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Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

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Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby moira finnie » October 17th, 2013, 7:34 pm

Here's the spot where we can post our questions for Kendra Bean, the author of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait (Running Press) on Friday, Oct. 18th and Monday, Oct. 21st for a discussion of this new biography of the actress whose talent blazed on film for thirty years.

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Please note: Kendra will be joining us on Friday, Oct. 18th followed by a two day interval when she will once again rejoin us on Monday, Oct. 21st to continue our discussion of the life, work and legend of Vivien Leigh, whose centenary is celebrated this year. This thread will open up on Friday morning and remain so during the whole weekend allowing questions to be posted all weekend. When our guest returns on Monday, these questions will then be addressed.

More can be seen about our guest and her work here in the Announcements section of our site: viewtopic.php?f=90&t=6366

I've organized a Vivien Leigh Playlist on youtube as well to help us visualize her career's arc.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL ... XFhCZl7Aq4
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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby moira finnie » October 18th, 2013, 5:48 am

Thanks for joining us today and Monday, Kendra. Your book is exceptionally well written and beautiful looking.

In reading your book, I was intrigued by the poignantly frank and eloquently brief forward written by Claire Bloom, an actress who knew and acted with both Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. How did Ms. Bloom's words come to be a part your book?
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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby kendrajbean » October 18th, 2013, 6:22 am

Thank you so much for having me here, Moira! What a great question to start things off.

Although Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait is a coffee table book, I wanted to include new information, including reminiscences from those who knew her, in the text. Sadly, many of Vivien's close friends and acting peers are now dead, but I wanted to get in touch with as many people that are still around as I could. Claire Bloom acted with Vivien in the 1958 play Duel of Angels. She also acted opposite Laurence Olivier in his 1956 film Richard III (and had a brief affair with him during filming), so I felt she might be able to shed some interesting light on Vivien as an actress, as well as her marriage to Olivier as it was at the time. This she certainly did, but had nothing but kind and sympathetic things to say about Vivien.

As I did with most of my interviewees, I wrote Claire a letter asking if she'd be willing to speak with me about her memories of Vivien. I wasn't sure how to contact her directly, so I sent it to her agent. Luckily, Claire replied very quickly and asked me to call her. We had a really informative conversation by phone, during which I was quite nervous as it was my first big interview and had to ask questions on the spot instead of scheduling a time to possibly meet, as I was really hoping to do! At the end of our interview, she kindly said that I was welcome to call again if I had any more questions. At the time, I didn't yet have a publisher for the book so it was quite a while before I got back in touch with her.

When it came time to find someone to write the foreword, she was the first person on my list. I phoned her again and sent her the manuscript. Luckily she liked it enough to agree to have her words in the front of the book!

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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby JackFavell » October 18th, 2013, 8:20 am

Welcome, Ms. Bean! Thank you so much for coming to visit at the Oasis. We are so happy to have you here! And I want to thank you also for creating such a beautiful book. It's only once in a long time that such a lovely tribute comes to classic movie fans.

Can you tell me a bit about Maureen O'Sullivan and Vivien in school? Did they remain friends or lose touch with one another?

I have read widely differing versions of Vivien's relationship with Leslie Howard, some say the actor was one of her favorites, some say she quarreled with him on the set of GWTW. Can you elaborate a bit on what you found out about these two?

In the writing of your book, you had access to Vivien's letters and correspondence, plus you interviewed those who knew her. Did you find anything that truly surprised you?

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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby Rita Hayworth » October 18th, 2013, 9:21 am

Ms Bean,

One of her films that she did - I did see this film in Vancouver Canada about 2 years ago and I was stunned to see her play Cleopatra - in Caesar and Cleopatra a 1945 film starring Claude Rains as Julius Caesar and Vivian Leigh as Cleopatra. I never knew that she did played Cleopatra in this epic movie that also starred Stewart Granger, Flora Robson, and others too.

On to the questions - actually three of them.

1) Of the two Cleopatra's lady attendants - Olga Edwardes and Harda Swanhilde - both of these actresses were stunning as Cleopatra's lady attendants and I was wondering can you tell me anything about them?

2) Was this role was a very difficult role for Vivian to play?

3) I was stunned to see Claude Rains as Julius Caesar and can you shed some light about how he got this starring role as Caesar?


I was hoping you could answer these three questions - and I appreciate any information on it. And, thanks for joining us in our humble forum.

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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby MissGoddess » October 18th, 2013, 9:22 am

Welcome, Ms. Bean!

Where to start! Vivien is my favorite actress and has been since I was a little girl. When I (briefly) pursued acting myself she was always my inspiration. Her, what I can only clumsily call her 'emotional commitment' to her roles together with that God-given face that registered not only beauty but the whole range of a woman's emotions make her the ideal screen actress, bar none. I also think that many of the roles she took on in maturity showed incredible courage, as they often showed the less pleasant side of aging for a woman of great beauty. Many actresses of that time known for their beauty would have shied from such "exposure" of their fears and frailties. Vivien poured herself in to them and yet never lost her dignity. I don't think she gets near enough credit for this.

I have two questions for you, if you don't mind:

1. Was there an actress who Vivien admired or perhaps emulated herself when she began acting or was her sense of self strongly defined from the start?

2. Her personal demons and sadness are of course often mentioned but I recall having read she had a wonderful sense of humor. Can you share one particularly amusing story of the lighter side of Vivien?

Thank you so much for being here and for creating a book as ravishing as its subject (your chosen format is how I wish most of these bios would be made and I'm glad you had the passion and determination to see this lovely work through to publication. I wish you every success with it. I also have enjoyed your website for a long time.)
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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby kendrajbean » October 18th, 2013, 10:14 am

JackFavell wrote:Welcome, Ms. Bean! Thank you so much for coming to visit at the Oasis. We are so happy to have you here! And I want to thank you also for creating such a beautiful book. It's only once in a long time that such a lovely tribute comes to classic movie fans.

Can you tell me a bit about Maureen O'Sullivan and Vivien in school? Did they remain friends or lose touch with one another?


Thanks for the warm welcome, JackFavell (love your username, by the way)!

Maureen O'Sullivan was two years Vivien's senior, so I don't know that she and Vivien were best friends while attending the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton as they'd have been in a different class. However, they seemed to hang around one another quite a bit amidst a bigger circle of friends. There's a funny story in this wonderful (and sadly out of print) book called Vivien Leigh: A Bouquet by the journalist Alan Dent. One of Vivien's other school friends told Dent that she, Vivien, and Maureen were "such a nuisance at school games that we were relegated to the bottom of the garden with worn-out racquets and told to get on with it, which we did with relish!"

Vivien later said that Maureen was the one she told about wanting to be an actress when she grew up. Public interest in their friendship came about when they acted together in the 1938 film A Yank at Oxford, but Maureen seemed to have fond memories of Vivien as a child, and her daughter Mia Farrow related similar stories in a previous Vivien Leigh documentary.

I have read widely differing versions of Vivien's relationship with Leslie Howard, some say the actor was one of her favorites, some say she quarreled with him on the set of GWTW. Can you elaborate a bit on what you found out about these two?


I didn't really dwell on Vivien's relationship with Leslie Howard in this book and didn't come across any revelations while doing research. Howard didn't read the source material and didn't want to be there. In my opinion, this shows in the film. He only accepted the part of Ashley - which he disliked - because Selznick agreed to let him produce the upcoming film Intermezzo. Despite suffering through a long, disorganised, and exhausting shoot, Vivien took her job on this film very seriously. She fought hard to get the part of Scarlett and threw herself into it with everything she had, so while she liked Howard as an actor, I can imagine his indifference to the work at hand probably annoyed her. Her biggest contender on the set, however, was director Victor Fleming, with whom she clashed on a regular basis.

In the writing of your book, you had access to Vivien's letters and correspondence, plus you interviewed those who knew her. Did you find anything that truly surprised you?


I talked about this during an interview with Greg Farrera at TCM Movie Morlocks recently. The framework of Vivien's life and career had been pretty well laid out by previous biographers, so I knew going in to the archives that I wouldn't uncover any huge revelations about her as a person. What I did discover when going through this material were little details that really helped to clarify and flesh out certain situations and aspects of her life. A lot of it reaffirmed my opinions about things like the depth of her relationship with Olivier, how much she invested in her work, and that she was very much loved by her friends and fans. But there were certain things that did peak my curiosity. One of them was how worried Olivier always seemed to be about Vivien's well being, and how much he looked out for her. In fact, that was the most prevalent theme that emerged for me when going through his papers. He was always keeping tabs on her and quite often relayed his concern about her to other people. These days there's a lot of talk in the press about how horrible he always was to her, but that wasn't the impression I got at all.

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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby CineMaven » October 18th, 2013, 10:33 am

Welcome to the Oasis, Ms. Bean. :D I don’t have a specific question for you, but I want to say that Vivien Leigh is one of the most remarkable actresses of the classic era and beyond; she did sooooo much with her eyes in expressing deep emotion. She dug deep to bring out so much and as a viewer I could feel it. Hmmm...come to think of it, I do have a question or two for you. Were you able to speak with Olivia deHavilland in regards to Ms. Leigh? Did Ms. Leigh have a favorite role? What other actresses do you admire?

I congratulate you on your great achievement and labor of love in getting this book done on behalf of one of the movies’ great actresses. In light of Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck etc., I think Vivien Leigh is quite underrated and doesn’t get the attention that some of the others do who worked back then. Your book puts Vivien Leigh back in the spotlight where she belongs. Her beauty is breathtaking.

Thank you!
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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby moira finnie » October 18th, 2013, 1:27 pm

Interestingly, I have always thought that Vivien Leigh was aware of her own beauty, and quite capable of using it to her own ends, but she also appeared to have a very scrupulous professional conscience. The level of quality that she demanded of herself and the roles that she chose to take for films was exceptional.

I think most of us know how much Vivien wished she could have appeared as Cathy in Wuthering Heights opposite Olivier and as the second Mrs. de Winter with Olivier in Rebecca. However, most of the time, it seems as though Leigh may have been the female equivalent of Cary Grant. Everyone wanted her to work on their films--but very few were ever fortunate enough to gain her favor. Could you please talk a bit about the many roles she turned down, the possible reasons for this, and if she regretted refusing any particular roles?

Also, I had always thought of Laurence Olivier as an accomplished actor and international figure always in control of his life and career, but my attitude toward Laurence Olivier as a person changed substantially after reading the letters of John Gielgud some years ago. Gielgud, who could be scathing, funny, and brutally frank, appeared to have been taken aback by an occasion in the later years of the Olivier-Leigh marriage. Gielgud describes a shattered Olivier pouring out his heart unexpectedly one day after a chance encounter between the two great actors. The two had worked together, been rivals at times and were respectful but distant and sometimes a bit frosty with one another. I don't think that Gielgud expected it when he ran into Olivier, who suddenly apologized for any past slights that may have distanced them and explained the chronic strain and concern he was always wrestling with while trying to help Vivien Leigh during her bipolar episodes. In your book, I felt that you also felt considerable empathy toward Laurence Olivier. Did your perusal of his archives affect your attitude toward him? Was anything about Olivier surprising to you?

Thanks in advance for your insights.
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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby James Zeruk, Jr. » October 18th, 2013, 2:30 pm

Congratulations on your book, Ms. Bean! I have it in my Que and will be chatting it up and endorsing it (and you) in my Hollywood Book Chat group on facebook. I was looking at some of it on Amazon, and I was actually startled to see a caption for an image you credited as taken by Vivienne (Florence Entwistle). Was Entwistle an official, or favorite photographer of Ms. Leigh's? Of all the photographers that captured her in studio portraits, is there one you think portrayed her most favorably?

Incidentally, Peg Entwistle, the "Hollywood Sign Girl" had an uncle in London named Ernest. His wife was Vivienne F. Entwistle. I always assumed the "F" was for Frances, but now I wonder if it was for "Florence," and if Peg's Aunt Vivienne was this same woman who photographed Ms. Leigh! If so, it is too late for me to include in Peg's biography (Peg Entwistle and the Hollywood Sign Suicide), but it would be a remarkable discovery, nonetheless.

Your book looks fabulous and I am very much looking forward to reading it. Best of luck and success to you.
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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » October 18th, 2013, 2:35 pm

Thank you so much for visiting us here at The Silver Screen Oasis.
Viven Leigh is one of my favorite actresses. We are lucky and grateful, indeed!

According to the British Film Institute, there is no known print of Gentlemen's Agreement, 1935, produced by the British & Dominions FIlm Corporation (from a story by Jennifer Howard and script by Basil Mason )with Vivien Leigh. Can you tell us anything about this film?

During the production of Gone With The Wind, it is claimed Vivien Leigh was smoking heavily, almost four packs a day. Had her tuberculosis been diagnosed by that time or had it happened much later? And what was the nature of her difficulties/arguments with Victor Fleming?

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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby kingrat » October 18th, 2013, 2:48 pm

Thank you so much for meeting with us at SSO. Your book is on my wish list for Christmas. I'm enjoying your insights to the previous questions.

1. I agree with you that Leslie Howard's lack of commitment shows in GWTW, whereas Viven Leigh and Olivia De Havilland give their all. To me, the central relationship in GWTW is the Scarlett/Melanie opposition. Melanie is the feminine ideal of her society, whereas Scarlett expresses the emotions and desires that a sweet, nice girl would have to suppress. Did George Cukor direct the staircase scene between the two (after Scarlett kills the Yankee soldier)? Did Vivien like working with Olivia De Havilland?

2. TCM has recently shown the charming St. Martin's Lane (Sidewalks of London) which brought Vivien to the attention of Selznick. Did she enjoy working with Charles Laughton? Their scenes together are so good.

3. In Fire Over England neither Vivien Leigh nor Laurence Olivier has the "look" that I associate with their later careers, and neither gives the kind of performance that would make them famous in later films. Did Vivien or one of her later directors conceive the right look for her? It's already there in St. Martin's Lane.

4. The character of Karen Stone seems uncomfortably close to Vivien Leigh. One example: Karen Stone has received bad reviews for Rosalind in As You Like It. Vivien received bad reviews for her Viola in Twelfth Night, a similar part. Was it painful for her to play Mrs. Stone?

Again, thank you for chatting with us and the best wishes for your book.

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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby kendrajbean » October 18th, 2013, 4:39 pm

Rita Hayworth wrote:Ms Bean,

One of her films that she did - I did see this film in Vancouver Canada about 2 years ago and I was stunned to see her play Cleopatra - in Caesar and Cleopatra a 1945 film starring Claude Rains as Julius Caesar and Vivian Leigh as Cleopatra. I never knew that she did played Cleopatra in this epic movie that also starred Stewart Granger, Flora Robson, and others too.

On to the questions - actually three of them.

1) Of the two Cleopatra's lady attendants - Olga Edwardes and Harda Swanhilde - both of these actresses were stunning as Cleopatra's lady attendants and I was wondering can you tell me anything about them?

2) Was this role was a very difficult role for Vivian to play?

3) I was stunned to see Claude Rains as Julius Caesar and can you shed some light about how he got this starring role as Caesar?


I was hoping you could answer these three questions - and I appreciate any information on it. And, thanks for joining us in our humble forum.


Rita Hayworth wrote:Ms Bean,

One of her films that she did - I did see this film in Vancouver Canada about 2 years ago and I was stunned to see her play Cleopatra - in Caesar and Cleopatra a 1945 film starring Claude Rains as Julius Caesar and Vivian Leigh as Cleopatra. I never knew that she did played Cleopatra in this epic movie that also starred Stewart Granger, Flora Robson, and others too.

On to the questions - actually three of them.

1) Of the two Cleopatra's lady attendants - Olga Edwardes and Harda Swanhilde - both of these actresses were stunning as Cleopatra's lady attendants and I was wondering can you tell me anything about them?

2) Was this role was a very difficult role for Vivian to play?

3) I was stunned to see Claude Rains as Julius Caesar and can you shed some light about how he got this starring role as Caesar?


I was hoping you could answer these three questions - and I appreciate any information on it. And, thanks for joining us in our humble forum.


I'm afraid I have no answer for the first question, but I can answer the second two.

Caesar and Cleopatra was the first film Vivien made in England following Gone With the Wind. Cleopatra was a role she was keen on playing (she would reprise it on stage in 1950 opposite Laurence Olivier), and the producer J. Arthur Rank was keen to have her in the film because she was now a big Hollywood star and that meant the film had a good chance of being a success in America. But making the film was difficult and unhappy for Vivien for a variety of reasons: George Bernard Shaw, who wrote the pay the film was based on and who also had full control over the script, forbade director Gabriel Pascal to make any changes. This meant that there was little room for interpretation on the actors' part, so it was more Shaw's character than Vivien's. The film was also made during the war and Britain was still being bombed by the Germans in 1944, so conditions at Denham Studios were dangerous. On top of this, Vivien suffered a miscarriage after a fall on the set. It is believed that this traumatic event was the catalyst for the emergence of her bipolar disorder.

Claude Rains seems like a natural choice to play the elderly Caesar. Like Vivien, he was considered valuable property because he was fairly well known in Hollywood - and he was available at the time. Rains was Pascal's first choice to play Caesar due to his classical theatre background.

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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby kendrajbean » October 18th, 2013, 5:11 pm

MissGoddess wrote:Welcome, Ms. Bean!

Where to start! Vivien is my favorite actress and has been since I was a little girl. When I (briefly) pursued acting myself she was always my inspiration. Her, what I can only clumsily call her 'emotional commitment' to her roles together with that God-given face that registered not only beauty but the whole range of a woman's emotions make her the ideal screen actress, bar none. I also think that many of the roles she took on in maturity showed incredible courage, as they often showed the less pleasant side of aging for a woman of great beauty. Many actresses of that time known for their beauty would have shied from such "exposure" of their fears and frailties. Vivien poured herself in to them and yet never lost her dignity. I don't think she gets near enough credit for this.

I have two questions for you, if you don't mind:

1. Was there an actress who Vivien admired or perhaps emulated herself when she began acting or was her sense of self strongly defined from the start?

2. Her personal demons and sadness are of course often mentioned but I recall having read she had a wonderful sense of humor. Can you share one particularly amusing story of the lighter side of Vivien?

Thank you so much for being here and for creating a book as ravishing as its subject (your chosen format is how I wish most of these bios would be made and I'm glad you had the passion and determination to see this lovely work through to publication. I wish you every success with it. I also have enjoyed your website for a long time.)


Thank you, MissGoddess! It's wonderful that so many of us feel a certain connection to Vivien. She has been an inspiration to me for a long time, as well. I'm also glad you liked the format of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait. I really wanted to commemorate Vivien in that way because she lent herself so well to visual media and I was tired of seeing the same old photos recycled in every biography.

Now on to your questions:

Vivien cited Edith Evans as a stage actress she very much admired and, when pressed, Greta Garbo as her favorite film actress. I don't think she really emulated either of these women but she did admire their talents and their undeniable presence in their respective mediums.

One of my favorite stories of Vivien's happier times was the run-in she had with Ava Gardner in London. Vivien was being fitted for a new dress at Victor Stiebel's shop when Ava walked in, gasped, and exclaimed how beautiful Vivien was. Vivien lavished a similar comment on Ava. They then proceeded to have a compliment exchange that lasted for several minutes. It may not be a particularly funny story but I love it because it shows that Vivien wasn't vain or intimidated by other beautiful women. She was great company when she was in good spirits.

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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby kendrajbean » October 18th, 2013, 5:38 pm

CineMaven wrote:Welcome to the Oasis, Ms. Bean. :D I don’t have a specific question for you, but I want to say that Vivien Leigh is one of the most remarkable actresses of the classic era and beyond; she did sooooo much with her eyes in expressing deep emotion. She dug deep to bring out so much and as a viewer I could feel it. Hmmm...come to think of it, I do have a question or two for you. Were you able to speak with Olivia deHavilland in regards to Ms. Leigh? Did Ms. Leigh have a favorite role? What other actresses do you admire?

I congratulate you on your great achievement and labor of love in getting this book done on behalf of one of the movies’ great actresses. In light of Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck etc., I think Vivien Leigh is quite underrated and doesn’t get the attention that some of the others do who worked back then. Your book puts Vivien Leigh back in the spotlight where she belongs. Her beauty is breathtaking.

Thank you!


Thanks for the warm welcome, CineMaven. I completely agree with your views about Vivien's screen presence. She had undeniable star quality and was able to convey vulnerability and emotion with her eyes. I think she would have made an excellent silent film actress.

I was lucky enough to correspond with Olivia de Havilland for this project. Sadly, I haven't met her in person but she was kind enough to answer my questions in writing. She seems very sharp for her age and had kind things to say about Vivien and her own experience working on Gone With the Wind. I admired her honesty and tactfulness. One of the things I learned when going through the interview process was that some people tend to inflate their role in famous people's lives, and others will refreshingly admit when they cant elaborate on something because they weren't actually there when that something happened.

Vivien tended to speak about her favorite roles in terms of characters she played on stage. Sabina in The Skin of Our Teeth, Shakespeare's Cleopatra, and Paola in Duel of Angels were a few of her favorites. She greatly empathised with Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire - I think she had a knack for choosing film roles that reflected her own experiences and through which she could express her personal attributes.

Other actresses I admire include Carole Lombard, Louise Brooks, Jean Harlow, and Isabelle Adjani.


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