cinema archive vlogs

Leigh/Olivier Q&A

Last week, I asked people on the Oliviers Facebook Fan Page as well as on tumblr if they had any questions they’d always wanted to know about Vivien Leigh and/or Laurence Olivier. After seeing my friend Almie do a fab video post on her blog, I decided to give it a try here, in effort to make the website more personal…? Or something. Straight off the bat I’d like to apologize for sounding like Audrina from The Hills–I do live in CA, in my defense. Also, sorry for the bad lighting, it makes me look like my make-up doesn’t match my skin tone. Just saying! 😛 This is making me self conscious. Anyway, let’s get to it!


Well, I hope you enjoyed that. Hopefully I’ll get better at this with time!

EDIT:  I’m sorry, in talking about books about Viv and Larry, I completely forgot that there are actually three.  The other two that I neglected to mention are Darlings of the Gods by Gary O’Connor, and Love Scene by Jesse Lasky Jr.  They both read like fan fiction, but they’re pretty interesting, even if they don’t cite real sources.

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Vivien Leigh on “Small World” with Edward R. Murrow

Edward R. Murrow’s television program Small World aired in 1958 and 1959. The show operated as a forum in which a handful of famous people talked about certain topics. This episode, featuring Vivien Leigh, Sam Goldwyn, and Kenneth Tynan, aired on December 28, 1958. I find this amazing bit of TV history to be very interesting considering how hard Tynan was on Vivien in his reviews in the Observer. In this episode, she fires right back at him. You stay classy, Vivien Leigh!

Sent to by Mark


classic film laurence olivier the oliviers vivien leigh

Keep Calm and Put the Kettle On

Over the past year or so I’ve really fallen in love with the films of writer/producer/director team Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.  Their production company, “The Archers,” often worked in conjunction with J. Arthur Rank to release some of the best British films of all time.  You may recognize some of these titles: Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, A Matter of Life and Death, Peeping Tom, I Know Where I’m Going, The Thief of Baghdad, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, etc.  In 1941 they did a propaganda film called 49th Parallel which starred Leslie Howard, Laurence Olivier, Eric Portman, Glynis Johns, and Powell and Pressburger recurring actor Anton Wolbrook.  The film centered around a German U-boat that strands its occupants in Canada during WWII.  The German soldiers seek refuge in a seried of small hide-outs in attempt to cross the border to the still-neutral United States.  Larry played a French-Canadian fur trapper named Johnny (complete with accent!).

The movie was filmed at London’s Denham Studios in 1941 and was edited by soon-to-be-famous director David Lean.  Though Powell and Pressburger made eight films in support of the British war effort, 49th Parallel was one of only two of these films to get financial backing from the British government (the Ministry of Information Film Division was run by Kenneth Clark, father of Colin Clark).  The film’s success would transform Michael Powell’s career, and British cinema on the whole.  Historian Bruce Edder explains in his Criterion essay:

Director/producer Michael Powell and screenwriter Emeric Pressburger made a movie that defied the limits of filmmaking in wartime. In the midst of crippling travel restrictions, they crisscrossed the Atlantic and the length and breadth of Canada, covering more than 50,000 miles making their film. In the face of a British film industry that was close to collapse, they forged ahead with a topical thriller of two hours’ length, with a cast drawn from all over the world. They assembled from all of this a film filled with such beauty, vision, and vibrancy, that it was taken to heart by American audiences in a way that no British film before it—including Hitchcock’s celebrated thrillers—ever had been.

The quality of Powell and Pressburger’s achievement also inspired J. Arthur Rank, head of Britain’s General Film Distributors and its parent company, the Rank Organization, to expand production. While other British studios were cutting back on operations, Rank used 49th Parallel and its success in America (where, by Powell’s estimate, it netted an unheard of $5 million in box-office receipts) as the basis for establishing independent production companies headed by Powell and Pressburger (The Archers), David Lean (Cineguild), and Filippo Del Giudice and Laurence Olivier (Two Cities) resulting in such celebrated films as Stairway to Heaven, Henry V, In Which We Serve, Odd Man Out, Oliver Twist, Black Narcissus, and The Red Shoes.

Michael Powell (L) and Emeric Pressburger

I really like this movie and I’m glad it’s gotten the Criterion treatment, along with several other Powell and Pressburger films. If you get a chance to see this, I’d also highly recommend watching the features on the bonus disk.  They include a short film Powell did with Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson about life in the Fleet Air Arm from 1943, and a fabulous documentary called A Very British Affair which is all about the careers of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.  This documentary established Michael Powell as one of my favorite people.  The guy was hilarious!

I actually made this post so that I could share the following photos.  Larry Olivier made this film in between stints helping Vivien Leigh serve drinks to soldiers at canteens and making rousing speeches.  Vivien often visited on the set, and according to at least one Hollywood magazine, Larry would look to her for encouragement with his lines.

keep calm and put the kettle on
Going through the dalies

My favorite Powell and Pressburger film of them all is A Matter of Life and Death (Satirway to Heaven) from 1946 starring David Niven, Roger Livesey, Marius Goring, and Kim Hunter.  Watch it, it’s amazing!

reviews vivien leigh

Review: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

From February 18-21, The American Cinematheque put on an Elia Kazan retrospective at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.  This past Saturday, I met up with my friend Mark and his friends Will and Jay for dinner at the French Quarter restaurant in the French Market in West Hollywood.  We talked of films and politics, book projects and my upcoming trip to London for school.  Afterword, three of us went over the Hollywood for a double bill of Kazan’s Baby Doll and A Streetcar Named Desire, both starring Karl Malden, and both based on Tennessee Williams plays.

Baby Doll was a film I’d only seen bits of pieces of on TCM.  It was quite a racy little number.  In between films, there was a Q&A session with Carroll baker, the lead actress in Baby Doll, which was really interesting.  Then, it turned out Oscar-winning actress Patricia Neal (Hud) was in the audience!  A lot of people crowded her to get her autograph.  Millie Perkins, star of the 1959 film The Diary of Anne Frank was also there.  I love when remaining old celebrities come out of the woodwork for these kinds of events.  Only in Hollywood!

My main reason for attending the screening was to see A Streetcar Named Desire on the big screen for the first time.  It has been one of my favorite films since I discovered Vivien Leigh ages and ages ago.  This is such a powerful movie and Vivien is a tour-de-force as Blanche.  Much like her first turn as a southern belle in Gone with the Wind 11 years prior, Vivien’s Blanche absolutely steals the show.  It seems to be the general consensus among a lot of people that Marlon Brando is the one to watch in this film, but not so.  Seeing it in the theatre, when one is forced to pay attention, it is easy to see that the heart and soul of the story is Blanche, and the heart and soul of the film is Vivien.  She and Brando have great onscreen chemistry, but it is Vivien’s wounded butterfly that demands the most attention and sympathy.

Vivien first played Blanche on the London stage in 1949, where she was directed by Laurence Olivier.  At the same time, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden, and Jessica Tandy were being directed by Elia Kazan on Broadway.  When Vivien was offered the role in the film due to her commercial appeal, she is reported to have had initial difficulty integrating herself with a cast of Method actors, and she and Kazan often disagreed on how they thought Blanche should be portrayed.  Some regard Streetcar as the best thing to happen to Vivien’s career, while others (mainly those close to her) regarded it as the biggest mistake due to her own mental problems, which were beginning to get out of control around the time Streetcar was filmed.  Whatever the case, it is without a doubt one of the best screen performances of Vivien’s career, and one of the best screen performances in film history (*author’s opinion).

What I’ve always loved about Streetcar is that this is a film that relies solely on the strength of the actors’ performances, our attention is always on the characters.  I guess this is why three of the four leads won Oscars, there was little to no room for not being up to perfection in this film.

Streetcar is a sad film that is pretty tough to watch sometimes (not because it’s boring, but because it’s harrowing seeing a person descending into madness).  Kazan gets laurels for making it a great artistic achievement, and the cats gets cheers for being AMAZING.  If you love films, or Vivien Leigh, or anyone and you have yet to see this movie, please do.  It ranks among the best.

This review was terrible.  Apologies!

Rating: 5 stars

classic film laurence olivier london the oliviers vivien leigh

“I’d like to thank the Academy…”

The 82nd Academy Awards are fast approaching.  Soon the day will be upon us when a movie about blue alien people will be named Best Picture and Sandra Bullock and “Oscar winner” will be said in the same sentence.  All the while, quality films like Jane Campion’s  beautiful Bright Star have been completely ignored in favor of box office returns.  I’m off track already.  What was this post going to be about?  Oh, yes!  This is actually a tribute to my favorite Oscar-winning couple.

Did you know that Vivien Leigh and Laurence are one of only TWO couples in the history of motion pictures who both won an Academy Award while married to one another?  This is a true story (the other couple is Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward).  Between them, they had 5 Oscars.  Now, unless your name is Meryl Streep, good luck living up to that amount of awesome.

Vivien Leigh won her first of two Academy Awards in 1940 for her portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.  The ceremony was held in the famous Coconut Grove in the Ambassador Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.  The Ambassador was recently demolished to make way for a much-needed inner-city school, but if you drive by the site where it once stood on Wilshire Blvd, you can still see part of the front entrance amidst a bleak landscape of bulldozed dirt.

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