Showing posts with label Leslie Howard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leslie Howard. Show all posts

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Vivien Leigh's "Gone With The Wind" Script Is Up For Auction

In recent years, a plethora of items related to Gone With the Wind have turned up on the auction block. This year is no different. On September 26, Sotheby's will be auctioning off items personally owned by the movie's star, Vivien Leigh. One item, in particular, will be drawing the attention of Gone With the Wind collectors: Vivien's leather-bound script, gifted to her by the producer, David O. Selznick.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett & Leslie Howard as Ashley

David O. Selznick gave these presentation scripts as Christmas gifts, in 1939, to select members of the cast and crew of Gone With the Wind, along with a few people outside the filmThere were two styles of these hardbound scripts: one screenplay was covered in cloth and morocco leather; the other, in leather only. The four main cast members (Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard and Vivien) all received ones bound in full leather.

Leslie Howard's leather-bound presentation script

These presentation scripts were maroon in color, with GONE WITH THE WIND, 'SCREEN PLAY' and the recipient's name gilt-stamped onto the cover. Selznick inscribed each copy with a personalized note to the recipient, found inside on the front end paper. These beautifully bound scripts were given the date of January 24th, 1939 and contained the finalized script of the film. Black and white stills from the movie were interspersed with the script.

Vivien Leigh's script is not the first one from the movie to be auctioned. Selznick handed out a few dozen of these scripts and many of them have been on the auction block. Walter Plunkett's, Hattie McDaniel's and Clark Gable's scripts have all been sold via auction houses.

Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDaniel's script was made from cloth and leather. It's been on the auction block at least twice. In December 2010, Hattie's screenplay sold for $18,300 and then in April 2015, it sold again for $28,750. The seller noted that the covers had come unbound from the spine, along with leather loss and a stain on the front. Selznick's personal note to Hattie reads, For Hattie McDaniel, who contributed so greatly! With gratitude and admiration, David, Christmas, 1939.

Selznick's inscription to Hattie

Walter Plunkett, the costume designer for Gone With the Wind, also received a presentation script made from cloth and leather. At an auction, in April 2015, Plunkett's personalized screenplay sold for $22,500. Selznick's inscription reads, For Walter Plunkett, With appreciation of, and for, his brilliant execution of a difficult job. David O. Selznick, Christmas, 1939.

Walter Plunkett's cloth and leather bound GWTW script

Gone With the Wind's publicist, William R. Ferguson, received one of these cloth and leather bound books, too. It's signed, For Bill Ferguson, in memory of Atlanta. With appreciation, David Selznick. Ferguson's copy sold at auction, in October 2014, for $23,000.

Walter Plunkett and Olivia de Havilland

Sidney Howard, the only credited screenwriter for Gone With the Wind, passed away in August, 1939. His all leather copy was presented to his widow, Polly Damrosch. Selznick didn't inscribe this one. However, Polly gave the script to her nephew, writing, With love to Blaine on Jennifer's birthday, March 23rd, 1940, from Polly. This script hit the auction block in 2008, selling for $3,250; and then again in 2014, this time selling for $62,500. 

Norma Shearer, a would-be Scarlett at one time, received one of the special, leather bound screenplays. David wrote, For Norma, the ever appreciative. With gratitude for her never-failing encouragement, and with affection. David, Christmas, 1939. Norma's script fetched $14,640, at an auction, in 2011.

A few of the other recipients included William Kurtz, John Hertz, Will Price, William B. Hartsfield and the book's author, Margaret Mitchell. Mitchell's leather-bound, presentation script is kept in Atlanta. The Atlanta Fulton Public Library placed it on display for the 75th anniversary of the book's publication.

William B. Hartsfield's personalized screenplay was presented to him during Gone With the Wind's 21st anniversary, by David Selznick. The event was held in Atlanta and attended by Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland and Selznick (read more about that event here). Hartsfield was Atlanta's mayor during the film's original premiere in 1939 and also during the film's anniversary celebration. Inside the script, David wrote, March 10, 1961, To Mayor William B. Hartsfield with the affection and gratitude of the "Gone With The Wind Company," including his admirers. David O. Selznick. The script was also signed by Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, Butterfly McQueen and Samuel Yupper, a friend of Mitchell's. It sold at auction, in 1995, for $8,625.

Will Price bequeathed his Gone With the Wind script to writer Carla Carlisle (Country Life, Sept 6, 2017). Will was the Southern voice coach for the cast. Selznick wrote, For Will Price, who literally shoved the South down our throats. With good wishes always, David Selznick.

Leslie Howard's script recently hit the auction block, in November 2016, as part of TCM Presents... Lights, Camera, Action, with an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It remained unsold. Selznick's inscription reads, For Leslie, with the profound, (but probably futile), hope that he'll finally read it. Christmas, 1939. Howard was kind of famous on set, for never having read Gone With the Wind, even after Selznick told him to at least read Ashley's scenes that were making it into the movie.

In 1996, Clark Gable's personalized screenplay sold for a whopping $244,500! The winning bid was placed by Steven Spielberg. The leather-bound script was inscribed to Gable by David Selznick, who referenced how the public, almost unanimously, chose Clark Gable to play Rhett Butler, For Clark, who made the dream of fifty million Americans (who couldn't be- and weren't- wrong!) and one producer come true! With gratitude for a superb performance and a happy association, David, Christmas, 1939. Gable later recalled how he didn't want the role of Rhett Butler, It wasn't that I didn't appreciate the compliment the public was paying me, it was simply that Rhett was too big an order. I didn't want any part of him, Rhett was too much for any actor to tackle in his right mind.

Clark Gable as Rhett and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett

Now, on September 26th, Vivien Leigh's leather-bound, personalized script will go on the auction block. Sotheby's selling estimate is between $13,300 to $19,900. However, this is not the first time Vivien's family has attempted to sell her screenplay.

In 2006, Bonhams listed the book, citing the provenance as by direct family descent (most likely Vivien's daughter, Suzanne Farrington). The selling estimate was given as $80,000 to $120,000. The script didn't sell and remained with the family.

Vivien Leigh's leather-bound presentation script

Unfortunately, David's inscription to Vivien is missing from the book. Sotheby's catalog states (pages 36-37 pdf) ...Vivien's copy now has a jagged-edged stub where the inscribed leaf has been cut out with a pair of scissors. We'll probably never know what happened to David's note to Vivien. Perhaps a guest or fan took it home as a souvenir or one of Vivien's grandchildren accidentally tore it out. Then there's always the possibility that Vivien removed the inscription herself, if she were truly mad at David Selznick.

In 1945, Selznick filed an injunction against Vivien, attempting to prevent her from appearing in the play, The Skin of Our Teeth. Sir Walter Monckton, Selznick's attorney, argued that The screen personality of a leading lady is a very valuable commodity to be treated rather as an exotic plant. Under the terms of his contract with Miss Leigh, Mr. Selznick claimed the right to decide how 'the exotic plant' was to be exposed so that it could not be subjected to unwise exposure. ...A screen personality is something so expensive and so valuable that a person investing in it large sums of money will naturally say, 'I want to prevent you from entering into adventures otherwise than with my consent.'  

Vivien's attorney, Valentine Holmes, contested this testimony. He said that it was against public policy to have restrictive clauses in a contract that prevented anyone working in 'war time.' No injury to Mr. Selznick could occur through letting her act for eight weeks in the play, but considerable damage and inconvenience would be caused to a number of completely innocent people if she was prevented. He went on with Vivien's affidavit. It had been decided under American law that a contract such as hers with Mr. Selznick was unenforceable after seven years, and in view of that decision, Mr. Selznick had for some months been urging her to enter into a new agreement. She refused as it would involve her in film appearances over a number of years and separate her for long periods from her husband. Vivien won the injunction.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara

It'll be very interesting to see how much Vivien's personalized screenplay will sell for at auction, especially if two buyers get into a bidding war. There are many Gone With the Wind fans, including myself, who would love to have it as part of their collection.

Detail of the front cover of Vivien's script
Detail of the front cover of Vivien's script

Thanks for reading!


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, June 22, 2014

30 Things You May Not Know About Gone With The Wind

1. Four out of the five main cast members died in their fifites: Vivien Leigh (Scarlett) passed away at the age of 53; Clark Gable (Rhett) at 59; Leslie Howard (Ashley) at 50; and Hattie McDaniel (Mammy) at 57. Olivia de Havilland (Melanie) is still living. She currently resides in Paris, France.

Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Wilkes
2. Three directors worked on the film: George Cukor, Victor Fleming and Sam Wood. Only Victor Fleming received credit and the Oscar for Best Director.

3. The opening scene of Gone with the Wind was ultimately filmed five times. After the first time it was filmed, Selznick decided the Tarleton twins' hair was too orangey, so he had it re-shot. Then it was filmed again when Victor Fleming replaced George Cukor. Vivien Leigh looked too tired in another scene. And lastly, it was shot again, when according to Fred Crane, the etiquette expert Susan Myrick, said that no southern girl would show her bosom so early in the day, which is when they decided Vivien should wear the white, prayer dress.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett with the Tarleton Twins, played by Fred Crane and George Reeves, in one of the deleted scenes.
4. The first scene filmed was the burning of Atlanta, which was actually the burning of other movie sets on the backlot named Forty Acres, including the King Kong set.

5. After the barbecue at Twelve Oaks, there is a scene in which all the men are gathered together discussing war. This is the only scene in the movie in which all of Scarlett's future husbands (Charles Hamilton, Frank Kennedy and Rhett Butler) appear together.

6. According to Frank Buckingham, Clark Gable would sometimes eat garlic before his kissing scenes with Vivien Leigh. Buckingham was a film technician who worked for Alexander Korda. Korda sent him to observe the making of Gone With The Wind.

Clark Gable as Rhett and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett

7. The scene in which Scarlett gives Ashley a sash for his uniform, while he's home on Christmas leave, is the last scene that George Cukor directed.

Vivien Leigh and Leslie Howard
8. Gone With The Wind is the only movie Alicia Rhett, who played India Wilkes, ever made. Originally, she read for the part of Melanie, but George Cukor didn't think she had enough acting experince to play Melanie, so he assigned her the part of India.

9. Alicia Rhett was an artist and sketched her co-stars during breaks while filming. Later in life, she painted a portrait of Alexandra Ripley, who went on to author Scarlett, the sequel to Gone With The Wind.

Alicia Rhett (India Wilkes) sketches Ann Rutherford (Carreen) while Evelyn Keyes (Suellen) looks on.
10. Vivien Leigh decided she'd be the one to play Scarlett, long before she arrived in Hollywood and auditioned. 'A curious incident was noted by film critic C.A. Lejeune, who had accompanied the cast [21 Days Together] on the last day of shooting down the Thames to Southend on a steamer. It had been raining and during the long wait between shots talk had turned to MGM's plan to make a movie of the current best-seller in America, Gone With The Wind. Someone suggested that Olivier would make the ideal Rhett Butler. "Larry won't play Rhett Butler," was Vivien's prophetic comment, "but I shall play Scarlett O'Hara, wait and see." '- Love Scene, by Jesse Lasky, Jr

11. David O. Selznick wanted Tallulah Bankhead to play Belle Watling. He also used Mae West's name in regard to the role as a publicity stunt. Selznick's final choice for Belle was Ona Munson.

Clark Gable and Ona Munson
12. Gone With The Wind marked the second time Thomas Mitchell and Barbara O'Neil (aka Mr. and Mrs. O'Hara) played a married couple. They'd previously played husband and wife in "Love, Honor and Behave."

Thomas Mitchell as Gerald O'Hara and Barbara O'Neil as Ellen O'Hara
13. Barbara O'Neil, Scarlett's mother Ellen, was only three years older than Vivien Leigh. Ms. O'Neil was born in 1910 and Vivien was born in 1913.

14. Hattie McDaniel's father, Henry, had been born into slavery and was a Civil War veteran. Hattie won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mammy in 1940.

Hattie McDaniel as Mammy
15. Thomas Mitchell did not receive an Oscar nomination for Gone With The Wind. However, he was nominated for Stagecoach and won for Best Supporting Actor in 1940.

Oscar Night, 1940: Spencer Tracy, Vivien Leigh with her Oscar for Scarlett, Thomas Mitchell and Fay Bainter

16. Tomorrow is Another Day was one of the book's titles before being changed to Gone With The Wind.

17. The book's title, Gone With The Wind, was taken from a line in the poem Cynara, by Ernest Dowson. The poem is about obsession for a lost love.

18. Scarlett's name was originally Pansy.

19. There was serious talk from the studio about changing Vivien Leigh's name to Virginia Lee, so she'd sound more like a Southern girl instead of the British girl she was, and be more acceptable to the public.

20. Vivien Leigh went through 28 different hairdos as Scarlett O'Hara. Here are just a few examples of her hairstyles:

21. Walter Plunkett, costume designer, created over 5,000 pieces of clothing for Gone With The Wind.

22. F. Scott Fitzgerald worked on the movie's script.

23. Gone With The Wind premiered first in Atlanta, on December 15, 1939, followed by premieres in New York and Hollywood. Leslie Howard didn't attend the Atlanta premiere as he'd returned to England due to the outbreak of WWII. Hattie McDaniel wasn't allowed to attend due to segregation laws.

Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Margaret Mitchell, David O. Selznick and Olivia de Havilland in Atlanta
24. Vivien Leigh didn't attend the New York premiere on December 19, 1939. Instead, she and Laurence Olivier skedaddled off together for some private time.

25. When asked by a newspaperman, in 1937, how he felt about playing Ashley Wilkes, Leslie Howard looked slightly puzzled and quizzically responded, Ashley who-did-you-say? Well, -er, excuse me, but who in the deuce is he? Howard had been so busy with his production of Hamlet that he hadn't heard about Gone With The Wind or the poll that ranked him as top choice for Ashley. Howard never did read the book.

Vivien Leigh and Leslie Howard in the Paddock scene
26. Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland were British. Howard was born in England; Vivien was born in India to British parents; and Olivia was born in Japan, also to British parents.

27. Margaret Mitchell won the Pulitzer Prize for Gone With the Wind.  "... [she] received news of the prize by phone, along with multiple requests for interviews. Hating publicity, she fled to a gospel concert at a small black church in Atlanta with her husband John Marsh, her publisher Harold Latham and her black housekeeper Bessie Jordan. The press scoured the city but never found her. It was a glorious night for Margaret Mitchell." -Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel

28. Special lighting was used to make Vivien Leigh's gray-green eyes appear a solid green to match the description of Scarlett's eye color.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara

29. After the raid on Shantytown, and the death of Frank Kennedy, Rhett brings home a "drunk" Ashley from Belle Watling's. This is the only scene the four main characters (Scarlett, Melanie, Ashley and Rhett) share.

Ashley, Melanie, Rhett and Scarlett

30. Thomas Mitchell, who played Scarlett's father Gerald, was only about nine months older than Leslie Howard, who played Scarlett's love interest Ashley. Mitchell was born in 1892 and Howard was born in 1893.

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