Showing posts with label Margaret Mitchell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Margaret Mitchell. 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!


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Fashion Friday #7: Gone With The Wind in Atlanta

In December, 1939, Atlanta fell under the spell of David Selznick's masterpiece, Gone With the Wind. The mayor of Atlanta, William Hartsfield, declared a three day holiday to celebrate the movie's premiere at Loew's Grand Theater on Peachtree Street. Three of the main cast members flew in from Hollywood, which included Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable and Olivia de Havilland. Other celebrities attending the premiere included David Selznick, along with his wife Irene Selznick, Laurence Olivier, Carole Lombard and Claudette Colbert.

On Thursday, December 14th, Vivien and other cast members attended the Junior League Ball. Vivien's dress for this event was specifically designed for her by Walter Plunkett, the costume designer for Gone With the Wind.

Vivien's black evening gown was made from lyons velvet, a stiff and thick velvet fabric fashionable at the time of the premiere. The dress featured a fitted bodice, trimmed in white ermine, and sleeves capped off by ermine and ermine tails. From Vivien's waist, the dress flared out into a wide, full skirt. Willard George designed her cape, made from ermine and their black tails. Paul Flato designed Vivien's jewelry for the evening, which featured a diamond butterfly clip for her hair, a diamond & ruby bracelet and a diamond bow ring.

Below is a formal, publicity photo of Vivien in her Junior League Ball gown, which really showcases the skirt.

Also in attendance at the Junior League Ball was Laura Hope Crews, better known as Aunt Pittypat, and Ona Munson, the film's Belle Watling. The two ladies came dressed as their characters from Gone With the Wind.

Laura Hope Crews wore a gray taffeta [dress] with grey bengaline shoes, black silk stockings, blue net scarf, blue mittens, blue lace and ivory fan and a gray lace and blue velvet cap. To complete her outfit, Miss Crews topped her natural hair with Aunt Pittypat's blonde wig. The mittens referenced are the fingerless gloves Laura is seen wearing in the photo below.

Ona Munson also wore her Belle Watling red wig, which complemented her outfit made from cerise taffeta ...[with] silken folds under the skirt. Her four petticoats were embroidered eyelet, hooped and plain. She wore pantalets and a bustle. Her accessories were roses, gold bells, a purple net scarf and a pair of bell earrings. Bell earrings for Belle!

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard also attended the Junior League ball. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a description of Carole's outfit. They are pictured with Atlanta Mayor William Hartsfield and his daughter, Mildred, who was lucky enough to sit next to Gable for the evening's festivities. Mildred's dress was heavy yellow moire taffeta striped with gray, featuring a square neck and long sleeves. Both the neck and sleeves were trimmed with old cream lace. The dress had a tiny waist and full skirt worn over crinoline petticoats. She wore an old gold necklace with pendants and gold drop earrings. In  her hair she wore yellow ribbon bows and on her shoulder she wore yellow orchids with red throats. Black lace mittens, black velvet bag and cape completed her costume. Wow, she's got a lot going on! 

The next evening, December 15th, saw the premiere of Gone With the Wind. Once again, Vivien chose to wear a Walter Plunkett gown. This lamé gown was a brilliant gold, perfectly setting off Vivien's dark brown hair with its hints of reddishness. As with her Junior League gown, publicity portraits were taken of Vivien in her gold dress.

The gown is of gold lame, draped in Oriental fashion, with harem hem line and draped girdle accenting the small waist. Girdle and the short sleeves are quilted in rose pattern and studded with gold sequins. Vivien's jewelry featured an acorn and leaf design, fashioned from topaz and diamonds. The matching necklace and bracelet resided quite nicely in its gold setting as did the princess cut topaz ring on her pinkie.

Vivien's unofficial date for the evening was the sharply dressed Laurence Olivier, recent star of "Wuthering Heights." Olivier's tuxedo was made from a dark coloured wool, with stripes only a shade lighter than the suit. The top coat featured tails, pointed lapels and a left breast pocket. The matching pants came with a five button fly.  His tux was specially created for him by Roche and Pollock in September, 1939. 

Also, in attendance at the premiere, was author Margaret Mitchell. She wore a fashionable pink full skirted tulle gown, a full length white velvet evening coat, a pink bow in her hair, and a camellia corsage given to her by the producers. (Atlanta History Center) Below is a photo of Mitchell's full length coat, along with a picture of her wearing the coat while speaking to the crowds. One can get a slight glimpse of her long skirt as the pink tulle dress plays peek-a-boo with her evening coat.

Mitchell's dress featured a fitted bodice, with off the shoulder sleeves. She's pictured seated, in between Jock Whitney (financial backer of GWTW) and her husband, John Marsh (wearing the glasses).

Carole Lombard, aka Mrs. Clark Gable, also attended the premiere, on the arm of her man. She wore a medieval cape of blush satin with a train, [which matched her gown]. Blush is in the pink-color family. I love Carole's netted hood. It must've been quite striking against her blonde hair.

Here's Ona Munson as she arrives at the premiere and poses for photographers. Ona's wearing a dark, green velvet, evening gown with a fur jacket and corsage.

The two ladies, in antebellum costumes, next to Ona are twin sisters, Virginia and Charlotte Starr. They were two of the thirty girls selected to act as hostesses for Gone With the Wind's premiere.

Finally, here's Olivia de Havilland, arriving at the theater with Jock Whitney, whom she also sat next to throughout the show. Olivia wore a black velvet evening gown with an ermine fur jacket. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a full length photo of Olivia in her evening gown.

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

Unless otherwise noted, all italicized dress descriptions are from Herb Bridges.