Showing posts with label Norma Shearer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Norma Shearer. 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


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Friday, February 12, 2016

Fashion Friday #9: The 12th Annual Academy Awards

The 12th Annual Academy Awards were held on February 29th, 1940. A who's who of Hollywood gathered together to watch their peers receive recognition for their work in 1939. Bob Hope played Master of Ceremonies for the night, which saw Gone With the Wind sweep the awards.

Vivien Leigh arrived for the ceremony with David Selznick, Laurence Olivier, Olivia de Havilland and Jock Whitney. Both Vivien and Olivia chose to wear ermine coats over their Oscar dresses: Vivien went with a floor length coat, while Olivia chose to wear a shorter, cropped version.


Beneath her fur coat, Vivien wore a stunning, floor-length gown by Irene. Irene Lentz was a fashion designer, whose salon was located inside the Bullocks-Wilshire department store. In addition to designing costumes for the movies, Irene also designed for private customers, which included many of Hollywood's top stars such as Carole Lombard, Marlene Dietrich, Claudette Colbert and Loretta Young.


In the fall of 1939, Irene held a fashion show for one of her collections. The gown Vivien chose for the Oscars was listed as item number fourteen with the simple description of red poppy evening gown. The green printed chiffon dress featured the aforementioned red poppies with hints of yellow, gray and blue mixed into the gown's color palette. Vivien won the Best Actress Oscar for her role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind.


Vivien's chiffon gown featured spaghetti straps, side cut-outs and a low-cut bodice. Her topaz pendant, set in yellow gold, hung from a slender chain around her neck, drawing attention to the deep V of the dress. Vivien chose costume jewelry to complete her look, a bracelet and large ring, to match the tone set by the pendant.


Olivia de Havilland, a nominee for Best Supporting Actress, wore a cropped ermine jacket over her floor-length evening gown. Unfortunately, as with the Atlanta and Hollywood Gone With the Wind premieres, I wasn't able to find a full length image of Olivia in her gown.


Laurence Olivier gives her a helping hand as she makes her way up the stairs and we can see the bottom half of her dress. Olivia's gown featured alternating bands of black lace and black taffeta, from her bow-topped bodice to the bottom of her wide skirt.


Hattie McDaniel arrived wearing a short fur jacket over her gown, which she highlighted with a gorgeous corsage of gardenias. She chose to wear a blue crepe gown for the night's festivities, which featured a long-sleeved, cropped jacket over her shirred bodice, with a cummerbund setting off the long skirt. Gardenias and a headband adorned her hair as she took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.




Joan Bennett arrived in a white crepe evening gown on the arm of her new husband, Walter Wanger, a nominee for Outstanding Production for the movie, Stagecoach. Joan's long-sleeved gown featured a plunging neckline, which she highlighted with an emerald brooch set within a circle of diamonds and a pearl necklace. One of the biggest fashion trends of 1940, for ladies, were turbans. Joan embraced this latest fad by elegantly swathing her hair in white crepe, which matched her dress.


Though Bette Davis had already heard she wasn't going to be the night's winner for Best Actress for Dark Victory, she still showed up dressed to kill. Her escort for the night was her cousin, Johnny Favour.




Bette's black, sheer net dress came with long-sleeves and a floor-length, full skirt. Her fitted bodice featured multi-colored sequins in a very decorative motif. Her dress may have been designed by Orry-Kelly,  the fashion designer for Warner Brothers.


Hedy Lamarr arrived with her husband, Gene Markey, in a long, black wool, evening cape, gorgeously studded with sequins across the shoulders, achieving a capelet effect.



The above studio portrait gives us a close-up of Hedy in her black cape, showing off the beaded design. Beneath the cape, Hedy wore a pinkish colored, long-sleeved satin gown with a fitted bodice. The dress featured a design of black velvet applique and front buttons.


Judy Garland took home a special Oscar for her outstanding performance as a screen juvenile during the past year and received a miniature statuette. I love the clasps on her fur jacket.


She wore a short-sleeved dress of blue chiffon, with a long skirt ribbed with bands of matching blue lace. She completed her look with elbow-length gloves and a corsage. Judy performed what many people think of today as her feature song, Over the Rainbow, from The Wizard of Oz.


Norma Shearer's strapless gown was designed by Balenciaga, which according to one source, had been specifically made for her while on a trip to Paris. The princess cut dress of blue satin featured an embroidered design from top to bottom and a corseted waist. Norma's jewelry consisted of a diamond necklace and several diamond bracelets on her left wrist. Her date for the evening was the handsome George Raft.


What's fun to note is that this is the same evening dress she wore just two months earlier to the Hollywood premiere of Gone With the Wind. Go, Norma! I can't imagine any of today's actresses wearing the same dress to two high profile events within months of each other.

Norma Shearer and George Raft at the GWTW premiere.

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



Friday, February 5, 2016

Fashion Friday #8: Hollywood Premiere of "Gone With the Wind"

On December 28th, 1939, Gone With the Wind finally had its premiere in Hollywood. The premiere was held at Fox's Carthay Circle Theater, which had opened in 1926. Sadly, the theater was demolished in 1969 to make room for an office block.


“Scarlett” in fucshia and white: Vivien Leigh wears an ermine coat over sequin sprinkled souffle with its matching veil and sequined bag.  Note that on the latter she carries Laurence Olivier’s orchids for a corsage effect fated for popularity.


Vivien Leigh's dress was designed for her by Walter Plunkett, who had also created her Atlanta premiere outfit. It's a shame there are no (known) color photos of Vivien in this dress. The fuchsia color would be amazing against her dark hair. Note how on top of her sequined hood, Vivien attached one of her brooches.


The gang's all here, well almost all of them... Jock Whitney, financial backer of GWTW, stands next to Irene Selznick, followed by Olivia de Havilland, David Selznick, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier at the Carthay Circle Theater.


After the movie was over, Jock Whitney thew a huge party for the attendees, at the new Trocadero Club. Obviously having a good time, at the Trocadero, are Olivia de Havilland, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and David Selznick.


It’s Clark (“Rhett Butler”) Gable’s big night and wife Carole Lombard does him proud in a classic gown and wrap of stippled gold. With this she wears a minimum of jewelry, topping tiny earrings with a chic up hair-do. 


In March, 1939, Clark was in the middle of filming Gone With the Wind when his divorce from wife number two came through. Clark wasted no time in making Carole the new Mrs. Gable and the couple drove down to Arizona to tie the knot.


The Gables hang out with Marion Davies and Raoul Walsh. The foursome were photographed at the Carthay Circle Theater, on the red carpet, where Gone With the Wind would shortly be shown.


Double play at the "Gone With the Wind" opening! Ginger Rogers not only enters the theater on the arm of Walter Plunkett, who created "Scarlett O'Hara's" own premiere ensemble, as well as the costumes for the picture...



Ginger Rogers wears a very smart tunic gown of palest blue and silver lame, exactly matched by the turban, which serves to conceal her currently dark hair. Her wrap is silver fox. Ginger was in the middle of filming Primrose Path and had dyed her blonde hair dark for the role (she also chose not to wear any make-up for the part).


Inside the Trocadero Club, at Jock Whitney's party, Walter Plunkett and Ginger Rogers are all smiles.


Lana Turner flaunts a lynx coat, which is very nearly as stunning as her tricky feather bird. The latter’s an anchor for the hood of Lana’s Gladys Parker gown. Lana was one of the would-be Scarletts. She auditioned for the role back in November, 1938.


Surprise? Another sweeping ermine wrap, this one-- not unlike Vivien’s-- belonging to Norma Shearer (who almost played the famous “Miss O’Hara“)! She is wearing a Directoire model of appliqued satin. Her Rhett Butler is George Raft, of course.


Margaret Sullavan, arriving with her husband, Leland Hayward, might have stepped right out of the family album in her broadcloth coat. with its quaint elbow capelet and baby pillow muff-- all banded with sealskin, that fur so dear to the hearts of our grandmothers’ day.


Tyrone Power and his wife, Annabella, arrive at Carthay Circle. The two had only been married since April and were still in the honeymoon stage. 


 Most girls would think it quite enough to make their entrance with Tyrone Power (let alone wearing his wedding ring!), but Annabella still seeks further honors with her basque waisted full skirted frock of brocaded satin damask under a white fox jacket whose extended shoulders are practically guaranteed to make the tiniest, most feminine star look even more fragile.


Gary Cooper and his wife, Veronica Balfe, arrive for the premiere. Fine feathers make a fine showing among the many opulent furs and gorgeous fabrics at the Carthay Circle, as Mrs. Gary Cooper proves with a brief, shaggy ostrich jacket. Her blazing diamond earrings strike an elegant note, too, though Gary’s face hardly looks too formal from this angle!


Joan Crawford's date for the night was Cesar Romero.


Gallantly, Cesar Romero helps Joan Crawford adjust the hood of her ermine wrap over her snood. The dress beneath is of flowing white crepe, tightly belted with heavy embroidery of  gold beads to match neckline.


Here are a few other celebrities who also attended the Hollywood premiere of Gone With the Wind. Unfortunately, I don't have dress descriptions for these ladies. First up is Hattie McDaniel. Hattie brought to life the character Mammy from GWTW as no other actress possibly could have.


Miss Carreen O'Hara and Mr. Charles Hamilton, better known in real life as Ann Rutherford and Rand Brooks attended the showing together. This was Ann's third time watching Gone With the Wind. She'd previously attended the Atlanta and New York premieres.


Paulette Goddard arrived on the red carpet with her husband, Charlie Chaplin. Paulette was another would-be Scarlett and actually made it to the final four in consideration. Her last screen test for Scarlett was on December 21st, 1938.


No matter what city Gone With the Wind had a premiere in (Atlanta, New York, Hollywood), the crowds turned out in droves to catch the slightest glimpse of Scarlett, Rhett and all the others who brought Margaret Mitchell's masterpiece to life.

Thanks for joining me for this week's fashion post!

All italicized dress descriptions are from Photoplay, April, 1940.