Tag: laurence olivier

articles the oliviers

Heart Throbs In The Headlines

31 days of Vivien Leigh and Laurence OlivierI have a bunch of magazine and newspaper articles left over from my dissertation research, so I’ve decided to do “31 Days of the Oliviers.” Each day I will post a new article or blog post, ending with Vivien Leigh’s birthday on November 5. These articles (most of which have Vivien as the main subject) span the years 1937-1967 and come from both American and British sources. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do!

{Day 5} Vivien Leigh’s and Laurence Olivier’s romance was speculated in the press from the outset, but because of Selznick’s iron grip on his new discovery, news of just how involved they were did not reach the public until after Gone with the Wind premiered.

This short article in Motion Picture is surprisingly accurate for the most part (aside from Larry being called “Laurie”, but perhaps this was the Hollywood press not understanding a British accent?). 1930s Hollywood did not look kindly on adultery, but here it was, very thinly veiled, being reported on as wildly romantic. Many celebrities back then and even today would not have gotten such a free pass in the media.

[Discussion Question]: Why do you think the press and public were so enamored with Larry and Vivien despite knowing they left spouses and children to be together?


Heart Throbs in the Headlines

The exciting romance of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh blazes brilliantly on the Hollywood Horizon.
Modern Screen, February 1940

There are three important steps in every love affair. I see you, I know you, and I want you. Laurence Olivier took them all at a leap–and landed in the arms of Vivien Leigh.

Laurence first met Vivien in the summer of 1936 during the production of a British film in which they both appeared. The instant his brooding brown eyes lit on her fiery green ones, he was smitten by that powerful something which stops men cold. Now, love is alright in its place but its place, he knew, was not in the heart of a man who is the supposedly devoted husband of another woman. Laurence had been married to Jill Esmond for six years and she had borne him a son. He didn’t want to hurt her. Neither did he care to upset Leigh Holman, his beloved’s spouse and father of her little daughter, Suzanne.

But Vivien’s fascination was greater than Lauries good intentions. He found he couldn’t live without her. And he wasn’t a bit angry when he found she couldn’t live without him. Before long, they left their mates and their children for each other. There was no alternative.

Vivien and Laurence are a likable, honest pair. They have never attempted to conceal their romance. Perhaps their mutual “well-do-as-we-please-and-drat-public-opinion” attitude has played a huge part in holding them together. For example, it is no secret that Vivien left London and followed Laurie to Hollywood because she couldn’t endure the separation caused by his work in Wuthering Heights. Nor is there any mystery about her “chance” meeting with Agent Myron Selznick, and her eventual “Scarlett” assignment. Laurie arranged that. He pulled every string he could find to keep her by his side and, when the omnipotent David O. awarded her the most discussed role since Bernhardt played Camille, it was his off-the-set encouragement which led her to a magnificent performance.

Some months ago, Jill Esmond Olivier filed suit for divorce, and more recently Leigh Holman took similar steps. Before the year is out Vivien and her inamorato will be free to head for the altar–and it’s a cinch they’ll waste not time getting there.

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An Open Letter to Laurence Olivier

31 days of Vivien Leigh and Laurence OlivierI have a bunch of magazine and newspaper articles left over from my dissertation research, so I’ve decided to do “31 Days of the Oliviers.” Each day I will post a new article or blog post, ending with Vivien Leigh’s birthday on November 5. These articles (most of which have Vivien as the main subject) span the years 1937-1967 and come from both American and British sources. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do!


Laurence Olivier’s snobishness toward filmmaking, particularly in the early years of his career, has been well documented. He always regarded theatre as the true actor’s medium but was not singular in his opinion. This was an attitude shared by many British thespians of his generation, including Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, Michael Redgrave and even Vivien Leigh. Movies were made to boost the bank account and gain wider recognition, but not for developing one’s craft. Therefore it comes as no surprise that Britian’s most popular film fan magazine would attempt to take him, and others of his kind by association, down a peg or two. This is exactly what Picturegoer did in 1937.

An Open Letter to Laurence Olivier

by The Editor
Picturegoer, 1937

Dear Laurence Olivier,

May we be permitted perform the pleasant task of paying a tribute to your performance in Fire Over England before proceeding to the real business on the agenda which may not be so pleasant?

Your success in the new British film, as a matter of fact, lends special point to the issue which we wish to raise here.

Frankly, it is disturbing to find a young actor whom we have some reason to regard as one of the White Hopes of the British screen, going into the old stage artist routine of being superior about “the films”.

“Given a suitable story,” we read in a recent interview, “and no need to sacrifice the stage work he prefers, Laurence Olivier will consent to act in one or two films a year.” The life of a film star, you add does not appeal to you because you wish to develop as an actor, and successes on the screen, except in rare cases like Laughton’s, means doing the same thing over and over again.

“In the theatre,” you point out, “an actor obeys the producer, but he is left alone on the stage.”

Whatever merits this theory may possess, originality is not one of them. It has for years been both the formula of the film failures and the heartcry of every stage actor who has ever considered his art something too delicate to be entrusted to the mechanical medium and too rare to be offered to movie audiences.

One is inclined to be doubtful of its validity now, but if we concede that there may be some justice in some of your complaints, we are still left wondering what a professionally ambitious artiste who can see no chance of development in films is doing in films at all.

We appreciate that your previous experience in pictures has not been an entirely happy one. In Hollywood you had the misfortune to be labelled as “the man who looks like Ronald Colman,” and none of your earlier British films could be called masterpieces.

We recall, incidentally, at Ealing during the production of Perfect Understanding:

The occasion has remained in our memory because our choice of day for a visit was not a particularly felicitous one. Gloria Swanson, who was already beginning to see the danger signals of failure facing her first British production, had just received a cable from America announcing the secure of a valuable collection of furniture over a debt dispute. Michael Farmer (then Mr. Gloria Swanson) was noticeably in the somewhat irritating throes of development into a film star, and Laurence Olivier was at the moment of our arrival the centre of one of those minor storms that blow up even in the best regulated studios.

The point at issue was not, as might be imagined from some of your later pronouncements on the kinema, a delicate question of artistic conscience, but, if we remember rightly, a pair of pants–a pair of short pants–for a Riviera scene, which, we gathered, failed to show off the stalwart Olivier frame adequately.

Perhaps we should be grateful that wardrobe men are also included in your recent enumeration of film hazards for stage actors who take themselves seriously.

Now we do not, for a moment, question the sincerity of your own attitude toward the films, and in any case, you are to be congratulated for speaking your mind so honestly.

Wha we do object to is that the British studios are already full of “spare time” stars. They like the big film money, of course, but they are always in a hurry to get the job over with and collect their pay envelope so that they can dash back to the West End.

And if, owing to the fact that they have given all their energy to their stage performance the night before, their work is not up to form–well, after all, it is only the movies, what does it matter?

One of the reasons why, although money has been poured into the studios, the late lamented bid to capture the world market for British films has failed, is that neither courage nor enthusiasm has been mixed with it.

Hollywood’s enthusiasm is tremendous, even to the point of obsession, but it makes for good films, and in the long run good films make your Laughtons.

The up and  coming young artistes one meets there are ambitious to make good in films. They have faith in films as a career, not merely as a stepping stone to personal to personal pyrotechnics, to the applause of hand-picked audiences of sycophants in the repertory theatres and an opportunity for picking up a little easy money.

While we respect your attitude we do not believe you are past praying for. We hope that Fire Over England may enable you to change it.

If, however the worst comes to worst, we can only wish you luck in your choice of “suitable stories” for the vehicles of your future rare appearances on the screen.

You may need it. That artistes are notoriously poor judges of dramatic material should at any rate be known to an actor who once selected the lead in Beau Geste in preference to the lead in Journey’s End.


Let the Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Appreciation Blogathon Begin!

Vivien leigh and Laurence Olivier Appreciation Blogathon

This is the official Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Appreciation Blogathon post! Participating bloggers: please include a link back to this post, and don’t forget to send me your post links so I can include them here. A running list of participating posts will be updated throughout this weekend, so watch this space. Let the games begin!

Saturday, July 9

Sunday, July 10


The Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Appreciation Blogathon: Rules and Regulations

The Vivien Leigh & Laurence Olivier Blog-a-thon

The Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Appreciation Blogathon starts tomorrow! I don’t know about you, but I’m so excited! Over 30 of the most awesome film blogs on the internet are signed up to participate and I can’t wait to read everyone’s entries! I just wanted to do a post clarifying the rules and how it will work.

Participating Bloggers:

  • You may post your entries on your own blog at any time before or during the blogathon. There will be a new key post here tomorrow. Make sure to leave a link to your own blog post in a comment to either this post or the one I’ll be making tomorrow. Also be sure to include a link back to the blogathon in your respective post(s)
  • There is no post limit for the blogathon. If you’d like to do one for each day of the event, or just one total, or more, it’s up to you.
  • The blogathon will officially start tomorrow at 9 am Pacific Standard Time.


  • If you don’t have a blog, you are still more than welcome to read and comment on other people’s posts. In fact, I highly encourage it! It will be great to get a lot of people talking about Larry and Vivien, their films, and their lasting impact!
  • Check in tomorrow and Sunday for a running list of everyone’s posts.


  • The opinions expressed in participating blog posts may or may not reflect those of vivandlarry.com. The purpose of the blogathon is to get people talking about Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, and to celebrate their stellar contributions to 20th century pop culture. All I can say is, I’m pretty sure this blogathon is going to be extremely quality! Have fun, everyone!

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The Mysterious Mrs. Danvers: Queer Subtext in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca

This post is part of the Queer Film Blogathon currently being hosted by Caroline at Garbo Laughs to celebrate gay pride month. The aim of the blogathon is to examine films that feature “lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or otherwise non-heterosexual, non-gender-binary depictions or personages in film.” For an overview of queer film theory, click here.

The film I’d like to focus on is David O. Selznick’s adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca (1940). Many scholars of queer film theory have written of the relationship between Manderley’s mysterious and frightening Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) and the ghostly but ever-present Rebecca. Rhona J. Berenstien notes that the horror genre is “a primary arena for sexualities and practices that fall outside the purview of patriarchal culture, and the subgeneric tropes of the unseen, the ghost and the haunted house…Portraying lesbians as ghosts in Hollywood movies is, then, directly linked to cultural attitudes and anxieties about homosexuality. The lesbian is a paradoxical figure; she is an invisible–yet representational–threat.”

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