Category: collecta-belle

classic film collecta-belle general discussion the oliviers

Buried Treasures (Part 3)

Some of my favorite collectibles are vintage film star scrapbooks. Not only do they provide a rich record of (in this case) other people’s lives or careers, but they give us a glimpse into the lives of the ordinary people who assembled them.

About 5 years ago, I purchased a scrapbook on ebay that was assembled from 1944-1946 by a young British lady named Joan Still. Joan was an avid theatre-goer and a big fan of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. She went to nearly every play they performed during this time, despite only being able to afford a standing place or stall seats (as shown in some of the ticket stubs). Along with playbills, Joan clipped stories featuring the Oliviers and other prominent British stars of the time out of newspapers and magazines. Like a lot of theatre fans today, Joan also waited by the stage door to see her favorite actors and have her playbills autographed. I found an extra Olivier signature when flipping through a Henry IV playbill!

What emerged from Joan’s hobby is a historical primary source documenting British popular culture and events that shaped the world during the 1940s. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we?

Laurence Olivier really came to prominence on the London stage during the 1944 Old Vic season when he rocked the West End with his performance as Richard III. Along with Shakespeare, he played Sergius in George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man, and the Button Moulder in Henrick Ibson’s Peer Gynt. The clipping above shows Larry in another star turn as Oedipus in the 1945 season.

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Buried Treasures (Part 2)

The recent Criterion restoration of Gabriel Pascal’s 1945 epic Caesar and Cleopatra starring Vivien Leigh and Claude Raines, and based on the play by George Bernard Shaw, reminded me of another buried treasure in my Vivien Leigh/Laurence Olivier collection. Meeting at the Sphinx by Marjorie Deans is a book that was published in 1946 as a supplement to Pascal’s film. We see a lot of these types of film books today, and I’m not sure how common it was for them to be published for classic films, but I think this one is fairly rare. I got it for quite a steal on ebay a couple years ago.

Marjorie Deans was the script supervisor on the film, which lends credit to her placing herself in the narrative of the book. She talks of Vivien Leigh and Claude Raines behind the scenes, and how their personalities effected their characters (nothing negative, of course!). She also talks about the difficulties of making the film: air raids happened often, bombs were dropped quite close to Denham Studios, Vivien Leigh fell on the set and had a miscarriage (not mentioned in the book, only that she fell ill for six weeks), among other setbacks. Luckily for director Gabriel Pascal, the film was backed by producer J. Arthur Rank, who supplied the funds to import real Egyptian sand, to build such lavish sets, and to drag out the shooting schedule.

My favorite parts of this book are the amazingly vibrant Kodachrome plates by Wilfred Newton, the still photographer on the film (Cecil Beaton did the publicity portraits). They almost look like paintings.

Sadly, the film itself failed to live up to its hype and was considered a failure. Due to the pain of her personal loss, Vivien, who had wanted the part of Cleopatra as she had wanted the part of Scarlett O’Hara, would not see the film until the early 1950s.

Despite not being a huge fan of the film, I think Meeting at the Sphinx is quite a gem because we get the inside story on what was then the most expensive and lavish British film ever made.

classic film collecta-belle general discussion laurence olivier photography

Buried Treasures (Part 1)

I have a pretty big collection of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier things–mostly paper goods (photos, magazines, and such).  One of the items in my collection is a negative film strip that contains two photos of Laurence Olivier from 1946 when he and Vivien Leigh invited reporters to their cottage in London for a photo call.  Many of you know some of the photos from this shoot: Vivien is wearing a polka-dot skirt and blouse, and can be seen with Larry and their Siamese cat New sitting on the couch or out on the front landing.  The two negatives I have depict Larry in his study and out on the landing with New.

I’ve had these for about a year, and finally took them in to get developed today.  I feel like stores that actually professionally develop film are a dying breed since so many people have gone digital, so I had to drive all the way to Irvine to get these done.  I got a pretty good deal (about $9 per 8×10), and I’m really happy with the quality.  My friend Mark’s friend Jay is a professional photographer, and he advised me to get prints made because, he said, eventually the negatives will disintegrate. So I’m going to pass along that bit of info to you out there:  If you have old movie negatives or film stock, get it developed so you’ll have prints in the future.

Aren’t these lovely?  I’m really liking the contrast.