Saturday, February 19, 2011

Screen Gem Saturdays: Vivien Leigh

Vivien Leigh was an incredible beauty AND a talented actress who played two of the most coveted roles in Hollywood: Scarlett O'Hara & Blanche DuBois. After a much publicized search for the perfect Scarlett (much of which was a lot of studio fluff in order to drum up interest in the movie), Leigh took on the part of the southern heroine who had a passion for survival.

Without her, this 1939 classic would most likely seem extremely dated today. Her performance is still fresh, gritty, and relevant even 70 years after it was filmed. Despite the heavy censors of the day, everyone in the audience was well aware what had happened the night before in Scarlett's bed when they saw this bewitching look on her face in the morning.

Although the film (and the original book) left audiences hanging, you would have to be fairly dense not to know that the resourceful Scarlett would eventually get Rhett back.

As Blanche in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Vivien showed much of the fire from her previous role of Scarlett, but this time with a heavy layer of vulnerability.

Unlike Scarlett, Blanche has obviously been damaged from the loss of her genteel southern lifestyle. Love has not been kind to Blanche either, and she has lost any ability to find a healthy relationship with a man.

For both of these roles, Leigh took home well deserved Academy Awards in The Best Actress category. One of her final films was also based on a Tennessee Williams play, “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone.” Starring opposite Warren Beatty, Leigh gives yet another riveting performance.

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Connie Moreno said...

GWTW has always been one of my favorite movies. I haven't see Streetcar since I was a kiddo. I think I'll go see if it's on Netflix. Thanks!

Katella Gate said...

I first saw GWTW when I was 16 and thought it was the greatest film I'd ever seen. Today, at 50, having now seen Citizen Kane and others, I can no longer call it The greatest film... but like Beethoven's symphonies, it belongs to a circle of equals.

Davelandweb said...

Katella - I view GWTW as 2 films; the first section which occurs before the war (which does seem somewhat dated) and the rest of movie, beginning with Scarlett volunteering at the hospital. This portion of the film still stands up and shows some of the struggles caused by the war. This is where Vivien really shines, showing the strength of her character.

Decades said...

Great post on Vivien, Dave!

@Katella, love your comment about a circle of equals! Very good way to articulate the point!

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