Friday, October 22, 2010

Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind

Vivien Leigh was a lucky actress. She was nominated for two Best Actress Oscars and won both of them. AND everybody agrees with both of her wins. Quite rare thing. She received her first acclaim for her legendary Hollywood debut as Scarlett O'Hara, a stubborn and greedy Southern belle in The Classic, Gone with the Wind. Really, I think she had that Oscar in her bag when she got the role of Scarlett. I don't think it was much of a surprise for anyone that she won the Academy Award.

Gone with the Wind is a brilliant movie, a true classic. Actually if you ever asked someone with a minimal knowledge of movies to say the title of only ONE classic movie, it's 60% sure that they would say Gone with the Wind (or Casablanca). David O. Selznick was really not stingy with the movie, consumed a handful of directors, but it was really worth it: GWTW is an eternal classic, the one that everyone adores. But it wouldn't be the same without the great actors: Clark Gable was ROBBED of that award as much as Hattie MacDaniel deserved that statuette (=very much). Olivia de Havilland is good, though I'm not a great fan of hers.

But really, this movie IS Vivien Leigh. I mean, the story how she got this role is a legend in itself: this unknown British stage actress won the role of Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn. And this was heavenly mercy: could ANY of you imagine "drama queen" Davis as Scarlett or Hepburn? I even dare say that they would have RUINED this movie. Scarlett was, is and always will be Vivien Leigh.

There are iconic performances like, say, Anne Bancroft in The Graduate or Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. And there's Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind. When I love a certain performer in a movie, I like to re-watch the most memorable scenes. But really, if I wanted to re-watch Leigh's greatest moments, I would have to start Gone with the Wind all over. From the very beginning to the end, you cannot take your eyes off her. Her presence is just magnetic: although the character is far from likeable, you just love her acting. When I had to stop the movie to change the disc, I was so overwhelmed by her that I couldn't move really.

Scarlett's so sharp-toungued, so witty, so romantic, so beautiful, so sexy. Throughout the movie I could always see something in Leigh's eyes (which is quite different from her actual personality), which made her look like a wild, sexy tiger. And Scarlett really is a wild, sexy tiger.

As for sexiness: Leigh and Gable were able to create such emotional and sexual tension, that it almost burns up the screen. Their chemistry is just amazing, it's probably a real example for nowadays' movies: you don't have to have frontal sex scenes to create amazing tension.

There's another aspect of her which is truly outstanding: the magnificent character development. She starts out as a spoiled girl, who loves being pampered and adored. Then her heart becomes more and more stiffened, she becomes extremely moneyed and greedy, but ends up being a broken-down, sad and disappointed woman. She does not get from point A to B only, but at least to point F. She's truly believable and convincing in the role. Somehow the border between the actress and the role disappeared. Really, if someone says Scarlett O'Hara, I instantly think about the brilliant, charming and beautiful Vivien Leigh.

Many people love to idolize the character of Scarlett and her bitchiness, but here's my answer: people do NOT love Scarlett, it's Leigh's brilliance in the role that they admire. She's in fact so great that she could amaze anybody regardless of age or anything. She's as popular with a 14-year-old as she is with a 70-year-old. She was the first Oscar-winner that I saw (I know I said once that it was Jane Fonda, but I was wrong) when I was 9 or 10 years old. And I was just as fascinated by her as I was now. If there's a defintion of a legendary, classic performance it's definitely Vivien Leigh.

So to sum up the raving, we can be grateful for the miracle that was born on-screen 71 years ago. I could go on and on, I could write a novel as long as Gone with the Wind itself about her, but I just wrap up by saying that I was overwhelmed, entertained, delighted, amazed, moved, amused and mesmerized by Vivien Leigh. This is the way I can honor her. Thank you, Ms. Leigh.

Damn, do I need this silly rating for her?

What do you think? I know I promised this post for tomorrow, but I had time and I couldn't wait! :) I'm so overwhelmed that I will withdraw my change in the rules of the prediciting contest and you can still predict.


Fritz said...

Well, I think everybody agrees with you!

But a bit of Trivia: Vivien's win wasn't actually a sure thing and Bette Davis was a hot contender for Oscar number 3 in her most acclaimed role so far. And it was revealed after the ceremony that Bette indeed lost only by a few votes.

dinasztie said...

I did not know that. But it really doesn't matter, Vivien was the winner.

Louis Morgan said...

I could not agree more, my personal favorite best actress winner.

Twister said...

Who doesn't the love the actress, the performance, or the film? All three are deservedly cherished, and that both of her wins are indelible and for the ages, is something eternally special.

One of the best Best Actress winners, as well as Best Picture. Gable wasn't robbed (I don't think), but Olivia's performance resoanted with me deeper than McDaniel's (even though she's fantastic).

joe burns said...

She'll win easily.