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Backstage with “The Happy Hypocrite”

Theatre World goes backstage after the opening night of The Happy Hypocrite (1936) starring Ivor Novello, Vivien Leigh, Isabelle Jeans, and Marius Goring.

Ivor Novello was both amused and delighted to hear that he had so completely mystified the friends who crowded into his dressing room after his great first night triumph in The Happy Hypocrite at His majesty’s.  Many of them had thought he wore a mask when he made his first entry, but, actually, his startling transformation into the red-faced and bloated viciousness of “Lord George Hell” is due entirely to patient–and clever–make-up.  For the later scenes he had three different half-masks, which just leave his mouth and chin free, and, as he feels inclined at the moment, he wears one or other of them or else reveals his face.

He never puts on at all the complete mask which is brought on for the inspection in the early scene at the mask-maker’s shop.  Ivor, of course, had a special “cast” taken for this mask, and it seems to me that if only a supply of duplicates could be arranged they would be surely and eagerly bought up by his countless “fans.”

The youthful Vivien Leigh, who is such an adorable “Jenny Mere,” was proudly displaying for her dressing-room callers a gift from Ivor Novello of Coleridge’s poems bound in flame-coloured parchment.  She had a wonderful show of flowers, too, the most admired offering of all being a big oval mirror framed in closely-massed blue hyacinth blossoms and surmounted by a true lover’s knot of blue forget-me-nots and pink roses.  “And when the flowers die, what?–” began a practical friend; but before she could finish her query she got a poetically gallant reply from the young husband who had sent this gift to Vivien”  “Anyway, the mirror will always reflect a flower–my wife’s face,” he said.

Kendra has been the weblady at since 2007. She lives in Yorkshire and is the author of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait, and co-author of Ava Gardner: A Life in Movies (Running Press). Follow her on Twitter @kendrajbean, Instagram at @vivandlarrygram, or at her official website.

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