Showing posts with label Vintage Article. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vintage Article. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Double Life of Vivien Leigh

Tops Magazine
February, 1955

The London audience that jammed the theatre to see Vivien Leigh enact the role of Blanche in the sizzling play version of A Streetcar Named Desire will never forget her starkly realistic portrayal of a sex-ridden woman.

Playgoers sat silently in rapt attention as she went through the uninhibited sexual gyrations of a nymphomaniac.

"Miss Leigh's lust," wrote one critic, "rolls off the stage like a tropical storm cloud, causing vague stirrings in old codgers far past their prime."

But it was the closing minutes of the play that would later be regarded with such deep significance-- when the sex-mad heroine, unable to satisfy her craving for more and more lascivious adventures, suffers a complete mental breakdown. Vivien Leigh's real-life breakdown, years later, seems to parallel her Streetcar role in more ways than one.

On the London stage as Blanche Dubois

Even at the height of her success in this play, close friends of the actress were already noting how fervently she was throwing herself into the part. In gesture, in voice, in other ways, Vivien was even acting out the role of a tormented woman off the stage.

That Vivien Leigh was leading a strange double life first came to public notice a few months ago, when it was learned that the actress had made a trip to Paris in the company of playwright Terence Rattigan.

But Vivien's Parisian adventure was not the only incident that has kept London's West End tattlers gossiping about the actress' dual personality.

Actually, it all began when she landed a part in a new play co-starring with one of England's most rapidly rising young stars, Laurence Olivier.

Although Vivien was already married and the mother of a beautiful little girl, she was unable to resist the attentions of Olivier. During the successful run of the play, Fire Over London [Fire Over England], the most torrid love scenes undoubtedly took place backstage.

Friends of Vivien, aware of what was going on, were worried about her. They already knew that for her, love was an all-embracing and overpowering emotion. If sufficiently aroused, she could kick over the traces of her past life.

She did. She divorced her husband, bade her daughter a tearful farewell, and ended the first act of her real-life drama by throwing herself into Olivier's eager arms.

For a while, all was serene. Olivier rapidly became England's greatest actor, culminating in his remarkable production of Hamlet. For his superb artistry, he was knighted. And Vivien automatically became Lady Olivier.

But by now there were ugly rumours in Piccadilly that she was not conducting herself in a lady-like manner.

There were more rumours to the effect that Sir Laurence was keeping a tight rein on his lady-love in a desperate attempt to hold her on the straight-and-narrow.

The public got its first inkling that storm clouds were raging within the Olivier household when Paramount Pictures wired the couple an offer to co-star in Elephant Walk, which would be filmed in Ceylon.

Olivier glanced at the script and instantly turned it down. There was nothing unusual in this -- Olivier had always made the decisions about what plays or scripts they would do.

But then Vivien rebelled -- and accepted the female lead in the film!

Did her action stem from a genuine desire to play the part? Or was it a ruse to place herself beyond the watchful eye of her husband?

Olivier himself was the one who gave credence to this suspicion by insisting that a mutual friend, Peter Finch, be assigned to the picture-- to keep an eye on Vivien.

Vivien Leigh, Peter Finch & Laurence Olivier

Finch obviously took his extracurricular job with a large grain of salt. Dana Andrews, who replaced Olivier in the co-starring role, was seen everywhere with her. And Vivien acted like a changed woman-- happy, carefree, bent on having fun.

Then, something happened. The exact details may never be known, but it is reported that Andrews, her constant companion, was deeply concerned about her behaviour. He urged her to see a psychiatrist. Vivien turned up her beautiful nose at the idea.

"Psychiatrists cause more trouble than any other people in the world. I don't believe in them," she snapped.

At this stage, Peter Finch apparently decided matters had gone too far. He finally told the facts to Sir Laurence, who wasted no time in flying to Ceylon.

What transpired in the privacy of the room where Sir Laurence and his Lady conferred is another aspect of this drama that may forever be shrouded in mystery. The end result was that Vivien, Dana Andrews, and the rest of the company went off to finish the film in Hollywood. Sir Laurence took a plane back to England alone.

And now the scandal-sheets and rumour mongers really had something to go to work on.

One peep-hole artist literally crowed his discovery that, although Vivien was supposed to be living alone in a rented home, actually she was spending most of her time in the apartment of none other than Olivier's trusted pal, Peter Finch!

Another discovered that Vivien was also seeing quite a lot of John Buckmaster, an English actor who was once married to Jan Sterling. Buckmaster and Vivien, so the story went, spent hours together while he taught her the mysteries of Yoga.

It was obvious even tot he technicians at the studio that Vivien's real-life drama was fast nearing its climax.

The breakdown occurred on the set, where she collapsed in hysterics. A psychoanalyst was summoned. And Vivien Leigh's condition became public knowledge. She was forced to withdraw from her role in Elephant Walk, and was replaced by Elizabeth Taylor.

Arriving back in England

What the public did not know was that Vivien's derangement had the effect of erasing her identity as Vivien Leigh. She had become the nymphomaniac in A Streetcar Named Desire -- right down to the sultry southern accent.

The double life of Vivien Leigh merged into a nightmare single entity --that of sex-ridden Blanche of the play.

Fortunately, the real-life drama of Vivien Leigh has a typical Hollywood ending. The actress is now completely well --thanks, mostly, to the devoted love and affection given her in her darkest moments by her husband, Laurence Olivier.

But it is unlikely that Vivien Leigh will ever forget the horrible weeks she spent living a fantastic double life.

Back cover of Tops Magazine

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.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Knight Was Made For Love

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.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Little Miss Echo

Must She Always Be Little Miss Echo?
by Hubert Cole, originally published in 1940

I doubt that anybody would deny that the biggest screen role-- of the past ten years has been that of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. It would be strange wouldn’t it, if the girl who eventually got the role after so much heated competition, should eventually be killed by it?

That, I believe, is just what is happening. Miss Leigh, having scored one success with Scarlett, is going to echo and re-echo the role down the ages until everybody is thoroughly sick and tired of it. Unless something is done to stop it.

I am not blaming David O. Selznick, who cast Miss Leigh as Scarlett. The rot had set in some time before that. You can trace the Scarlett character back to A Yank at Oxford. That was the time when Vivien, having played two or three colourless ingénues in quota quickies, and then having been signed up by Alexander Korda with a fanfare of windy trumpets to play another colourless role in Fire Over England, first appeared as an unprincipled hussy.

She was, if you remember, the flirtatious wife of the elderly bookseller. She had so many affairs with the local undergraduates that her long-suffering husband at last decided to move his business. But, as she triumphantly announced, they were only moving to Aldershot. It was a very nice and naughty performance, that one in A Yank at Oxford. Her wide and innocent blue eyes contrasted attractively with her less innocent behaviour. She was a kitten with fully grown claws.

On the strength of that performance she was chosen to play the ambitious Cockney girl in Sidewalks of London. (It’s funny how blurbs of publicity follow Miss Leigh around-- as in the later Gone With the Wind campaign, there was a great deal of hullabaloo about finding an entirely new discovery, which ended up with Vivien Leigh getting the part.)

The girl in Sidewalks of London was as determined and unscrupulous as the bookseller’s wife in A Yank At Oxford. She was a little more open about it. She was at less pains to hide the fact that she would ride rough-shod over any obstacles, any ordinary feelings of kindness or gratitude.

And so we come to Scarlett O’Hara. Scarlett belongs to the select few heroines in literature who are intensely interesting and intensely unsympathetic. She is an American Becky Sharp.

She has ambition without principles, strength of purpose without conscience. She was a greater, more detailed study of the girl that Vivien Leigh had already played in A Yank at Oxford and Sidewalks of London. It was as if those two previous roles had been nothing more than a preliminary tryout for the final one.

If, indeed, they had been that --and if the course of training had ended there-- all would have been well. A monster production like Gone With the Wind might conceivably call for two test pictures to give the leading lady practice. But the three pictures together, and the triumph that Vivien scored in the third, seem to be her undoing. She is typed as the tough girl; the outward seeming sweet young thing with the callous core.

That, I am convinced, is why she was cast opposite Robert Taylor in Waterloo Bridge. Somebody, looking round for a subject for Vivien’s next picture, said: “Heck, why not Waterloo Bridge? That was all about a prostitute, wasn’t it?”

And Vivien, who is allowed to have no moral scruples on the screen, was given the part. As it happens, the girl in the story isn’t primarily a prostitute-- and is even less of one than she was in the earlier version, made before the purity campaigners got such a firm hold on Hollywood.

Actually, Myra in Waterloo Bridge is a very charming young woman, though an extremely foolish one. She becomes a prostitute not through willfulness or lack of moral sense, but because she is rather stupid.

That role might have been the opportunity that Miss Leigh was waiting for. It might have been the lucky accident that would have formed a stepping stone from the past series of unsympathetic roles to a new future of more pleasant ones. It might have removed the threat that she is condemned to play Little Miss Echo for the rest of her screen career.

But I’m afraid it hasn’t. Here she is now, off again down the path of mottled morals, playing Lady Hamilton to Laurence Olivier’s Nelson in the new film Alexander Korda is producing in Hollywood.

I’m not quite sure why Korda should be making the film at this time. There is obvious publicity value in the teaming of Olivier and Vivien; there is obvious topical value in the story of a great British admiral; but there is also the strange emphasis (as far as one can judge from the advance pictures) on the intrigue with Lady Hamilton and Nelson’s strange conduct in Naples-- a very unsavoury phase of his career.

And I suspect that the primary reason why he chose the subject was that Miss Leigh is still under contract to him and he thought Lady Hamilton a sufficiently immoral character to suit Miss Leigh’s style. For Korda, like the rest of the producers, apparently now believes that Miss Leigh has only one style.

Perhaps he is right. He should know more about her work than I do. But Waterloo Bridge, at any rate, seems to suggest she can play a young woman of good impulses and healthy outlook as well as she can the other kind. It may not be entirely the fault of the producers and casting managers that Miss Leigh has travelled so far away from the sweet young thing that she used to be in her early stage and screen days.

Two years ago, for instance, she said in an interview: “Quite a number of people were surprised when I appeared as a vamp in A Yank at Oxford, and took an unsympathetic part in Sidewalks of London. But in both cases, I felt that the roles were interesting and out of the rut. Since the films have been completed and shown, the letters I have received have proved I was right. Most of these letters say how glad the writers are that I have not confined myself to pretty heroine characters.”

To that insignificant statement you can add the story, recently published, that long before Gone With the Wind was ever made-- and certainly long before Vivien was approached to play the principle role-- she gave a copy of the book to a friend and autographed it from Scarlett.

In itself, the incident means little, except that Vivien not unnaturally saw herself in a role which was bound to be one of the most important on the screen. But set beside what she said in the interview, it seems to point clearly to the fact that she herself had a preference for unsympathetic roles-- and believes that the film going public likes best to see her in such roles. I believe she has been misled-- both by herself and her correspondents.

There is no doubt she takes her career seriously and laudably aims at becoming a great actress. It is true that many great actresses have played unsympathetic parts and created great reputations in them. It is also significant that, in one of her earliest and worst films, The Village Squire, she played Lady Macbeth.

All the way through, perhaps by chance and perhaps by choice, she has veered toward near villainy, she has appeared as a cold and calculating hussy.

There have been patches when she was just a normal, nice young woman-- but she does not seem to have been particularly interested in those roles. Unfortunately, she has some reason to despise them, for they were parts of no great value: the lady-in-waiting in Fire Over England, for instance, and the heroine in Dark Journey-- though the film itself was pleasant enough.

So, by avoiding being “confined entirely to pretty heroine characters,” she seems to have dug herself into an equally treacherous rut. If I have accused her wrongly of willfully going unsympathetic on us, I am sorry. If, in fact, she is fighting against such typing, I am doubly sorry-- that she has had so little success recently.

There is a great deal of danger in stereotyping her in unpleasant parts. It is difficult-- probably impossible-- for a young actress to become great if she confines herself to unsympathetic roles. Unless Vivien Leigh breaks clean away from Scarlett O’Hara and all the other minor Scarletts, I fear she is going to find herself in the middle of a lot of grief.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Versatile Laurence Olivier

Article originally published in 1941

Versatile Laurence Olivier Stars With Vivien Leigh In "21 Days Together"
Laurence Olivier, whose latest success is as Larry Darrant in "21 Days Together," was born on May 22nd, 1907, in Dorking, Surrey, where his father was a clergyman. Laurence's early education was for the ministry, as it was thought that he would follow in his father's footsteps. The Rev. Gerard Olivier was interested in the drama, and he took his small son to see all the great stage celebrities of the day.

Laurence Olivier & Vivien Leigh in 21 Days Together

 His early schooldays were spent at a choir school in London, from where he went to St. Edward's, Oxford, and he distinguished himself there in pre-clerical subjects. He had become interested in the stage when his father took him to the theatre, and as he grew older and studied the personalites of the various people with whom he came in contact, he longed to dramatise the different characters he met. Eventually he told his father that he wanted to go on the stage. Some clerical fathers might have been upset to hear their son express such a wish, but the Rev. Olivier promptly transferred his son from the pre-ministerial St. Edward's to the Central School of Dramatic Art. His ministerial studies had groomed Laurence well in English and vocal training, and he had made one appearance on the stage when he was fifteen years old, at the Shakespearean Festival Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon; in a special boys' performance of "The Taming of the Shrew."

Laurence Olivier in The Taming of the Shrew, 1922

On London Stage
Before his period of schooling was over, he had played on the London stage. One of the early engagements was with the Birmingham Repertory Company, and he also toured in "The Farmer's Wife." Prior, to this, he had had a very lean time trying to convince casting agents that he was an actor His money got as low as seven shillings and sixpence and he was faced with a bill for a month's rent. He was determined to make good on his own and refused to ask his family for any financial help. Sybil Thorndike, who had known him as a child, secured a walking-on part for him. To gain experience he played in Sunday night shows whenever the opportunity presented itself. Even when important parts came his way, Laurence still played in as many Sunday shows as possible, and among them he created the part of Captain Stanhope in R. C. Sheriff's "Journey's End." When the play was put on at a public theatre he was offered the role, but he chose another offer which had come his way, that of playing the lead in Basil Dean's production of "Beau Geste."

Beau Geste

Two of Laurence Olivier's early stage roles were in Shakespearean productions and today the immortal bard is his favorite playwright. He feels, however, that Shakespeare's work can never be suitably adapted to motion pictures. His only experience with Shakespeare off the screen was as Orlando to Elizabeth Bergner's Rosalind in "As You Like It." He has, of course, played many Shakespearean roles on the stage, and critics have said that these have made him the superb artist that he is.

Visits America
In l929 he paid his first visit to America, playing the role of Hugh Bromilow in "Murder on the Second Floor." He made a sensational success in New York in this play, and it brought him many film offers, all of which he turned down. When he was back in England, however, he decided that he would have a try at a film career. His first picture was made in Germany and it was entitled "The Temporary Widow." He always smiles when he recalls his first day's work at the studio.

Too Many Crooks

He then played in the British films, "Too Many Crooks" and "Poliphar's Wife," and while he was experimenting with picture work he was still carrying on his stage career. It was about this time that he played in "After All," with Elissa Landi, and "Private Lives," with Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence. When the latter play went to New York, Laurence and Jill Esmond, to whom he was then married, went too. They were seen by screen talent scouts and were signed to go to Hollywood. Laurence's first American film was "Friends and Lovers." Then came "The Yellow Passport," in which he renewed acquaintance with Elissa Landi, followed by "Westward Passage," with Ann Harding.

Numerous Films
He returned to England at two days' notice in order to play opposite Gloria Swanson in her first British picture, "Perfect Understanding." Shortly after this he was signed to play opposite Greta Garbo in "Queen Christina," and he dashed off to Hollywood once more, only to find that the role had been given to John Gilbert. So back he went to England. His films since then have included "No Funny Business," "Moscow Nights," "Fire Over England," "The Divorce of Lady X," "Q Planes" and "21 Days Together."

Fire Over England with Vivien Leigh

He went back to America to play the part of Heathcliff in "Wuthering Heights," after which he was sensationally successful on the Broadway stage opposite Katharine Cornell in "No Time For Comedy." His performance in Wuthering Heights," witnessed by producer Selznick, led to his casting in the part of Maxim de Winter in Rebecca," followed by "Pride and Prejudice." Olivier has brown hair and eyes and is five feet ten inches in height. His marriage to Jill Esmond ended in divorce early last year, and soon afterward he was married to Vivien Leigh. He has always been studious, and while not at work on stage or screen he continually reads. He is an ardent devotee of gardening, at which occupation he takes most of his outdoor exercise. He does, however, also swim and ride.

Versatile Actor
Laurence is a versatile actor. He can play irresponsible youth, romantic leading men and tragic roles with equal ease. Despite the fact that he has gained great success with one or two gloomy roles, he would prefer to play comedy. Give him a gay part any day, he says.

No Time For Comedy (from Getty Images)

He is rather a silent individual, but nobody at the studio ever accuses him of being "high hat." In fact, he has his prankish moments. He is not a bit interested in seeing his name constantly in the papers; in fact, he will tell newspaper men, whenever they endeavour to interview him, that he is a boring fellow. He refuses, too, to go to places where the publicity people feel he ought to be seen because press photographers will be lurking around. The publicity department at the studio finds him quite a difficult problem at times.

In "21 Days Together," which commences a Hobart season at the Strand Theatre next Friday week, Olivier is co-starred with Vivien Leigh. Taken from the exciting works of John Galsworthy, the film has been described as one of the year's best romantic dramas.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Gone With the Wind's Alternate Ending

Many people who watch Gone With the Wind wish the movie had ended differently. Rhett's parting words to Scarlett, Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn, still makes people talk. And the question everyone wants answered is: What happened to Scarlett and Rhett?

Back in 1940, just months after Gone With the Wind had hit the big screen, Screen Guide magazine wondered the same thing. The fadeout of Gone With the Wind whets the curiosity of moviegoers. They watch Scarlett return to Tara alone, deserted by Rhett and they argue hotly among themselves about what happened afterward. "He'd never go back to her!" "Oh yes, he would!" "He wouldn't have to, she'd go to him!" The controversy surrounding the ending of Gone With the Wind is no criticism, but a great tribute to the film's compelling force. So real are the characters created by Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh that they do not cease to exist when their images on the screen fade. Their lives go on in the imagination of every moviegoer. 

Screen Guide held a contest for an additional ending to Gone With the Wind. The prize was $10 and the winner was Arnold Manning, a member of the Navy, stationed on the USS Portland. Illustrations to Manning's story were completed by Bernard Thompson.

"I don't give a damn!" was Rhett's weary reply to Scarlett's selfish cry. "What will become of me?" Now see what might have happened after that.

Here's Manning's winning entry:

Rhett tries to forget in the company of  Charleston's Belle Watlings, drinking too much, cursing Scarlett. Meanwhile, Scarlett, fearing the pitying amusement of gossips, again plays the coquette with man after man, stealing younger girls' lovers.

Alone, Scarlett gives way to despair, realizing that she cannot live without Rhett. "I'll think about that tomorrow," the little opportunist used to say. But this problem she must think about now. She begins to plot ways and means of bringing Rhett Butler back to her.

Aboard his ship, Rhett continues to drink himself into insensibility, determined not to return to his wife, but still unable to break her hold over him. He decides to set sail on a long voyage. Scarlett, when she hears of the plan, takes desperate action to forestall it.

Scarlett has Rhett kidnapped and brought to their home. They spend another night like the one after Rhett carried her upstairs, but this time it is Scarlett who takes the aggressive. All goes well until he sobers up, and then he becomes furious at her trickery.

He slams  out of the house, returns to this ship, and gives orders to sail. He retires to his cabin with a bottle. No matter how much salt water he puts between himself and Scarlett, Rhett is never able to escape from the love he once thought was killed by her selfishness.

A day out to sea, Rhett wakes up, smashes an empty bottle against the cabin door, yells for a full one. A hand sets the bottle on the table. For a moment he thinks he see Scarlett before him, but convinces himself that the vision is a drunken mind's hallucination.

Moments later, a slightly more sober Captain Butler appears on deck. He stops by the mate at the wheel, begins to ask, "Did you see...?" Looking at the seaman's poker face, he finishes, "Never mind." "Your wife, sir?" the mate asks. "My wife?" "That's what she said, sir. She said you'd be looking for her, and that she would be waiting in the fo'c'sle."

Rhett strides angrily along the deck, fists clenched. "My wife! I'll throw that hussy in the brig. Said I'd be looking for her! If she thinks that I'll come running any time she snaps her fingers-- this time I'll kill her!... My wife," he muses. "She said she was my wife."

A different Scarlett waits for him-- proud, yet mutely appealing, promising surrender. "So you said you're my wife!" His manner changes. "You still say it-- and Scarlett, I'll hold you to it!"

And Rhett and Scarlett return together to Tara, to the land. Fadeout.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Loves of Clark Gable

From Modern Screen, 1931
by Walter Ramsey

Almost since the day Clark Gable's first picture was shown in Hollywood, he has been asked to give his views on women, love, marriage and divorce. His answer has always been "No!" But in this statement, exclusive to Modern Screen, he tells for the first time all of his thoughts, ideals and illusions with regard to the many women he has known — a few of whom he has learned to love.

"Right at the outset," he said, "I want it understood by those who read this magazine that I have been married twice — not four times, as an erroneous report has it. Nor have I a son — as another report stated. I would have absolutely no reason to be untruthful about the subject in any way . . . many persons have been married a number of times and in most instances married people have children. But I haven't ... so far."

I was quite impressed with this opening statement of Clark Gable's for the reason that it proved him the type of man who likes to put "his cards on the table" . . . and that is the type of man I have learned to believe. The sincerity with which he portrays a character on the screen isn't lost one whit in his off-screen attitude. He has the same tone, of conviction over a luncheon table that you have learned to enjoy over the microphone. He is a splendid fellow, personally, and a real gentleman. I asked him, rather hesitantly, to tell me of all the women he had known in his life . . . right from the beginning. He had promised me the story and he came through. But the manner in which Clark Gable tells of the women he has known, stamps him all the deeper as a gentleman. You be the judge!

The first woman I ever knew," he began with a smile, "made a new man of me! She was seven and I was eight. She was short . . . dark . . . beautiful . . . and brown-eyed. Her name was Treela . . . and since she is now happily married I shall keep her other name a secret. Why it was that I suddenly found myself thinking about her during every waking hour . . . and dreaming about her at night, I don't know. Up until the time I first saw her I always had utter disdain for 'gurls' and had laughed at any of the boys in the gang who gave the opposite sex the slightest glance or thought. 

"Two weeks after I met Treela, however, I found myself in a church pew listening with one ear to the Sunday school sermon . . . and watching Treela with both eyes. It rather startled me, I remember, to find myself in church . . . mostly, I suppose, because I had always gone fishing instead. Sunday school had been another thing the gang had always avoided . . . religiously! So, as I said, the first woman I ever knew made a new man of me. 

"And believe me, ours was more than a puppy love affair. We swore undying love to each other. Appeared haughty when asked to play Post Office or any of the other games that all the kids went in for. We told each other than it would 'cheapen our love.' And I really believe it was more sincere than most youngsters' love affairs . . . it lasted five years . . . and I still call that more than a passing acquaintance! It was Treela who set the styles — as far as women have been concerned in my life. She was distinctly feminine . . . quite short . . . dark brown hair and the same shade of eyes. She has always remained in my mind as a little old-fashioned girl. 

"To show you how much she impressed me, I can truthfully say that until a short time ago I thought of her every day of my life! In fact, so often did my mind wander back over the memories of the five years that Treela and I 'went steady' as kid sweethearts, that I decided at one time that I would have to go back to the small town in Ohio and see if she still remembered me. 

"I went back to the little place where I had been born and brought up — and I found Treela! Not the same little girl I had been carrying in my memory for all the years. . . but a grown woman. A woman who had been married for quite some time and who introduced me to her husband and two of the cutest little kiddies I've ever seen. But I lost something by going back. I replaced the beautiful memory of a little girl . . . with a vivid recollection of a mature woman. The little girl had belonged to me — in memory — but the woman belonged to another man! I'm sorry now that I no longer have that picture in my mind . . . somehow I've always given it a great deal of credit for the little happiness I've been able to glean from some very lonesome hours. 

"I've often wondered what would have happened to that romance if I had stayed in Hopedale. But I moved to Akron . . . and Akron to me is quite famous for a tall, willowy, golden-haired girl with bright blue eyes. Her name was Norma . . . and we were both fifteen. My memory of Norma is very vivid. But it isn't the memory of a beautiful face or figure. It may sound silly when I say it, but the thing I remember about Norma was her voice! No, she wasn't a singer . . and she had never had her voice trained. 

"I have the recollection of sitting for hours and just listening. It used to worry me that I should have to interrupt — to ask her an occasional question so that she would continue talking to me. And even now, I think a beautiful voice is one of the most arresting and really rare attributes to be found. To me, a woman is automatically interesting if she speaks in a beautiful voice. 

Then, after two years in Akron, I started out on "the high road to Broadway. It was a long road . . . one that led me into little towns you have probably never heard of ... a road strewn with one-night stands . . . twenty-five dollars a week . . . when I worked and when I didn't, there were many times that I was hungry. 

'All during those years from the time I was seventeen until I was twenty-four were spent in day coaches and on the stage. During all this time I met many women. Many of them have become a part of the past. Only a few remain. 

"Elsa ... a wistful little girl — blue eyes and raven-black hair — five feet tall and quaint as a Dresden doll. She lived in a town in Mississippi. I remember her particularly because she seemed so anxious to prove her sincerity. She was the only woman I met in all those years who seemed to believe that I would amount to something as an actor. She recognized and was quick to forgive the light way in which I looked upon our romance. She showed, in a hundred insignificant ways, that she thought continually of my happiness. I didn't realize this until long after — but it isn't easy to forget now. 

"Alice . . . another very small girl. She was from the South and her accent intrigued me from the very start. One little mannerism that I recall was the way she had of puckering up her nose when she smiled. It made her appear so much happier than any other person I had ever seen smile that I couldn't get her out of my mind. She had huge dimples in her cheeks . . . and the corners of her mouth always turned up. And I shall never forget the last waltz we had. It was in a small dance pavilion near a lake . . . there was a colored orchestra playing . . . all the lanterns around the walls had been turned low.  I'll always remember that . . . that smile . . . and those dimples. 

Yes, there were many others. Some I have tried to forget . . . with just as much difficulty as trying to remember others. Some were friendships. A few reached the point of romance. And then, after I had finally got to playing some of the larger cities, I found myself occasionally with women whose only appeal lay in a rather dubious physical attraction. I've known the cheap little romances of the actor on a one-night stand. I found that it is very easy for a man who displays emotions on the stage for hours every day to allow himself to do the same off the stage during other hours. I have done it myself . . . and somehow I don't regret it. I think the women I've known have taught me a great deal about life. 

"But all of that comes to an end . . . sooner or later. I mean that sort of hit-and-miss romance. It finally comes time to take life and love very seriously. It came to me at the age of twenty-four. It was then that I met and married my first wife . . . Josephine Dillon. She wasn't on the stage when I met her, but her life had been the stage until a year or so previous. She gave me something that I had never had before ... a constant love and inspiration. Our married life wasn't of very long duration. . . and I will take most of the blame for that. After a separation of a few years, my wife obtained a divorce. Some are quick to say that it was the difference in our ages that made the marriage impossible. I am not sure whether they mean to imply that I was too young ... or that Josephine was older than I. I don't think age has anything to do with the duration of marriage. It has a much deeper foundation. 

Since I've come to Hollywood, I've married for the second time. My present wife had been married before just as I had . . . she is everything I could possibly desire in a wife and I am sure that this marriage will be the last for both of us." (In this case, as in the case of his first marriage, the woman is much older than Gable.) 

"I have nothing to say concerning either of the two women who have done me the honor to become my wife, except to say that in both cases I married women who come up to the standards I have set for what I call my ideal woman. In just one respect do they differ from the types I always liked as a kid: they are both taller than average. But as far as coloring . . . hair . . . eyes and personality — both are exactly the same as I have always admired. 

"That just about finishes what I have to say on the subject of women. I hope, very sincerely, that in answering this call to talk on this delicate topic (so dear to the hearts of the fans) that I have in no way over-stepped the bounds of decent conduct. I like to play the game fairly. I hope I have. This is the first and last time I shall ever talk on this subject for publication. I consider women a real and vital part of my life — but not a part of my career." 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Kenneth More on the Well Endowed Actress

British actor, Kenneth More, Jayne Mansfield's latest movie costar, said Sunday that bust size, rather than measure of talent, has become the gauge for an actress' success at the box office.

More said Miss Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren were killing off such sophisticated performers as Lauren Bacall, Rosalind Russell and Barbara Stanwyck.

He told United Press International in an interview that he likes the last three because- "I like a little bit of wit and polish, but that kind of actress has sort of died out due to the bosom cult."

More, [who is] in the United States for the opening of his latest movie, "A Night to Remember," in which he is costarred with the sinking liner Titanic, offered these evaluations of the bosomy actresses:

On Miss Loren: "I don't see much in this woman at all."

Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield at a Paramount party for Miss Loren
On Miss Mansfield: "Her talent is very limited, but she is a good trooper. She's always on time and always knows her part. She knows all the other parts, too. She never fluffs."

On Miss Monroe: "She is wonderfully effective on the screen. She's like Lassie- one bark and she steals a scene."

Marilyn Monroe
More said he did not understand how Ingrid Bergman, a non-bosomy type, has remained popular at the box office in the face of this voluptuous competition.

"The idea that girls can get to the top on bosoms is extraordinary," he said. "It is not merely a passing phase, either. Films are bigger and showier than ever before. Bigger screen plays require bigger screens. Bigger screens require bigger girls. Perhaps there is no place for the flat-chested girl any more."

More, a veteran actor, has costarred with Vivien Leigh and Kay Kendall, both slender, witty and polished. His next picture will be with Miss Bacall, who, in his view, is even more so.

Kenneth More and Vivien Leigh in a scene from The Deep Blue Sea, 1955
He said that he had been less worried about appearing opposite the liner Titanic than with Miss Mansfield in a film they recently finished called "The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw."

"The idea of me getting the best of three falls with Jayne was amazing," he said. "People are still wondering how I got close enough to her to kiss her."

More said his fellow Britons rely mainly on American imports for their "bust pictures," despite the existence of Diana Dors and Sabrina.

"There are no British bust pictures," he said. "We haven't got any busts in England. We're flat-chested. Our actresses are deflated when it comes to bosoms. It must be because there is too much rain."

Article published by UPI, 1958

Sunday, June 22, 2014

All the World's Going to Love This Lover

Motion Picture Magazine, 1932
by Elisabeth Goldbeck

He looks a bit like Ronald Colman, which isn‘t exactly an accident— but that's where their resemblance ends. Laurence Olivier is younger, livelier and more impulsive- and he’s had all sorts of acting experience. Moreover, he’s desperately in love- and acts it on the screen. Can you think of anything that will hold him back?

Laurence Olivier up to now, has been known to movie fans chiefly as the man who looks like Ronald Colman. Great prophecies for his screen future have been made on the basis that he's a younger and livelier edition of the reticent Ronnie. He has just turned twenty-four.

Naturally, Laurence hates this kind of publicity, though he admits that on the screen there is a striking resemblance between them. This came about because Laurence played Ronald's part in Beau Geste on the London stage.

The English public had been mad about Colman in the picture version, Laurence explained, so the producer thought, in his whimsical way, that it would be well for me to look as much like him as possible. He told me to do so, and first of all to grow a mustache and cut it like Colman's.

This he did, with the aforementioned results. But it would be too bad if Laurence were to be regarded as a claimant for Colman's honors. He has too much charm and individuality and talent of his own to deserve such a fate. And, moreover, the two men are really not in the least alike— except for that general similarity which all well-bred Englishmen seem to have.

Laurence is taller, and slimmer, and more impulsive, and livelier, and not one-tenth as mysterious. His eyes are blue, instead of brown. He's happily married, and didn't have any parental opposition to his stage career, and he's gregarious and accessible. Really not at all like Ronnie— except in a great yen for England.

His Most Surprising Habit

He has an air of complete indifference, an isn't-it-all-silly manner, as if everything he said and did were quite by accident, with no serious intent. He alternates between an attitude of patience and bursts of extravagant enthusiasm that cause him to throw himself around, gesticulate, give imitations, and then suddenly subside into his former inertia. Nothing in his conversation may seem to account for these wild changes of mien. It's as if an electrical connection were made, and after sparkling a moment, abruptly broken. He seems completely flexible in mind and body. And he has that disarming characteristic of many young Englishmen—in the very nicest way, he assumes that the world is his oyster.

Laurence has been married for a year and a half to Jill Esmond (who made her talkie debut as Ruth Chatterton's daughter in Once a Lady), and they're terribly in love. The press agents don't want the public to know of the marriage, because they're afraid the fans won't be properly thrilled when Jill and Laurence are teamed on the screen. But if the public knew how romantic they are in private, they'd be more thrilled than ever.

For instance, here's a typical episode in the life of the romantic Oliviers. They decided to go fishing at Catalina Island. Not having much money, they borrowed some from the butler. They missed the boat, and with a total capital of sixty-three dollars, they flew over to the island.

Laurence Olivier and his wife, Jill Esmond

Which Proves They're in Love

We couldn't afford the good hotel, said Laurence in one of his illuminated moments, so we stayed at a lovely little dump where we just slept— got nothing, not even a cup of tea. We couldn't afford meals, because we wanted to go deep-sea fishing the next day— and that costs money. So we caught some sand-dabs, and took them into a little restaurant and asked them to cook them for us. We just acted as if they were accustomed to do that sort of thing. The next day, we went out in a boat and I caught a marlin. It was swell. I did everything wrong, the boatman was furious with me, and I didn't deserve to catch it. In the midst of it, Jill held it while I put another reel in the camera. Later we hired a motor boat and ran into a school of porpoises, leaping about. We headed right into them and took motion pictures. That night we caught more dabs and took them in to be cooked.

After a couple of days of that, they came back to civilization, broke, sunburned, and very apologetic because the fish weighed only ninety-seven pounds. You know you have to be in love to do things like that. We had a swell time, Laurence was really flashing now, because we made our own fun. We do that wherever we go.

His Father Advised the Stage

The Oliviers met while appearing in a play together in London, where Laurence had been acting ever since he left school. He was born thirty miles from London in the English countryside, and his father was a reverend. Just an ordinary country parson, as Laurence explains. He went to public school at Oxford. And he sang in a choir in London— the same choir in which Ralph Forbes sang. All English actors started out as choir boys, it seems. Ralph, Noel Coward, Ivor Novello, Anthony Hushell, and the rest. They all gathered at Olivier's house one night recently and sang anthems and masses, which they all knew by heart— the most extraordinary Hollywood gathering you ever saw.

At his father's suggestion, strangely enough, he became an actor. He had always wanted to be one, so he worked hard, both at training school and in stock companies, around London. From then on, he always worked. He never missed a week. Consequently, young Olivier has a list of past experience that is simply appalling to the Hollywood mind, and cannot be assimilated all in one dose. It's best just to say that he has had amazingly thorough training, in every conceivable type of part, from irresponsible youth to dashing old roues. Of late, however, he has specialized in the romantic kind.

He was the original Captain Stanhope in the London production of Journey's End, and played in Noel Coward's Private Lives both in London and New York. It was during the New York run of the latter that both he and Jill received picture offers. Laurence couldn't decide offhand whether to accept RKO's proposition or not. His indecision passed for caginess, and each time he hesitated they made him a better offer, until at last, with no lawyer to guide him, he signed a contract with all sorts of desirable provisions and promises, and plenty of leeway for returning to the stage each year, if he had the urge.

His Screen Career to Date

Laurence was to have had his screen start as Pola Negri's leading man in her comeback picture, A Woman Commands. But with one thing and another, production was delayed, so he was rushed into the romantic lead of Friends and Lovers, opposite Lily Damita. And then, just when the Negri picture was ready to start, he contracted jaundice. When he bleached out, they loaned him to Fox for The Yellow Ticket, in which—perhaps because he was English— he seemed to make Elissa Landi act more natural than in any previous picture.

Westward Passage
And that's about all, sighed Laurence, lapsing into his patient mood, except that I think American cops are unbearably rude. It wasn't hard to rouse him, once that subject had been mentioned. It's very hard for English people to get on with a certain kind of American. It's mostly the lower classes. They seem to resent the English. These Irish cops, for instance — and all cops do seem to be Irish— hate Englishmen. If a traffic cop stops you, when he finds you're an Englishman, he becomes hard-boiled and says insulting things that he wouldn't be allowed to say in England. It must be because of our accent. They think anyone who has one is trying to be high-hat. Many Americans are annoyed because the English speak their language in a way that they can't understand. They forget that, after all, it's the English language— spoken the way it was originally spoken.

How Americans Amaze Him

Another reason some Americans resent us is because so many undesirable English people have come here and represented themselves as being typically English— very high-hat and ill-mannered poseurs, who have prejudiced everyone against us. Just as we think of the typical American as a millionaire, very crude and noisy, with a long black cigar in his mouth, and horrible manners. Some Americans have manners so much better than the English that they make me feel, 'What should I do now? How should I act?' But most English people have no conception of what a nice American is like. 

What amazes Laurence most is the casual way in which Americans are always traveling to the end of the earth and back. My home is only thirty miles from London, he said, but when my family goes up to London, they take days to prepare. They pack and fuss and stew and get as excited as if they were going around the world. The whole house is in an uproar. I wish you could have seen their faces when I first told them I was going to America. They all had a stricken look, as if I were about to be lost forever. I kept saying, 'It's only four days across, you know,' but they regarded it as a frightful journey.

And, of course, now that I'm in California, they haven't the remotest idea where I am. This is just too far for their imaginations. It's all very hazy and mythical. If I am any prophet at all, Laurence will be in the mythical land for some time to come. He is exactly the hero you pictured in a hundred English novels. You can forget about the resemblance to Ronald Colman. Young Mr. Olivier will get along on his own merits.