Showing posts with label Vivien Leigh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vivien Leigh. Show all posts

Friday, January 26, 2018

Scarlett's Opening Scene in Gone With the Wind

On January 26, 1939, Vivien Leigh reported to work, for her first day of filming, on the set of Gone With the Wind. Finally, Vivien's dream of playing Scarlett O'Hara, a dream she'd been carrying with her since she first read the book, was about to come true.

The first scene scheduled, for shooting that day, was the front porch scene at Tara, with Scarlett and the Tarleton boys discussing the possibility of war. This is the scene in which the world would be introduced to Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara. The Tarleton twins were played by Fred Crane (Brent) and George Reeves (Stuart).  Over the course of the next nine and a half months, this opening scene would be filmed a total of five times. George Cukor directed it the first two times and Victor Fleming directed it the last three times.

After viewing the first attempt at this scene, producer David O. Selznick was not pleased. He didn't like the twins' hair color or style. In a memo dated January 30, 1939, David Selznick wrote the following to George Cukor: I feel very strongly that the hairdress we used on the twins makes them look grotesquely like a pair of Harpo Marx comics...because of the color of their hair. I would like Mr. Westmore to redress their hair and I would have him arrange with Mr. Plunkett for me to see them again in their next costumes and with their hair re-dressed before they work.

The first scene filmed on January 26, 1939.

Ray Klune, the production manager, recalled the following: Everybody was nervous and it showed in the next day's rushes. George had Vivien on too high a key, way up there. David felt that she was playing it as though it were the first act of a dress rehearsal. The same thing with the boys... they were overdoing it.

There's also a second memo dated January 30, in which Selznick thinks it would be better to use the white prayer dress for Scarlett's opening scene. For whatever reason, that idea is abandoned and Vivien Leigh continues to wear the barbecue dress.

For the second filming of this scene, George Reeves and Fred Crane showed up with a slightly different shade of hair color and a new 'do. Their curls were now gone. Scarlett still wore the barbecue dress, but now sported a black choker. However, Selznick wasn't pleased with the lighting.

Fred Crane, Vivien Leigh & George Reeves try this scene for the 2nd time.

By now, George Cukor had left the production and Victor Fleming was at the helm. Selznick darts off another memo, this time to Ray Klune, which is dated February 20:  We will start shooting again on Monday. Please get together with Mr. Fleming immediately in connection with the opening scene. We should start with the twins and then go to Gerald and Scarlett to permit you to change the condition of Tara. It would be my preference, if there is no reason against it, and if Fleming is agreeable, to then jump into retakes in the Bazaar, followed by Rhett and Scarlett on the McDonough Road.

The third time was not the charm. Scarlett and the Tarleton twins were moved from the side of the porch to the front of the porch.

The third time was not the charm!

Image from pinterest

...according to Fred [Crane], the film’s technical advisor, [Susan Myrick] who was a Daughter of the Confederacy, informed Selznick that 'a young girl showing that much bosom wouldn’t be sitting out with two young men unchaperoned in the afternoon.' (Source).

So, for the fourth time, the opening scene was filmed again. This time with Vivien Leigh in the white prayer dress, which was, by far, a more appropriate outfit for a young lady. Alas, Vivien looked too tired and Selznick sent her away for a break. Vivien had been working almost non-stop since January 26. She was exhausted and it showed.

Image from pinterest

Getting ready to film Scarlett's opening scene for the fourth time.

In 1960, Vivien discussed filming the opening scene for the fourth time and the fifth time: On the last day of shooting, we had to film the first scene of the picture all over again. The scene where I sit as a girl of sixteen, on the porch of Tara, saying,'Everyone is talking of war, war, war.' When we shot the scene again, David Selznick saw it and said to me, 'You look too old and too ill for the scene. Better take a holiday.' So I went off to France with Larry and came back [filmed it for the fifth time] and 'Gone With the Wind' was finished. 

The final filming of the front porch scene.

On October 12th, Vivien went before the cameras one last time as Scarlett O'Hara. During her time away from Hollywood, Vivien traveled to New York City, where she reunited with Laurence Olivier and also found the time to screentest for Rebecca. Then, Vivien and Larry traveled to England, before finally returning to Hollywood. Vivien showed up fresh and relaxed on the set for the final time and created cinematic history.

Perfection at last! (image from blueray)
Gone With the Wind was released two months later to great acclaim. David O. Selznick's attention to detail and strive toward perfection paid off in ways he couldn't possibly imagine. Reviewers loved the movie:

In its length alone, Gone With the Wind is the most imposing spectacle ever to reach the screen. It is magnificent, too, in its superb color, in its scrupulous details, in its scope, in its technical virtuosity, in its sheer extravagance. The film is dominated by Vivien Leigh. One carries away from the picture a rich store of unforgettable images. 

No puny adjectives fit Gone With the Wind. It is the most lavish, probably the most magnificent, ever to come out of Hollywood. 

The excitement of it will take your breath away...The spectator is convinced he is sitting in on history...The novel of the decade has been turned into the cinema of the century.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Fashion Friday: Vivien Leigh Models for Motley

In 1940, Vivien Leigh modeled clothing for the department store, Bonwit Teller. The gowns modeled by Vivien were created by Motley, a group of three very talented women, who designed sets and costumes for the stage and screen. Motley worked on several plays that Vivien starred in, including The Happy Hypocrite, Romeo and Juliet and The Doctor's Dilemma.

The outfits for today's Fashion Friday post were inspired by British heraldry. They feature the symbols and colors associated with certain British monarchs.

In this first outfit, Vivien stuns in a gorgeous, pale blue, satin coat. The floor-length coat features amethyst studded sleeves. The sleeves are also heavily embroidered with gold trim and are horizontally slashed, in a crescent shape. This type of 'slashing' was normally done vertically, as in the Elizabethan age, with material from the underdress pulled through the cutouts, to achieve a puffy sleeve.

The coat falls dramatically to the floor in satin waves. It's not hard to imagine how luxurious this material would be to the touch. This rare image of Vivien recently popped up on ebay and sold for $410!  

The New York Times ran an article with a few of these ensembles designed by Motley, called Fashions from Heraldry.

The description printed with this next gown reads: A Black Prince coat appliqued in velvet fleur-de-lis and lions is worn with this black gown. This black gown, in its simplicity, is absolutely stunning on Vivien.

The Black Prince coat referred to in the above description is modeled below. Fleur-de-lis (lilies) and lions are appliqued onto the black velvet jacket. The jacket's hood is lined with a lightweight red wool.

The term Black Prince is a reference to Edward of Woodstock (June 15, 1330 to June 8, 1376), father of King Richard II, from whom the Motleys drew inspiration from for this design. At some point in history, Edward began to be known as the Black Prince. His coat of arms were lions and fleur-de-lis.

Unfortunately, for this next gown, I only have the newspaper photo, which came with the following description: White chiffon is embroidered with crystal beads in sunbursts, the badge of King Richard II. 

Up next is this lovely, red crêpe, evening gown. This draped crimson gown is the shade of the Rose of Lancaster. It features a very deep décolletage, which is accented with flowers.

Finally, we have this gorgeous portrait of Vivien in a floral headdress. Many people confuse this picture with one of Vivien from Romeo and Juliet. The printed description simply states: Roses of York form an evening headdress. The Rose of York was a white rose and represented the House of York. It comprised one half of the Wars of the Roses, which was fought for control of the British throne. The other half fighting for control was the House of Lancaster, represented by the red Rose of Lancaster.

The dress is also embroidered with roses, as pictured on the gown's sleeves.

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

All photos are by Bob Coburn, who had also photographed Vivien for the recently wrapped That Hamilton Woman.  The italicized descriptions are from the New York Times, Fashions from Heraldry, December 29, 1940.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

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

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

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

Winston Churchill

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

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

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

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

Gone With the Wind

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

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

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

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

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

Clark Gable as Rhett and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett

Appointment Books

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


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

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

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

A Streetcar Named Desire

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

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

Jewelry case


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

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

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

Laurence Olivier

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

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


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

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

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


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

Monday, September 25, 2017

Vivien Leigh as Muse (Part I)

It's no secret that Vivien Leigh's great beauty and talent have been inspiring artists of all mediums, since she first made headlines in 1935. Words of glory were thrown at her feet; roses and racehorses were named for her; she was photographed, sculpted, painted and forever immortalized. All because of The Mask of Virtue.

Vivien Leigh in The Mask of Virtue, 1935
It is an agreeable task to be able to welcome a new actress with unrestrained praise. 'The Mask of Virtue' obtained a personal triumph for Vivien Leigh, a discovery of Sydney Carroll. Miss Leigh is ravishingly pretty, which might not matter, but that her talent equals her beauty. She moves with grace. She is lovely in repose. Her voice is most attractive, and warmth, ardour and sincerity are not wanting in her acting. Vivien Leigh gave genuine life to the part of the girl, enchantingly reconciling her conflicting qualities. Her quiet dignity in the acceptance of a repugnant task, the growth of affection and the awakening to the sense of a triumph odious to her, were beautifully expressed and composed a performance that grew in loveliness and interest. --A.E. Wilson, The Star, May 1935

In this series of Vivien Leigh as Muse, we'll first look at a few of the items Sotheby's will be auctioning on Tuesday, September 26th. Among the Sotheby's items are photographs, caricatures, sketches and paintings of Vivien Leigh.

This first painting is by artist Dietz Edzard. The painting is oil on canvas and is sized at 28.5 inches by 21 inches. The estimated selling price is $10,600 to $15,900 (Sotheby's pdf catalog, page 21).

Miss Vivien Leigh in 'The Mask of Virtue,' by Dietz Edzard (from Sotheby's)
Edzard was a German born painter, who later moved to Paris and painted in the style of French Impressionism. Author Gerd Muehsam describes his style perfectly: Edzard has captured in his canvases the charm of the Parisian atmosphere. With the light, vibrant touch of his brush, he produced sparkling, and yet delicate, paintings of beautiful women, dancers and flowers. His brilliant delineations of circus life and the theatre, his spirited portrayals of Parisian cafe scenes have made him a favorite of art circles in this country and abroad. Edzard's buried at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

In July, 1935, a reporter happened to come across Vivien Leigh, in the Leicester Galleries. She was standing in front of her portrait. Vivien shared with the reporter that Mr. Edzard had painted her from sketches he'd made, while watching her perform in the play, The Mask of Virtue. In addition to the sketches, The Daily Express reported that Vivien sat for Edzard twice. Coincidentally, Vivien was also painted by Suzanne Eisendieck, who later married Edzard in 1938.

These next two art pieces are by Roger Furse. Roger Furse was a well-known friend and collaborator with both Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. Depending on the project, he acted as set designer, costume designer and production designer. He worked on several of their plays and movies. Some of their collaborations include: Antony and Cleopatra, Caesar and Cleopatra, Macbeth, The Skin of Our Teeth, Duel of Angels, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, The Prince and the Showgirl, Richard III, Spartacus, Henry V and Hamlet.

Roger Furse
Furse was nominated for a Tony award for Best Scenic Design, for Vivien's play, Duel of Angels, in 1961. He also picked up two Academy Awards for Laurence Olivier's film, Hamlet: Art Direction (B&W) and Costume Design (B&W).

Vivien Leigh as Jennifer Dubedat, in The Doctor's Dilemma
This charming sketch of Vivien Leigh, by Roger Furse, is from the upcoming auction. Sotheby's lists it as A Sketch From the Doctor's Dilemma, 1941. Furse signed the bottom of the sketch, with the following: Wishing you a great success, dear Vivien, Roger. It's pencil on paper and is 12 inches by 8.5 inches. The selling estimate is $800 to $1,100 (Sotheby's pdf catalog, page 26).

This watercolour on paper, by Roger Furse is titled Vivien Leigh Reading with Tissy in the Sotheby's catalog (pdf page 119). The selling estimate is $1,350 to $2,000. The portrait measures 15.75 inches by 13.75 inches.

I love how Furse took care to note Tissy's different eye color. Vivien's fur baby really did have one green eye and one blue eye!

Roger Furse greets Vivien as she arrives in Corfu, Greece, 1966.
Roger Furse and Vivien Leigh remained lifelong friends. In 1966, she travelled to Corfu, Greece, where Roger greeted her as she disembarked. She had come to look at land parcels as she was thinking of building a home near Benitses. Furse lived nearby with his second wife, Ines (pictured below).

Roger Furse, Ines Furse, Vivien Leigh and Juli Damaskinos in Corfu.
Cecil Beaton was another well known collaborator of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier's. Beaton had been photographing Vivien Leigh since the 1930s. In addition to being a photographer, Beaton also designed sets and costumes. A few of his collaborations with Vivien included Caesar and Cleopatra (film version), Anna Karenina and The School for Scandal.

Sotheby's is having a special sale on portraits of Vivien Leigh, from The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive. The prices start at £3,000. Here are two samples from that sale. Follow this link for all the details.

Vivien Leigh at the British embassy in Paris, in 1947 
Beaton said of Vivien, Vivien is almost incredibly lovely. Hollywood is at her feet. She is madly in love with her husband – who adores her… Her former husband dotes upon her & adores her still – she is unspoiled – has many loyal friends & only ambition to improve as an actress. The adulation of her beauty leaves her cold.

Beaton was also a frequent visitor to Notley Abbey, writing, The life they lead in the country is most suitable for Shakespearean actors. The whole atmosphere of the place is suitable for giving performances of Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Hamlet.

Vivien Leigh as Anna Karenina, costume and photo by Cecil Beaton
Vivien is pictured in my favorite costume from Anna Karenina. In this photograph, Vivien's wearing a short waisted jacket, made from white silk and black velvet. Below the jacket is a white skirt, featuring multiple layers of organdy. The photos of Vivien, by Beaton, in this particular outfit, are my favorites from the film. To read more about the costumes of Anna Karenina, please click here.

Thanks for joining me today!