One of the most rewarding things about maintaining this website is meeting kindred spirits. Anthony and I met through vivandlarry.com years ago and had a passing acquaintance on Facebook. We finally hung out in person when I moved to north London two years ago. He and his partner lived nearby. We immediately bonded over our love for Vivien Leigh and classic cinema. He studies film, as well, and knows more than I do about a lot of stars of Hollywood’s golden age. He is also really good at impersonating film characters. When he started quoting The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (not just Warren Beatty, but Vivien Leigh and Coral Browne, too) I laughed so hard I cried. We became instant friends.
Anthony has been studying abroad in Rome since October and this week I finally got a chance to go and visit him. It was my first trip to Italy, and because we share so many of the same interests, I was happy to let Anthony show me around! Here are photos from day 1 of my visit.
Studies in Scarlett
by Gavin Lambert
The Sunday Times, December 30, 1973
Early in 1936 David Selznick received from his story editor in New York a long synopsis of a long forthcoming novel. It was called Gone With the Wind and nobody had ever heard of the author. The story editor, Kay Brown, strongly urged him to buy the rights at once.
He didn’t. Although tempted by the material, he knew that movies about the Civil War were usually commercial failures. He turned it down, then had second thoughts for six weeks. Finally he made an offer which was accepted, went to Hawaii for a vacation with his wife and read the novel he’d bought. He returned to Hollywood to find it a runaway best seller and already part of the national psyche.
Having decided that George Cukor should direct the picture, Selznick’s first thoughts about casting were directed toward Rhett Butler, not Scarlett O’Hara. He wanted Clark Gable, but the star was under contract to MGM. His father-in-law, Louis B. Mayer, was still angry because Selznick had previously left the studio to form his own company and refused a sumptuous offer to go back. Reluctant to deal with this difficult potentate again, Selznick fell back on his second choice, Gary Cooper. He approached Sam Goldwyn, to whom the actor was under contract, and met an unblanketed refusal. He next thought Errol Flynn, at the time the movies’ top swashbuckler. Warner Brothers, who owned his contract, offered a package instead of a refusal. Bette Davis, also owned by the studio, had began an ardent campaign for the part of Scarlett the moment she heard Selznick was going to produce the movie. Jack Warner was prepared to make her part of the deal.
Selznick was seriously tempted, but not Davis. Desperate though she might be, she wouldn’t play Scarlett to Errol Flynn’s Rhett. Jack Warner broke off negotiations; Selznick, after considering Warner Baxter and Ronald Colman for a few minutes, reluctantly admitted to himself that gable was a necessity. He went back to MGM, faced his triumphant father-in-law, and was met by some not unexpected stiff terms. MGM would lend Gable at a figure considerably above his usual salary, and provide half the financing in return for world distribution rights and half of the total profits.
Since Selznick’s company had a contract with United Artists to distribute all his pictures until the end of 1938, Gone With the Wind could not be released by MGM until after that time. It was not October, 1936. Selznick’s next problem was how to keep public interest alive in his project for the next two years.
This weekend Hollywood is getting nostalgic, recalling its glamorous past as Turner Classic Movies unrolls the red carpet for the 4th annual TCM Film Festival. Although I was still living in southern California during the festival’s inaugural event in 2010, I’ve sadly never been able to attend. Instead, I live vicariously through the classic film blogging community as twitter and facebook explode with updates about celebrity sightings, screenings of favorite films in Hollywood’s famous cinemas, round table discussions with many-a-film-fan’s personal idol Robert Osborne, and, of course, meeting and forming friendships with other film bloggers.
Being half way around the world, it’s really expensive to fly back to California (I’ve only been home twice in the past 2 1/2 years). So, another year, another fun TCM Film Festival party that I won’t be at. Here are five things I’ll be doing this weekend while everyone else is sitting poolside at the Roosevelt and drinking cocktails with Eva Marie Saint:
5. Enjoying the rain
Just kidding. This week, spring finally decided to grace London with its presence, and it was glorious! I left my winter coat in the closet for the first time since November and walked outside wearing a cardigan. And I didn’t freeze to death (60 degrees is shorts weather for Britons, but anyone from California knows 80 is where it’s really at). However, it looks like this warm spell is going to be short-lived.
4. Organizing my new apartment
After a year and a half living in the quaint suburb of Crouch End, birthplace of actress and Vivien Leigh look-alike Jean Simmons, I’ve finally ditched my awkward and sometimes downright rude flatmates (seriously, they had a penchant for cooking at midnight and telling me I was “cutting in to their time” when I brought up household issues) and moved south of the river with Robbie. It’s really nice having my own (shared) space and not feeling like I have to cloister myself in my room because the couple mentioned above took over the rest of the flat. Although it is rather startling how much stuff I managed to fit into that shoebox I used to sleep in.
3. Watching Game of Thrones
I admit it. I’m kind of obsessed with the goings on in Westeros. I mean, did you see last week’s episode? How fierce is Daenerys Targaryen? Will Tyrion Lannister get the revenge he seeks? What is Varys going to do with that sorcerer in a crate? What does Diana Rigg (Olenna Redwyne) have up her sleeve? Also, this.
2. Making a video about Vivien Leigh
Although I update facebook and twitter every day, I’ve been neglecting this blog over the past six months or so. I blame the whirlwind that has been writing and assembling my upcoming Vivien Leigh book by the deadlines specified by my editor. Now that this is winding down and the publication date grows nearer, I’ve been thinking of new ways to jump start the blog again. I get a lot of questions from fans who visit London and wonder where they can see places related to Vivien Leigh. This weekend, Robbie and I are planning to put together a special video chronicling exactly that. Fingers crossed the rain stays away!
1. Finishing my book
I got the second proof of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait this week, and now have to hand in the chapter notes and photo credits by Monday. It’s really exciting and kind of strange to see the end in sight after having spent so much time working on it. Onward to the finish line!
I’m not hanging out with the stars in Hollywood this weekend, but I’d highly recommend following along with some great bloggers who are:
It’s officially spring, but winter still reigns in England. With freezing temperatures and even snow on occasion, it hasn’t been a very pleasant time to be outside. However, I recently treated myself to a new camera lens and was eager to try it out. As I was going to visit Robbie near Buckinghamshire anyway, I had a spur-of-the-moment idea (as usual) of going out to Notley Abbey for a photo shoot. Unfortunately, they were booked up with bridal viewings on Sunday, so I went this past Monday, instead, and was met by my friend Zara who came up from London.
I’ve been to Notley a few times now in various seasons, but am always struck by the beauty that surrounds it. Walking around the manicured grounds, it’s equally easy to imagine Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier in their heyday, and why they loved this place so much. I tried to capture some of the old world charm in my photographs. It really is a stunning house.
All photos © Kendra Bean, 2013
It’s rare that we get everything that we want at the same time. Sometimes, happy occasions are counteracted with sad ones. I handed in the manuscript for my book this past Saturday. That same day, I got a text from my mom saying that my beloved Siamese cat, Coco, had to be put to sleep. I had known this was coming since Christmas, but knowledge and distance didn’t make the news completely easy to take.
Coco and I had been through a lot together. Some of you may remember me posting photos on here when I first got her. I adopted Coco from the Southern California Siamese Rescue in May 2009. I was in my post-college-trying-to-figure-out-my-life phase and was going through a bit of depression and loneliness. I decided I wanted to adopt a cat, and so started looking online for those available in my general area. Then I saw Coco’s picture on the SoCal Siamese website, and was immediately won over by her beauty and obvious diva-ish attitude. Also, come on, Coco? Coco Bean? It was destiny.
I drove two hours to Burbank where she was being fostered by a British couple. They told me that she was very timid, had been abandoned, had some dental work done, and had been in a few foster homes previously because she didn’t get along with other cats and had a tendency to hide a lot. I went into the bathroom and found her huddled behind the toilet. She had nowhere to run but she let me pet her and I took her home with me. It took her a few days to start warming up to her new surroundings, but from then on, we were pals.
Then, about five months in, she stopped eating, began sleeping all day, and was drooling quite a bit. A trip to the vet revealed that she had an unfortunately common problem with Oriental cats: stomatitis. Her gums became so infected that within a few months, I was faced with the option of giving her back to the shelter and having her put down, or paying for a very expensive surgery to have all of her teeth removed. The stress of the situation was overwhelming. I didn’t have enough money to pay the vet bills – I wasn’t expecting a sick cat right off the bat – but I had promised to be her “forever home.” So, I turned to tumblr and twitter for help, and amazingly, total strangers reached out to chip in. Within a week, I’d raised enough money to pay for her surgery. Talk about tears of gratitude on this end. After a bit of a rough recovery, Coco was like a completely new cat – still skittish and only let me pet her, but definitely not as reclusive as she had been.
When I got accepted to grad school and moved to London, I took Coco up north to live with my parents and she ended up taking to my dad. Not surprising, considering he’s basically an animal whisperer. But she still remembered me when I came home for visits, and every weekend when I Skyped with my parents, I’d ask for a Coco report.
A few months ago, my dad said she had started limping. She was older so we thought maybe she had arthritis. The limp didn’t go away and when I was home for the holidays, an x-ray revealed she had osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in her arm. I was devastated by the diagnosis. I’d only adopted her four years ago and she’d had a rough life. It wasn’t fair that this should happen to this poor little creature. We decided that, given the circumstances and cost, we would forego amputation and let life take its course. I’d been home for three weeks and although she let me pet her when she was sleeping it was only on the very last night I was home that she came and curled up next to me on my bed like she used to.
My heart aches, but I think my mom was right when she said that I’d given Coco the best four years of her life, and I’m so glad I got to say goodbye. We’re lucky we found each other.
So, RIP, pretty Cocobean. May your sassiness reign in the next life.
VivAndLarry.com is an historical archive and film blog dedicated to preserving the memories of classic screen and stage stars Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, and to the discussion of classic Hollywood and world cinemas. The site is designed and edited by Kendra Bean, a film scholar, writer and photographer living in London. What you'll find here: A cabinet of curiosities brimming with vintage articles, video footage, the largest archive of Vivien Leigh and/or Laurence Olivier photos on the Web, and much, much more.
This site is updated frequently, so pull up a chair and stay a while! Or, subscribe to be notified whenever new posts are made.
The current header was designed and drawn by the brilliant Laura Loveday.
Read Vivien Leigh: Becoming Scarlett by Kendra Bean in issue no. 75 of Bright Lights Film Journal
Read Kendra's article Style Icon: Vivien Leigh at The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower
My running list of films watched in 2013.