Vivien Leigh 100th
February 8-April 17
FIRE OVER ENGLAND
Scarlett O'Hara. Blanche DuBois. Anna Karenina. Cleopatra. All of these larger-than-life characters were portrayed on screen by British actress Vivien Leigh (born November 5, 1913, in Darjeeling, West Bengal, British India). Though she was fated to be best remembered for the iconic roles of Scarlett and Blanche that almost-but-don't quite bookend her lengthy-but-not-prolific film career—that, and her starry but ultimately ill-fated marriage to fellow thespian Laurence Olivier—Leigh's career includes many less-iconic films—which is not to say lesser—with roles that further illuminate the considerable charm of this beautiful, talented, wickedly intelligent and electrifyingly emotive actress.
This series includes a bevy of entertaining British films from the 1930s, whose unassuming charms belie their unjust obscurity, as well as several prestige star vehicles made in the wake of her Oscar-winning triumph as Scarlett—all freighted with the impossibility of living up to one of Hollywood's most legendary triumphs and iconic roles—the best of which may be a role tailor-made for Leigh: the scandalous social climber Lady Hamilton (in THAT HAMILTON WOMAN), paired with her newlywed husband Olivier. Winston Churchill is reputed to have seen the film more than 80 times.
On the recent occasion of Leigh's centennial, AFI Silver presents this wide-ranging retrospective of her most beloved films, including several hidden gems from her early career in the UK.
NOTE: GONE WITH THE WIND has been withdrawn from circulation pending its 75th anniversary re-release. AFI Silver plans to screen the film later this year.
AFI Member passes accepted at all films in the Vivien Leigh series.
Famous for being the first pairing of Vivien Leigh and eventual husband Laurence Olivier, this film is a spirited retelling of the Elizabethan era's greatest military triumph, the defeat of the Spanish Armada, following on years of spycraft and court intrigue. Flora Robson makes for a formidable Queen Elizabeth I, whose dedicated subject, Michael Ingolby (Laurence Olivier), volunteers for a dangerous undercover mission to infiltrate the Spanish court and identify spies. Vivien Leigh is the Queen's beautiful lady-in-waiting Cynthia, for whom Ingolby has eyes. Look for an uncredited James Mason as the unlucky spy executed in the film's opening scene.
DIR William K. Howard; SCR Clemence Dane, Sergei Nolbandov, from the novel by A. E. W. Mason; PROD Alexander Korda, Erich Pommer. UK, 1937, b&w, 92 min, DCP. NOT RATED
DARK JOURNEY aka THE ANXIOUS YEARS
Sat, Feb 8, 11:00 a.m.; Sun, Feb 9, 11:00 a.m.
WWI spy intrigue in Stockholm, as Swiss dress shop proprietor Vivien Leigh—secretly a German spy, and even-more-secretly a double agent for the French—matches wits and captures the heart of supposedly retired German naval officer Conrad Veidt, who's secretly the Kaiser's man in Sweden.
DIR/PROD Victor Saville; SCR Lajos Biró, Arthur Wimperis; PROD Alexander Korda. UK, 1937, b&w, 77 min, DCP. NOT RATED
STORM IN A TEACUP
Sat, Feb 15, 11:10 a.m.; Sun, Feb 16, 11:10 a.m.
Upstart English journo Rex Harrison, recently transplanted to smalltown Scotland, finds muck to rake in the affairs of flinty local official Cecil Parker, who has cruelly ordered that the beloved pooch of poor Sara Allgood, unable to afford her dog license, be destroyed. Harrison's human interest story—Save Scruffy!—becomes a cause célèbre, causing the ootraged Caledonian to fire back with a slander suit against Harrison, even as Parker's pretty daughter Vivien Leigh finds her interest piqued by the intrepid Englishman.
DIR/PROD Victor Saville; DIR/SCR Ian Dalrymple; SCR Donald Bull. UK, 1937, b&w, 87 min, DCP. NOT RATED
A YANK AT OXFORD
Fri, Feb 21, 5:15; Sun, Feb 23, 11:05 a.m.
Unworldly American Robert Taylor gets the hazing treatment from the old boys at Cardinal College, Oxford, but stands his ground and eventually earns some hard-earned respect in the classroom, on the athletic fields and, triumphantly, on the River Thames in the big boat race. Maureen O'Sullivan plays his sweet-natured love interest, while Vivien Leigh steals scenes as the married tutor who takes an intense interest in some of the boys' affairs.
DIR Jack Conway; SCR Malcolm Stuart Boylan, Walter Ferris, George Oppenheimer; PROD Michael Balcon. UK, 1938, b&w, 102 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
SIDEWALKS OF LONDON aka ST. MARTIN'S LANE
Sat, Mar 1, 11:05 a.m.; Sun, Mar 2, 11:05 a.m.
King of the London buskers Charles Laughton takes on promising protégé (and accomplished pickpocket) Vivien Leigh. After theater impresario Rex Harrison catches their act on the street, he invites them to a legit theater after-party—perhaps their ticket to the big time. A larger stage beckons, but where do these performers feel most at home?
DIR/SCR Tim Whelan; SCR Bartlett Cormack, Clemence Dane; SCR/PROD Erich Pommer, Charles Laughton. UK, 1938, b&w, 85 min, DCP. NOT RATED
WATERLOO BRIDGE (1940)
Sat, Mar 15, 11:00 a.m.; Sun, Mar 16, 11:05 a.m.
In this much more polite remake of James Whale's pre-Code classic, Vivien Leigh's Myra Lester turns to prostitution only after receiving word that her aristocratic officer fiancé Roy Cronin (Robert Taylor) has been killed in the trenches of WWI. When he turns up alive after a year's convalescence in a POW hospital, their reunion is bittersweet—will Roy forgive Myra for her desperate wartime indiscretions? More importantly, will Myra forgive herself? Leigh's personal favorite of her films.
DIR Mervyn LeRoy; SCR S. N. Behrman, Hans Rameau, George Froeschel, from the play by Robert E. Sherwood; PROD Sidney Franklin. US, 1940, b&w, 108 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
THE DEEP BLUE SEA (1955)
Sat, Mar 22, 11:00 a.m.; Thu, Mar 27, 5:15
Terence Rattigan's celebrated West End play was brought to the big screen in a big way by the Alexander Korda team, in Technicolor and CinemaScope, with Vivien Leigh starring as emotionally unstrung Hester Collyer (Peggy Ashcroft originated the role on stage). Despairing over her loutish lover Kenneth More's dissolute ways and unwilling to return to her dull marriage with high-born attorney Emlyn Williams, Leigh attempts suicide. Saved by neighbor Eric Portman, an alcoholic ex-doctor, Leigh returns to life with a more independent perspective.
DIR/PROD Anatole Litvak; SCR Terence Rattigan, from his play. UK, 1955, color, 96 min, digital presentation. NOT RATED
THAT HAMILTON WOMAN
Sun, Mar 23, 11:05 a.m.; Mon, Mar 24, 5:15
The real-life newlywed couple of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier stars in the tragic tale of Emma Lady Hamilton and Lord Horatio Nelson's adulterous affair. Set during the era of the Napoleonic Wars, and sumptuously mounted by master showman Alexander Korda, this is old-fashioned, epic screen romance of the highest order. A personal favorite of Winston Churchill's—he much preferred it to that year's "pretentious" CITIZEN KANE.
DIR/PROD Alexander Korda; SCR Walter Reisch, R. C. Sherriff. UK, 1941, b&w, 128 min, 16mm. NOT RATED
Print courtesy of the Library of Congress.
ANNA KARENINA (1948)
Sat, Mar 29, 11:00 a.m.; Sun, Mar 30, 11:00 a.m.
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Leigh gives an edgy, emotional charge to her performance as Anna in Alexander Korda's handsomely appointed postwar version of Tolstoy's great tragedy. With Ralph Richardson, Kieron Moore, Martita Hunt and Sally Ann Howes. Costumes by Cecil Beaton; sumptuous photography by Henri Alekan (ROMAN HOLIDAY).
DIR/SCR Julien Duvivier; SCR Jean Anouilh, Guy Morgan, from the novel by Leo Tolstoy; PROD Alexander Korda. UK, 1948, b&w, 112 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE
Sun, Apr 6, 11:30 a.m.; Mon, Apr 7, 7:10
Leigh returns to Tennessee Williams territory in this adaptation of the celebrated playwright's lone novella. Aging theater actress Karen Stone (Leigh) leaves New York and professional disappointment behind for an Italian getaway with her beloved husband, but tragedy strikes when he dies en route. Unwilling to return home, the grieving actress rents a fabulous villa; concerned over her emotional state, her best friend Meg (Coral Browne) arranges for some local company, calling on dissolute Contessa Magda Terribili-Gonzales (Lotte Lenya)—a procuress of gigoli—who introduces Karen to smoldering, sneering young hunk Paolo (Warren Beatty).
DIR José Quintero; SCR Gavin Lambert, from the novella by Tennessee Williams; PROD Louis De Rochemont. US, 1961, color, 103 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
Mon, Apr 7, 9:30; Tue, Apr 8, 9:30; Wed, Apr 9, 4:20
#45 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies
"Stella! Stelllaaaa!" Faded Southern belle Vivien Leigh's Blanche DuBois is destroyed by brutish brother-in-law Marlon Brando's Stanley Kowalski. For the film version of Tennessee Williams's play, Kazan retained his claustrophobic setting and three of the four principals from the award-winning Broadway smash, replacing Jessica Tandy in favor of Leigh from Laurence Olivier's London production. (It took Kazan two weeks to break her of doing it "Larry's way.") Twelve Oscar nominations and four wins: Best Actress for Leigh, Best Supporting Oscars for Kim Hunter as Stella and Karl Malden as Mitch, and Art Direction. "No better, more powerful film of a play exists."—David Shipman.
DIR Elia Kazan; SCR Tennessee Williams, from his play; PROD Charles K. Feldman. US, 1951, b&w, 122 min, 35mm. RATED PG
Sat, Apr 12, 11:00 a.m.; Sun, Apr 13, 11:00 a.m.; Thu, Apr 17, 7:00