Tag: theatre

Collections Cataloguing: Box 3

collecta-belle laurence olivier theatre

Collections Cataloguing: Box 3

Hello, 2019! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.

The new year has brought a new look to this site. I like to freshen things up every few years and just felt like returning to a basic blog layout to make things more user-friendly. Instead of a static page of blog posts you should now be able to easily visit old posts by using the “older posts” link at the bottom of each page. The photo gallery still has the old layout but it should be changed over soon. I’ve also highlighted in the sidebar two things I’m currently hard at work on: Insatgram and the Viv and Larry Patreon. Please do take a minute to familiarise yourself with the new layout and let me know if you find any broken links or things that just aren’t working.

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Vivien Leigh makes her debut on TV

Vivien Leigh and George Devine in The Skin of Our Teeth 1959

Making my bow on TV

by Vivien Leigh (as told to D.H. Cousins)
TV Times, March 13, 1959

Television is like a tinder-box that fires imagination, and to an actress this can only be a challenge.

Though, of course, it will never oust the theatre, television has the advantage of reach, and brings to acting the immediacy, the now or never, the win or lose inevitability of, say, the Wimbledon tennis finals, the Derby or the Cup Final.

Unlike film-making when, if a scene is not quite right the director orders a re-take, in a television performance the director can no more call “cut” than a tennis umpire can sponge out the score. In both tennis and television, the play goes on with all the excitement of immediate, concentrated effort.

Fortunately, the comparison with Wimbledon ends here – the actors are not (or should not be!) competing against one another.

There is no denying, though, that to an actress television is a challenge, and who could resist a challenge?

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Now is the Winter of Our Discontent…


I don’t go to the theatre very often. I find it expensive and I guess I’m just more of a film person. However, as soon as I learned that Kevin Spacey was going to be starring in a new play at the Old Vic, I immediately purchased a ticket. Spacey is the artistic director at the Old Vic, and is a big fan of another famous Old Vic alumnus, Laurence Olivier. Like Olivier, Spacey has proved that he is capable of moving back and forth between film and stage and being very successful in both areas. I had previously seen Spacey act in the Old Vic production of The Philadelphia Story in 2005.

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Vivien Leigh: On Interviewing a Star On a Wet Washington Day

In 1966, Elaine Dundy (ex-wife of Kenneth Tynan) interviewed Vivien Leigh backstage at the National Theatre in Washington DC during the run of Ivanov. The article, in which Dundy describes being snubbed by a curiously closed-off Vivien, ran in The Village Voice. This is the companion piece to the previously unpublished interview by Richard F. Mason. It is interesting to look at them side-by-side as it shows either two critics with very different attitudes about the subject, or two very different Viviens. Thanks once again to Peter Coyne for submitting it to the site.

Ivanov Vivien Leigh John Gielgud

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Backstage with Vivien Leigh

I was recently contacted about a never-before-published interview that Vivien Leigh had done in 1966 during the run of her last play, Ivanov, in which she co-starred with her good friend John Gielgud. Peter Coyne, a former student and good friend of the interviewer, Richard F. Mason, was kind enough to choose vivandlarry.com as the source of publication. He has written a marvelous introduction to the interview, as well as provided a scan of the letter Vivien sent to Mr. Mason in response. Thanks, Peter.

Richard F. Mason was a professor of drama and director of university theater productions at Hofstra University on Long Island from 1964 until 1993. I was his student there from 1977 until 1981, and his friend thereafter. He wrote the following interview with Vivien Leigh in 1966, when she was appearing in New York City in her last play, Ivanov. Mason was still fairly new to New York at that time, having recently moved into the Charles Street apartment in Greenwich Village where he would live until his dying day, November 26, 2010. Although he was already 37 years old at the time of the interview, there is still a touch of the “stage door Johnny” about him, even if one armed with a PhD. He often mentioned in later years, when recalling the experience, the degree to which he felt star-struck, and how his time with Vivien felt rather like being in a dream state. Writing was never as great a strength for him as teaching and directing were, yet he manages to be rather funny in his own very arch way (to me, at least), and Vivien herself says she was “delighted” with the result.

Since Mason frequently references in his interview a piece about Vivien Leigh written by Elaine Dundy that had just been published, a summary of that article might be helpful. It appeared in the Village Voice on May 5, 1966, under the headline, Vivien Leigh: On Interviewing a Star On a Wet Washington Day. Ms. Dundy describes the colorful roles Vivien has played, the exciting life she has lived, and labels her an “Adventuress.” She describes boarding the plane for Washington, hauling herself and her overnight gear through a D.C. downpour to get to the theater, all for what she labels a “Snub Interview.” Her greeting from the star: “‘Don’t come near me!’she cries out as I advance into the dressing room. ‘I’ve got a cold.’ (I mention this as the most gracious thing she will say to me in the next 20 minutes.)” Her Vivien emerges as not chatty, but catty. There is one hilarious moment: After a pause, Vivien says to the writer, “I loved that piece you wrote about Barbra Streisand.” Response: “I have never written about Barbra Streisand in my life.” In the end, Ms. Dundy must make due with terse, sometimes monosyllabic answers (“No.”) to her rather inane questions. She dashes for the last flight back to New York City instead of remaining in Washington overnight as planned, feeling very snubbed indeed.

Now, for a glimpse at a very different Vivien Leigh, as seen through the eyes of young Professor Mason in his heretofore unpublished interview. I hope you will enjoy reading it.

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