In a late fall New York Times review column, Eric Grode discusses the films available in “The Vivien Leigh Anniversary Collection,” a blue-ray boxed set from Cohen Media Group (in collaboration with the British Film Institute). The short piece adds up to a brief but useful evaluation of almost half Vivien Leigh’s film work before Gone with the Wind.
Grode seems unduly hard on the still eminently watchable Fire Over England (click above on Vivien Leigh, go to Film #5). But he has genuine appreciation for her talent and special strengths and her rapid growth and development in Dark Journey, Storm in a Teacup and St. Martin’s Lane. (Eric Grode, “Vivien Leigh, Before Tara Called,” New York Times, 12/17/13).
In the still beautiful and dramatic opening credits of Gone with the Wind, David O. Selznick is proud of “presenting Vivien Leigh,” and he was not about to encourage the American moviegoing public to learn that she had made ten films back home in England.
I have received a gift of Mark A. Vieira’s book Majestic Hollywood; the greatest films of 1939. The last paragraph in the book contains a tribute to Vivien Leigh: “Miss Leigh’s Scarlett has vindicated the absurd talent quest that indirectly turned her up. She is so perfectly designed for the part by art and nature that any other actress in the role would be inconceivable. Technicolor finds her beautiful, but Sidney Howard, who wrote the script and Victor Fleming , who directed it, have found in her something more: the very embodiment of the selfish, hoydenish, slant-eyed miss who tackled life with both claws and a creamy complexion, asked no odds of anyone or anything — least of all her conscience — and faced at last a defeat which by her very unconquerability, neither she nor we can recognize as final.” (The book is quoting Frank S. Nugent of the New York Times.) (Mark A. Vieira, Majestic Hollywood; the greatest films of 1939, Running Press, 2013.)
NEXT FRIDAY POST January 24
See you at the movies,