Tag: documentaries

cinema archive documentaries vivien leigh

Vivien Leigh: Made in Japan

Vivien Leigh japanese Documentary

A couple of years ago, I did a contest on this site during which I gave away a couple copies of a recently released Japanese documentary about Vivien Leigh. I’m still not sure exactly what it’s called, but according to my Japanese-British friend, it’s something like, “Vivien Leigh: Young Heroine that Loved Eternally.” I call it “The Japanese Vivien Leigh Documentary.”

Made by Basara Ltd. in 2010 as part of a series of TV documentaries that focused on classic film stars that are still big in Japan, “The Japanese Vivien Leigh Documentary” takes a unique approach to telling Vivien’s story. Rather than just replaying Vivien Leigh’s life through photos and video footage, it follows her great-granddaughter, Sophie Farrington, on a journey of discovery. Sophie travelled to London and Hollywood (and to Notley Abbey and Tickerage Mill) to interview those who are still alive who knew Vivien, and in the process learned more about her famous relative.

Like any documentary, there are good and bad things about this one.

The Good:

  • It’s really interesting to see members of Vivien’s family today, especially considering how private they’ve always been.
  • There are people interviewed here that I’d never seen in previous documentaries.
  • Hearing audio clips of Jack Merivale speaking about Vivien Leigh in an interview with Hugo Vickers.
  • I got to help as a photo consultant. Many of the photos used as filler came from my personal collection.

The Bad:

  • The editing is very, very sloppy. You’ll notice things like people being cut off mid-sentence, the English translator whispering in the background, cameramen not ducking out of the shots in time.
  • Random historical re-enactments.
  • They interviewed Sophie having dinner at the Olive Garden. Okay, maybe that should be in the “good” section.
  • Sparkly purple text.
  • No English subtitles, including names of people being interviewed.

People featured include Hugo Vickers, Trader Faulkner, Tarquin Olivier, Ann Rutherford, Daniel Selznick, Sally Hardy (Jack Merivale’s step-sister), Louise Olivier, Rupert Farrington and Amy Farrington.

This documentary has a running time of 90 minutes. It has been uploaded exclusively for readers here at vivandlarry.com and cannot be found on DVD.



gone with the wind reviews

Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel

Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell has been enjoying a second (or 75th?) wind recently due to the fanfare surrounding the anniversary of the publication of her only novel, Gone with the Wind. Atlanta threw a big party and the Windies, a close-knit group of hard-core GWTW fans (think Trekkies in hoop skirts) even made it into the New York Times. As part of the celebration, GPB Media in Georgia produced a new documentary called Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel. It tells the fascinating life story of the woman who would write the most beloved novel in American history.

A progressive, pseudo-feminist  yet still very much a woman of her time, Margaret Mitchell was born into Atlanta’s high society in 1900 and was raised on stories told by a generation still sore about losing the Civil War. A tomboy with a creative side, Mitchell always loved writing. At age 16 she penned a novella called Lost Laysen which was discovered and published decades after her death and reveals a sensibility for romance and adventure that would later blossom into a Pulitzer Prize-winner. At 18, Mitchell enrolled at Smith College, the ivy league women’s school in Massachusetts, but dropped out her freshman year (1918) when her mother died of Spanish flu.

Mitchell seemed to take after her mother, a suffragette, and was never content to be complacent within the gender roles society placed on women of her generation. In a time when women were meant to be seen and not heard, Mitchell was more interested in playing sports and hanging around with the boys than she was to be in the kitchen and having babies. When the 1920s rolled in, she made the picture-perfect flapper. She accepted a journalist position at the  Atlanta Journal using the pen name Peggy Mitchell and took to the streets, covering important issues of the day and even interviewing Rudolph Valentino.

Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind

Mitchell married twice. Her first husband, Berrien ‘Red’ Upshaw, was a violent alcoholic and a bootlegger who commentators on the documentary think may have been the inspiration behind the character Rhett Butler. After the marriage failed, Mitchell wed Upshaw’s best man, John Marsh, whom she remained with for the rest of her life. It was while married to Marsh and convalescing from a broken ankle that Mitchell began work on her magnum opus. She started with the last chapter and wrote sporadically over the course of the next decade.

“If the novel has a theme, it is that of survival. What makes some people able to come through catastrophes and others, apparently just s able, strong and brave, go under? It happens in every upheaval. Some people survive; others don’t. What qualities are in those who fight their way through triumphantly that are lacking in those who go under? I only know that the survivors used to call that quality ‘gumption’. So I wrote about people who had gumption and people who didn’t.”

The fame that came along with the success of Gone with the Wind was overwhelming. Mitchell refused a direct role in helping David O. Selznick with his screen adaptation and became somewhat of a recluse due to the incessant writing and phoning from people wanting to know what happens to Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler after the end of the novel. She never wrote another book and died in 1949 after being hit by a car while crossing Peachtree Street in Atlanta with her husband on their way to see the Powell and Pressburger film A Canterbury Tale. She was 49 years old.

Margaret Mitchell Gone with the Wind

The documentary itself was surprisingly well made and offered commentary from a host of film historians and Margaret Mitchell biographers including Molly Haskell and John Wiley, Jr., co-author of the new book Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood (which I look forward to finally reading once I’m finished with school. I also have a very nice Q&A with the authors to post here, which I also hope to get up soon). The historical re-enactments which are always the bane of TV documentaries were pleasantly unobtrusive. I also learned a lot about Mitchell that I hadn’t known before, such as her role as a secret financial benefactor for the private, historically all-black Morehouse College. This documentary would have been even better if Ken Burns of David McCullough had added their narrative gravitas, but alas. Beggars can’t be choosers, and it was wonderful as is.

If you haven’t yet seen Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel, you can order a copy from GPB. Recommended!

*Screencaps courtesy of Skye Bugs