Tag: photography

Clarence Sinclair Bull: The man who shot Gable and Leigh

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Clarence Sinclair Bull: The man who shot Gable and Leigh

A couple of years ago, London’s National Portrait Gallery mounted a major exhibition in partnership with the John Kobal Foundation titled Glamour of the Gods, a photographic retrospective paying tribute to some of the greatest portrait photographers in Hollywood history. Among those included were Laszlo Willinger, George Hurrell, Robert Coburn, and perhaps the greatest of them all, Clarence Sinclair Bull.

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Secrets of the Vivien Leigh archive

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Secrets of the Vivien Leigh archive

It was pouring down rain when I arrived at the Victoria and Albert Museum on the morning of November 5. One of the museum’s press officers met me in the lobby and escorted me up the stairs, through the darkened jewelry exhibition, and into the Theatre and Performance gallery. I was there to see curator Keith Lodwick, the lucky person overseeing the newly acquired Vivien Leigh archive. Having met Keith a few times prior to this meeting, I was looking forward to an interesting and lively discussion about the selection of material currently on display to commemorate Vivien’s centenary. He didn’t disappoint. Keith’s passion for his job is palpable; a plus for researchers doing work in the Theatre and Performance archive at Blythe House, as well as Vivien Leigh fans who have been and will be lucky enough to hear him talk about the treasures in his care.

Vivien’s papers had been handed down from her daughter, Suzanne Farrington, to her three grandsons. The V&A entered into negotiations for the acquisition in 2002, but the Farrington family suddenly withdrew for undisclosed reasons. Luckily, the negotiations started again in 2012 and the collection was purchased for an undisclosed sum earlier this year. As an international celebrity, Vivien’s cultural appeal remains as prominent in America as it is in Britain. Keith mentioned that Suzanne came in to the museum not long before the display went up and said that she was glad the papers stayed in the UK to be preserved for the nation. There are over 10,000 items in the archive, including press cuttings books compiled by her mother Gertrude Hartley, diaries beginning in 1929, thousands of photographs (including 1000 color stereoscopic slides taken with Vivien’s own camera in the 1950s and 60s), over 7,500 letters, awards, and other ephemera.

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Visiting Shaw’s Corner

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Visiting Shaw’s Corner

In the spring of 1944, Vivien Leigh accompanied Hungarian director Gabriel Pascal to playwright George Bernard Shaw’s home in Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire. Producer J. Arthur Rank had secured her on a loan from David O. Selznick to star in the film adaptation of Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra – her first film since returning to England at the end of 1940. As the screenwriter, Shaw was given a heavy hand in the production process. He had never seen Vivien in person – despite her long run in The Doctor’s Dilemma at the the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London the previous year – and wanted to make sure she was suitable enough to play his kittenish queen. Studio photographer Wilfrid Newton accompanied Vivien and Pascal, documenting their visit for publicity purposes. They were photographed in Shaw’s study and in his famous revolvable writing hut at the bottom of the garden.

Shaw and his wife Charlotte moved into the house in 1906 and promptly nicknamed it “Shaw’s Corner.”  It was her that he wrote some of his most famous works. When he and Charlotte both passed away, the house was bequeathed to the National Trust with the stipulation that all of Shaw’s belongings stay exactly as he had left them. This is what my friend Andy and I found so unique about the house when we went to visit last week. It’s literally a time capsule of early 20th century country life; like one of those abandoned houses you see in urban exploration photography, minus the dust and decay.

I’ll let the photos below serve as a tour.

Shaw’s Corner can be reached by train from King’s Cross. It’s quite a trek from Welwyn Garden City, so we took a cab, and had drinks and a meal at the 13th century pub down the road afterward.

All photos © Kendra Bean

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Tickerage Mill: A private view

Tickerage Mill farm

A view of Tickerage Mill from the farm owned by Vivien Leigh

Last week I posted some rare candid images of Vivien Leigh taken by Jack Merivale that showed the woman behind the star image; photographs her fans would likely never have seen had Merivale not graciously lent them to one of her biographers. Several of them showed Vivien at her recently-purchased home Tickerage Mill. The photos in today’s post highlight the same setting. These, however, were intended for public consumption.

British actor Dirk Bogarde told journalist and biographer Alan Dent how Vivien came to own Tickerage in early 1961:

When Vivien had left Notley she once came down to my house, and felt utterly sad because she no longer had a garden…she adored mine, which was rather marvelous. Suddenly she said: “I want a little house…with a view like this, but by water…on a lake or a stream…and with trees…” and I had seen the exact house three days before. I told her, and she was off in a flash and found it to be the very place of her idea…that’s how she got Tickerage Mill. I had wanted it very much for myself, but it was a bit too far from town, I thought, and too small for me. Viv was instantly at home there.

In the summer of 1962, Vivien invited professional Surrey-based photographer Thomas A. Wilkie to photograph her at Tickerage. She had been away for a year and was only now settling in and making the Queen Anne-style house in Sussex a true home.

The photos are part of a larger set that was intended for a magazine but, to my knowledge and the current owner’s, were never published. I first came across the original prints in a famous theatre ephemera store in London back in 2005. I was a college student at the time and couldn’t afford the asking price. “Vivien isn’t cheap, you know,” the shop owner said to me. I went away believing I’d never see them again, so it was a great surprise when Terence Pepper from the National Portrait Gallery asked me to come in and meet a local collector called John who had some Vivien photos to donate for an upcoming exhibit, and there they were. John inherited the photographs from a friend who recently passed away, and I am so grateful to him for letting me share some of them  here at vivandlarry.com.

The photos offer an intimate glimpse into Vivien’s home and, like Jack Merivale’s snapshots, show a woman making the best of life after her divorce from Olivier. So many of Vivien’s endearing qualities come through in these pictures: her love for animals, her exquisite taste in interior design, her love of work, and her loyalty. I especially love the photo of her and her dog, Sebastian. It’s not perfect, and she probably wouldn’t have approved it for publication, but the expression on her face is adorable.

Inside Vivien Leigh's Tickerage Mill

I just love this centuries old fireplace. It reminds me of a cozy English pub.

Tickerage Mill sitting room

Tickerage Mill sitting room

The sitting room

Vivien Leigh at Tickerage Mill 1962

 Talking about her upcoming musical, Tovarich

Vivien Leigh and her dog Sebastian

Playing with her poodle, Sebastian – a gift from Jack Merivale

Vivien Leigh and her gardner at Tickerage Mill

“Gardening – my great love.” Talking to Cook, who was head gardener at Notley Abbey for eight years and left there in order to remain in Vivien’s service.

Vivien leigh at Tickerage Mill 1962

I simply love this photo

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Vivien Leigh through Jack Merivale’s lens

Vivien Leigh at Rottnest IslandVivien Leigh leaving Rottnest Island during a break in the Old Vic Australian tour of 1961

 There were literally tens of thousands of photographs taken of Vivien Leigh throughout her lifetime. London society and stage photographer Vivienne (née Florence Entwhistle, mother of Anthony Beauchamp who photographed Vivien on the cusp of fame) said that Vivien Leigh was “an artist-photographer’s dream” because of her near-flawless facial features and willingness to be manipulated in order to get the perfect shot. There were studio portraits for stage and film, always depicting the character she was playing either on or off-screen. There were press photographs taken at functions or when she was out and about. But in these photos she was always Vivien Leigh the star; the public figure. Photographers who were allowed in to her home came with her permission, and even then the Vivien Leigh persona was always in place.

What makes candid photographs like the ones below so special is that they show the real Vivien Leigh, the woman  those close to her had the privilege of knowing and loving. Vivien was an intensely private person. She didn’t shop her private photos around like many celebrities do today.  We rarely see photos of her and Laurence Olivier at Notley Abbey, for example. Olivier’s son Tarquin told me he doesn’t remember his father or Vivien ever carrying a camera around in those days. And if they did, the photos remain in a private collection. This changed when Vivien became involved with Jack Merivale in 1960. She had purchased a 35mm Stereo Realist camera in the 1950s and Jack took it up as a hobby, snapping Vivien while traveling and relaxing at Tickerage Mill with friends and family.

With the exception of one, the photos in this post were taken by Jack Merivale between 1960 and 1962 when Vivien was transitioning into a new life after her difficult divorce from Olivier. He captured a woman making the best of things, happiest in the company of friends. These were originally published in black and white in Hugo Vickers’ biography of Vivien and they offer an intimate and rare glimpse into Vivien’s private world. I thought it would be a treat for visitors of vivandlarry.com to be able to see them here in color.

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