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

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

Postby kendrajbean » October 22nd, 2013, 6:44 am

mongoII wrote:Welcome to the Silver Screen Oasis, Ms. Bean. It is a pleasure having you here.
What is the lowdown on Ms. Leigh's relationship with her daughter, her only child?
What was her relationship like with Hattie McDaniel who played the fabulous Mammy?
Is is true that she was turned off by Clark Gables false teeth?
I thought she was excellent in "Waterloo Bridge". What did she think of the role?
Thank you very much
Joe aka Mongo


Hi Joe,

Vivien had a very distant relationship with her daughter for many years, who she had when she was only 19. By her own admission she lacked maternal instinct. She married less than a year before Suzanne was born, and I don't think having children and being a stay at home mom (as was expected of women in Vivien's time) was really what she wanted or expected. Her ambition was to be a great actress, and and that passion was taken to greater heights when she met Laurence Olivier. Thereafter, those two obsessions became the central focus for her. She gave up custody of Suzanne in 1940 when she divorced her first husband, Leigh Holman in order to marry Olivier. Interestingly, a similar thing happened with Olivier's eldest son Tarquin, who liked Vivien very much as a step-mother (Suzanne seems to have liked Olivier, as a step-father, as well). Vivien kept in close contact with Leigh Holman and saw Suzanne occasionally, but their relationship didn't really become closer until the last few years of Vivien's life.

I don't recall ever reading anything about Vivien's feelings toward Hattie McDaniel. However, one of the people I interviewed for this book was Vivien's sister-in-law Hester, who said that Vivien used to talk about Hattie and Butterfly McQueen. Apparently she really liked both ladies.

We'll never know if she was really repelled by Gables' bad breath. If she was, she did a good job of faking it in the film and publicity photos. This rumor was first published by Anne Edwards in the 1970s. I went through her papers as part of my research and one of the things included therein was a tape made by Vivien's partner Jack Merivale, which detailed everything Merivale thought was incorrect about Edwards' biography of Vivien. One of the things he said was that Vivien always spoke highly of Gable, and that he didn't think including that kind of story would do anything to advance her narrative. So, who knows!

According to director Mervyn Leroy, Vivien always maintained that Waterloo Bridge was "the best thing she ever did."

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

Postby kendrajbean » October 22nd, 2013, 7:23 am

pvitari wrote:Dear Ms. Bean,

Your book is truly beautiful -- thank you for all your hard work in putting it together.

I am wondering if you had to cut out information about Dark Journey at the last minute. It's listed in the index as being discussed on pages 28-29 but those pages instead have illustrations. If there is anything more you can tell us about Vivien and Dark Journey, I would love to hear it. I also especially would like to know how Vivien felt working with the great Conrad Veidt.

Thank you so much for answering our questions!


Hi pvitari,

Many thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the book!

I didn't have to cut information about Dark Journey, it's just how I chose to structure the narrative. For this particular book, I wanted to really focus on the meat of Vivien's legacy as an actress and famous person. So, I spent less time on her earlier films than perhaps I should have, but they're definitely topics I'd like to revisit and expand upon if I ever write a full length biography about Vivien. I mentioned to kingrat earlier that I'd written the booklet essay for the new Vivien Leigh Centenary DVD/Blu-ray boxed set that's going to be released by Cohen Films in November. That essay is all about the films she did for Korda in the 1930s so I consider it a kind of unofficial supplement to chapter 1 of the book.

Dark Journey was one of the five films Vivien made while under contract to Alexander Korda in the last 1930s, and sadly, it's not one she really talked about in interviews in later years, nor is it mentioned much in other Vivien biographies. I did go through her cuttings book for this and the other films she did around this time, though, and came across an on-set interview she did for the Evening Chronicle. In it, she mentioned that she didn't really understand the plot of the film, but that Victor Saville was a great help to her as "a beginner." She didn't spend much time talking about Conrad Veidt but she did refer to him as "Connie," so it appears they were on good terms during filming.

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

Postby kendrajbean » October 22nd, 2013, 9:04 am

charliechaplinfan wrote:Welcome Kendra, I'm so cheered that a new book on Vivien coming out, I already have Alexander Walker's, Hugo Vickers and my favourite the Angus McBean coffee table book. She's my favourite actress too and I would have loved to have watched her on stage but will have to content myself with her films. I have a myriad of questions

How involved was Vivien in the costumes and make up for her parts? I'm thinking particularly of the photos in McBean's book which show her in a variety of stage roles and rarely does she appear as Vivien, very often there is lots of makeup or wigs employed? Most of these roles would have been under the direction of Olivier but I wonder how much of a collaboration their joint projects were or was Vivien happy to let Larry take complete control? (Sorry 2 questions in 1 there)

I'm glad to read a reassessment of Larry, when I was reading about Vivien in the 80s one of the first things I read was Larry's biography and I felt for him, she couldn't have been easy and it did seem that he loved her dearly, was incredibly proud of her and protective too. I also remember reading that he blamed himself for not realising that the role of Blanche Dubois could be detrimental to her and the strain brought about a further breakdown in her health. In the 80s it came across as a magical love affair that went wrong only because of Vivien's ill health and the strain that eventually drove them apart. Nowadays Larry's reputation has suffered a little, an affair with Danny Kaye, an admission by Joan Plowright that Larry was bisexual and admissions by others that he could be arrogant, self serving and prickly. I still think it was only the inability to contain Vivien's bipolar disorder that drove them apart. Do you think Vivien ever blamed Larry for their divorce or did it leave her a broken woman or was their a layer of strength there that is rarely alluded too?

I want to mention too, an episode in David NIven's book Bring on the Empty Horses when he has to cope with a famous actress who was undergoing a breakdown, who I always thought was Judy Garland but have been told in later years that Niven had admitted it was Vivien. Why I wonder did he include it and why name her? He's a great racounteur but just went a little too far for me.

How did she find it joining the American cast of Streetcar? I believe Brando made her laugh with his impressions of Larry. Kim Hunter and her didn't look at all like sisters but were fantastic on screen.


These are great questions!

Vivien may have had some input from Olivier about costumes and make-up for their joint productions, but for the most part, she had control over how she looked. Both she and Olivier were experts at applying stage make-up and Vivien did her own. She also loved dressing up, and loved wearing wigs, even in real life. There are a lot of photos of her in the 1960s where she is wearing pixie cut wigs or bob hairstyles with headbands (which were actually hair pieces). She had naturally curly hair in real life, which she apparently hated, so those wigs were a good way of making her hair appear straight when she didn't have it done professionally. Also, if you look at portraits and candids of Vivien throughout her life, you can see how her style of applying make-up changed over the years. She never had plastic surgery, but when she was older you'll notice she started drawing her mouth on bigger and penciling in her eyebrows in a quite obvious manner. Today people use botox, but back then I think the heavy make-up was an attempt to hide signs of ageing. Whether it actually worked is another matter.

I think Larry deserved a bit of a reassessment in terms of his relationship with Vivien. I'm sure he was arrogant, self serving, prickly and difficult to live with, but as we've also seen recently with books like My Lunches with Orson, it seems like all the great actors of that time (and probably today, too ) had those qualities in common. As for the Danny Kaye rumor, I've never believed it myself and found no evidence to refute or support it. Donald Spoto was the first to publish it, but didn't include a citation in the back of his book - and that's a pretty big claim. We've since learned that he got the info from Michael Korda, who didn't want to go on record as being the source, and later told Olivier's biography Terry Coleman that it was just a rumor. Personally, I take the view that if you can't cite where you got that information, you shouldn't write it. Speculation and facts are totally different things. Even if he had been bisexual (he may have been, who really knows?) that doesn't mean that his relationship with Vivien was invalid, or that he didn't love her, etc. And when writing a book about Vivien, not only would we have to prove that such rumors were true, we'd also have to prove that it actually mattered and had a negative impact on Vivien's life.There's no evidence to back that up. Assuming he was bisexual, I really think she'd have known about it from the beginning, and as we know, she pursued him regardless.

Anyway, I'm sure there were other problems that contributed to the demise of their marriage but all evidence - and there's plenty of it - points to Larry's inability to cope with the strain brought on by her bipolar disorder as the reason why he felt he had to leave. Perhaps if they had been "normal" people and there'd been more help and understanding for such issues they both would have had an easier time and their relationship might not have suffered as much. But on the flip side, if she did have the medication and therapy available today, who knows if she'd have become the Vivien Leigh we know and find fascinating today. That said, I talk in the book about how Vivien had a hard time following the break-up and how she required psychiatric assistance. However, she did understand why he left (there's a great letter she wrote to Larry in the book that alludes to this), and she had a very kind partner in those last years of her life called Jack Merivale. He was very loving and patient and could look after Vivien, and I think he was able to meet her needs more at that time in her life than Olivier could. Similarly, it seems Joan Plowright was able to do the same for Olivier. So, even though Vivien had a hard time accepting things, she did get on with her life and she accomplished things on her own terms, without Olivier's help and, in my opinion, managed to rediscover her own identity and emerge from his huge shadow.

I'm pretty sure that David Niven's story of Vivien Leigh was revealed not by Niven himself but by other biographers. He doesn't name Vivien in his book, instead disguising her name as "Missie." But both Stewart Granger and Olivier wrote of this particular incident in 1953 in their own autobiographies and in those Vivien was named and Niven was mentioned as being there. Those stories corroborate with what Niven wrote in his book. Niven was a great friend of the Oliviers and I'd like to think he disguised Vivien's identity out of respect.

Joining a cast of all Method actors for Streetcar was challenging for Vivien in that she was the odd man out in that sense. But Kazan and her castmates worked closely with her to make her feel comfortable. She came to like Brando during shooting, and respected Kim Hunter. They, in turn, respected her talents and stature as a star. Kazan himself was critical of her acting abilities, but conceded that she was determined to be good, that she worked hard, and that she gave a great performance when she needed to. The only person who didn't seem to like Vivien much was Karl Malden, who preferred Jessica Tandy's less sexual interpretation of Blanche DuBois.
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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby moira finnie » October 22nd, 2013, 9:05 am

Thank you so much for sharing your understanding of Vivien Leigh's life and legacy with us these last few days, Kendra. I hope that you will continue to post on this site whenever you would like to in the future. You will be most welcome if you would like to continue posting in this thread (or anywhere else on the site) for as long as you like!
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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby kendrajbean » October 22nd, 2013, 9:09 am

MissGoddess wrote:Thank you very much for being here and answering our questions, Kendra! It's been fascinating.

May I ask which of Vivien's films is your favorite?


My favorite films of Vivien's are Gone With the Wind, Waterloo Bridge, That Hamilton Woman, Sidewalks of London, and Streetcar. I'd add Anna Karenina, as well, but I like her performance more than the film as a whole. :)

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

Postby kendrajbean » October 22nd, 2013, 9:26 am

JackFavell wrote:I'm positively drooling at the idea of a MacBeth film starring those two. It's a shame it never got off the ground.

Ms. Bean,

can you tell me a little about Vivien's acting process? Have you found out anything about how she prepared for her roles? I know from reading that she was very much a proponent of the British acting style, but to me, she seems sparkier, more alive and more realistic on film than almost anyone of her generation, at least on film. She doesn't seem out of place acting with Brando or method actors. Her roles seem so very personal, as if she put herself up on screen. She seems to me to be the embodiment of Stanislavski's method. She lives in the moment, has such an ability to touch her emotional memory through the senses that one feels her emotions rather than merely watching them. How did she get to that point, that she could play it before the camera? Did she plot out her roles, mark up her scripts, create certain pleasing sounds, decide on the overall arc of her character?

Thank you so much.

Wendy


Vivien would never have called herself a Method actor and claimed to not understand "what that Method is." She said, "Acting is life, to me, and should be." But hen she had the freedom to choose her own film roles, she played many characters that she felt an innate connection with and I think that really came across on screen. She knew how to be intimate with the film camera, and her performances are so magnetic and...present. It seemed more instinctual than learned because even in her earlier films where she was a bit more stagey or perhaps just inexperienced, she still stands out and has that undeniable star quality. I'm not sure that she made pleasing sounds, but she did mark up her scripts and made sure she knew her lines front to back. She also paid close attention to original source material and wasn't afraid to discuss the roles with their creators or her directors to try and gain better understanding. Apparently there's quite a bit of revealing material about how she constructed Blanche DuBois in the newly acquired Vivien Leigh archive at the V&A here in London so I'm really looking forward to learning more!

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

Postby kendrajbean » October 22nd, 2013, 9:28 am

moirafinnie wrote:Thank you so much for sharing your understanding of Vivien Leigh's life and legacy with us these last few days, Kendra. I hope that you will continue to post on this site whenever you would like to in the future. You will be most welcome if you would like to continue posting in this thread (or anywhere else on the site) for as long as you like!


Thank you, Moira! I had a lot of fun with this. The questions have been great and I hope I've been able to answer them satisfactorily!

I've got some other things to work on for the upcoming Vivien Leigh centenary but would be more than happy to stop by and answer more questions when I've got some time.

Thanks again, everyone!

Kendra

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

Postby MissGoddess » October 22nd, 2013, 9:32 am

Again, many thanks, Kendra, for continuing with us.

Can you tell us anything about Notley Abbey? Have you ever visited it? I understand Vivien, though she may not have been maternally inclined, loved her home and entertaining guests there. I wondered whether you had been there personally.

Also, this is a silly question, but as a cat lover I've seen some enchanting photos of Vivien with Siamese cats (my favorite)...was she especially fond of her pets?
:)
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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby kendrajbean » October 22nd, 2013, 9:45 am

MissGoddess wrote:Again, many thanks, Kendra, for continuing with us.

Can you tell us anything about Notley Abbey? Have you ever visited it? I understand Vivien, though she may not have been maternally inclined, loved her home and entertaining guests there. I wondered whether you had been there personally.

Also, this is a silly question, but as a cat lover I've seen some enchanting photos of Vivien with Siamese cats (my favorite)...was she especially fond of her pets?
:)


I have been to Notley Abbey a few times. It's BEAUTIFUL! It's a wedding venue now so there's nothing really personal about the inside anymore, but the outside still retains that element of old school magic and some of the personal touches Vivien and Larry left around the property. It's easy to see why she grew to love it, even if it could be lonely sometimes. She always had people around.

http://www.vivandlarry.com/the-oliviers ... ley-abbey/

Vivien loved animas but was especially fond of Siamese cats. She had one called New in the mid-1940s, which had been a gift from Olivier. She used to take it to the theatre for good luck and I was told by a man who used to be a waiter at the Ivy restaurant in Covent Garden, where Vivien was a frequent diner, that she used to bring this cat with her to the restaurant in a gardening basket and it would just hang out by the table like it was no big deal. I don't know if that's totally true but it seems quite extraordinary given how moody Siamese cats can be.

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

Postby Professional Tourist » October 22nd, 2013, 9:56 am

kendrajbean wrote:Vivien very much wanted to star in a film version of Macbeth opposite Olivier. They had performed the play in stage in 1955 and afterward tried to get a film off the ground. Olivier even wrote a script for it, but unfortunately they couldn't secure the funding. By then their marriage was sadly coming to an end.

Regarding Orson Welles' 1948 film adaptation, Mr. Welles had advised Peter Bogdonovich that his first choice for Lady MacBeth had been Vivien Leigh, but that Mr. Olivier didn't want her to take the part. Have you come across anything on this? Did Miss Leigh want to play MacBeth with Welles and was disappointed by her husband's opposition, or perhaps was not interested herself?

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

Postby MissGoddess » October 22nd, 2013, 9:58 am

I hope it is true about New at the Ivy. ha! I wouldn't dare take my Massimo to a restaurant, he would turn over all the dishes and trip up the waiters! :D

Thank you for the link; what lovely photos, you're very gifted. You know, I never noticed it before but Notley makes me think of 'Manderley' (in Rebecca). If I ever go back to England I would love to visit.
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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby kendrajbean » October 22nd, 2013, 10:42 am

Professional Tourist wrote:
kendrajbean wrote:Vivien very much wanted to star in a film version of Macbeth opposite Olivier. They had performed the play in stage in 1955 and afterward tried to get a film off the ground. Olivier even wrote a script for it, but unfortunately they couldn't secure the funding. By then their marriage was sadly coming to an end.

Regarding Orson Welles' 1948 film adaptation, Mr. Welles had advised Peter Bogdonovich that his first choice for Lady MacBeth had been Vivien Leigh, but that Mr. Olivier didn't want her to take the part. Have you come across anything on this? Did Miss Leigh want to play MacBeth with Welles and was disappointed by her husband's opposition, or perhaps was not interested herself?


I know Vivien wanted to act with Olivier in Hamlet in 1948 and that Olivier didn't think her right for that part but I don't recall ever coming across anything about her wanting to or Olivier advising her against playing Lady Macbeth with Orson Welles. That said, Vivien did put great stock in Olivier's opinions about Shakespeare and possibly would have conceded if he did advise her against it. She was, for all intents and purposes, under contract to Laurence Olivier Productions at the time.

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

Postby stuart.uk » October 22nd, 2013, 10:59 am

Hi Kendra

I hope I'm not to late. I'm Stuart and I'm from Dundee in Scotland

I wonder if you agree with me that Viiven sacrficed her film career in odrer to support her husband, Larry Olivier as actor Manager of the Old Vic Theater Company. IMO she was a far better film actor than him, despite the fact she made so little movies and he made so many in his later yrs.
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Re: Welcome to Kendra Bean, Our Guest Author on 10/18 & 10/21

Postby kendrajbean » October 22nd, 2013, 11:15 am

stuart.uk wrote:Hi Kendra

I hope I'm not to late

I wonder if you agree with me that Viiven sacrficed her film career in odrer to support her husband, Larry Olivier as actor Manager of the Old Vic Theater Company. IMO she was a far better film actor than him, despite the fact she made so little movies and he made so many in his later yrs.


Hi Stuart,

Olivier didn't become manager at the Old Vic until 1944, and Vivien wasn't an official member of the Old Vic Company. The thing about Vivien is that from her earliest days of success in 1935, she aligned herself with the idea that acting on stage was much more culturally superior to acting on film. She had fixed her sights on Olivier by that time, but they weren't yet involved with one another. I wish she'd have done more films, and I agree that she was much more natural on camera than Olivier was (at least in his earlier days. I think he kind of grew into it over time), but I'm not sure she really wanted that kind of career. There were certain parts she went after, like Scarlett and Blanche DuBois, but she had no desire to be typecast, resented the 7 year contract she had to sign (and didn't fulfil), and didn't seem too bothered only appearing on screen once every few years when she was older. Being a great stage actress was the ultimate goal for her, and her relationship with Olivier was entwined in that ambition. Despite what we may think of their respective talents, Vivien always maintained that she thought Olivier the greatest stage actor of their time and she wanted to share that with him. To us it may seem that she sacrificed her film career for her devotion to Larry, but it doesn't seem that she saw it that way.

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

Postby stuart.uk » October 22nd, 2013, 11:24 am

Hi Kendra

My original post got lost as I wrote it. so I had to write in batches to make sure it got through, so if I've repeated myself. I apoligise

I've also thought Errol Flynn would have made a great Ashley in GWTW, though I think he may have been first choice for Rhett if Warner's had made the film rather than MGM. I know he was a boys on hero, but in films like Edge Of Darkness and That Forsyte Woman he could show restraint. I think Leslie Howard was way to old for the role, whereas Errol was nearer the right age. He also would have played oppisite ODH and their magical screen partnership might have given the film even more of an edge

My own personal fovourite Leigh film was Waterloo Bridge. Robert Taylor was also great, but it was still a bit of stretch to imagine him as a Scottish Laird. The only Scottish actor I can think of around that time was John Laurie, a brilliant character actor in several UK Hitchcock films, but really became famous as an old man in the UK sit com and movie spin-off Dad's Army, but he wasn't a big enough name in 1940. I also liked Vivien in St. Martins Lane and That Hamilton Woman

I wonder if you agree me, given full health and a long life, if Vivien might well have gone into UK tv drama like what Margaret Lockwood did in the 70s with Justice, playing a Barrister.

I saw a recent doc which suggested to my surprise that her last boyfriend might not have stayed around for much longer. It said he as brilliant with her but was becoming bored.

The late Sheridan Morley was another who wrote about Vivien. He also knew her quite well


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