which reflects the colors of the British flag (red, white and blue). The gown features a long, pleated, chiffon dress. The skirt portion is highlighted by light blue stripes. The dress is topped off with a red, double-breasted waistcoat made from red moire (a silk fabric with a wavy pattern). Over the waistcoat, Vivien wears a short, bolero jacket made from blue silk.


Brass buttons are lined up in neat little double rows, running down both the vest and the jacket. The nautical theme continues with Vivien's jewelry. She wears an anchor necklace and anchor earrings. Her white collar also features gold anchors; one pinned to each side.  Vivien's curls are crowned by a straw hat, with an upturned brim, trimmed in blue ribbon.




Next up is the costume I've dubbed the opera gown. This particular ball gown is only shown briefly as Emma and Nelson attend the opera. Later, at an inn, we catch a fleeting glimpse of the dress beneath Emma's cape. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a full length photograph of the gown by itself.


The ball gown is made from blue satin, which is draped over side hoops, leaving the front and back more or less flat (which I'm sure Vivien appreciated after wearing those wide hooped skirts in GWTW!). Pink chiffon roses are sewn onto the dress, contrasting with the blue satin. The leaves and stems for the roses are embroidered directly onto the gown's fabric in a silver thread and are embellished with tiny rhinestones. The underskirt is a heavy satin, with diamond shapes studded with more rhinestones. The entire outfit is topped off by an enormous hat, adorned with pink chiffon roses and ostrich feathers.


Vivien stuns in this next costume, which is another glamorous ball gown. The gown features a tight fighting, silver bodice with short sleeves. The skirt flounces out over side hoops for a dazzling effect, especially when Vivien, as Emma, runs through the palace in search of Nelson! The black chiffon skirt features a large, silver pattern with an overlay of black netting, studded with diamantes.




The Now I've kissed you through two centuries ball gown was auctioned off a few years ago by Christie's, selling for $7,800 USD.  From Christie's website: A full-length formal gown of black velvet, the v-shaped neckline trimmed with black lace, the bodice and skirt embellished with rhinestones and bugle beads in the form of feathers and bows. The dress was subsequently adapted for later use.


Eugne Joseff was the jewelry designer for That Hamilton Woman. In the movie, Vivien wears this gorgeous, faux diamond and emerald necklace. The necklace was originally created by Joseff 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. Joseff brought the piece out of storage for Vivien to wear as we see in these pictures.


Another of Vivien's costumes that went on the auction block is this gorgeous overcoat. The outfit was sold at Sotheby's in 2002 for around $8,000 USD. Looking at the black and white photos, one would never guess that the coat was a gorgeous green color.


The top of the coat features a multi-tiered capelet, while the sleeves end in oversized cuffs. The extra large, black buttons run almost the entire length of the overcoat. A black belt is cinched into place around the close fitting waist. In the picture above, a frilly cravat stands its ground, held in place with a large cameo brooch.


One part of the publicity campaign for That Hamilton Woman! were costume reproductions. These modern day replicas were available to the general public at fine department stores.


One of my personal favorites, from That Hamilton Woman!, is this gorgeous gown. I don't have a description of the dress as viewed in the movie, but I do have a description of the replica made for the public. The replica gown was made from white crepe. The crepe drapes over the bodice Grecian style and the shoulders feature toga like knots. The bodice and the detachable shawl feature an embroidered design, embellished with diamantes.


And finally, we come to a costume worn by Laurence Olivier as Horatio Nelson. This costume went on the auction block in 2011, selling for $19,000!


As Nelson, Olivier wears several different naval uniforms. This particular one can be seen, in the movie, when Vivien comes aboard Nelson's ship. It's a long, navy colored jacket with a cream vest and white shirt beneath. The white shirt features ruffles in the front and at the wrists. The jacket, as pictured above, is missing its gold epaulettes from the shoulders.


This last picture shows the real Nelson's naval uniform. Nelson wore it in the Battle of Trafalgar, where unfortunately, he was killed by gunfire. The gentleman in the picture is pointing to the bullet hole in Nelson's jacket.


From Napoleon.org: Nelson had lost his right arm at Santa Cruz de Tenerife on 22 July 1797, and accordingly the right sleeve of the jacket is only lined to the elbow, and is equipped with a small loop that allows it to be crossed over the breast and fastened to a button. On the left sleeve and tails there are visible bloodstains, probably those of John Scott, Nelson’s secretary, who was killed just before him. The uniform and a number of other effects were given to Lady Hamilton, who gave them away to settle a debt in 1814. Prince Albert acquired them later for 150 pounds and donated them to Greenwich Hospital. As for the bullet that killed Nelson, it is now kept in the Royal Collection at Windsor.


Thanks for joining me for today's Fashion Friday post!


For more on That Hamilton Woman!, please check out this previous post:
 21 Cool Things About That Hamilton Woman!