Cinema: G With the W

  • December 25, 1939 TIME Cover: Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh)

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    Forty Acres is the back lot of Selznick Studios in Culver City. Until the night of Dec. 11, 1938 it was cluttered with old sets accumulated during 20 years of movie making. These sets were laboriously filled with waste and other inflammable materials, well soaked with kerosene. As darkness fell, the $26,000 bonfire roared sky-high while seven Technicolor cameras ground away. The first scenes of Gone With the Wind had been shot. A flat representing the Atlanta warehouse district was constructed in front of the old sets. In the light of the dying flames Myron Selznick, Hollywood's No. 1 agent, stepped over to his brother. With him was his British client, wasp-waisted, tilt-browed, hazel-eyed Cinemactress Vivien Leigh (pronounced Lee), who had slipped into Hollywood allegedly to see Laurence Olivier. Said Myron Selznick to David Selznick: "Dave, I want you to meet Scarlett O'Hara."

    So after two years, four months of nationwide search and tension, dashing Georgia Belle Scarlett O'Hara was a wispish little English girl with a neatly clipped British accent. Born in Darjeeling, India, in the Himalaya Mountains, Nov. 5, 1913, she spent the first five years of her life in Calcutta, about which she remembers nothing. Later she attended convent school near London with Cinemactress Maureen O'Sullivan. Still later Vivien Leigh studied dramatics. Married in 1932 to Barrister Leigh Holman (whose first name plus her own first name she uses for a stage name), she has a little girl. After The Mask of Virtue, in which, says Cinemactress Leigh, "I played a tart," she had small parts in Fire Over England,

    Dark Journey, A Yank At Oxford. While playing in The First Time—The Last, she met Laurence Olivier, to whom, when both receive their divorces, she will be married.

    "Their love," says a friend, "is the most beautiful thing I have ever known." Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier spend most of their time together, are seldom seen at Hollywood night clubs, both like reading (she prefers biographies, thought David Cecil': The Young Melbourne "wonderfully good"). Olivier sings a few songs that Vivien Leigh knows how to pick out c i the piano. In their repertory: The Melody in F, Banjo on My Knee, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.

    Though professional Anglophobes squawked at the choice of an English girl to play Scarlett O'Hara and a chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy at Ocala, Fla. protested, most Southerners were relieved. Their real fear was that a damyankee girl might be given the part.

    The choice of Vivien Leigh was not altogether a surprise to Vivien Leigh. British Director Victor Saville, now in Hollywood, read one of the first copies of Gone With the Wind to reach England. As soon as he had finished it, he rushed to the telephone and mischievously called Vivien Leigh. Said he: "Vivien, I've just read a great story for the movies about the bitchiest of all bitches, and you're just the person to play the part."

    The Women. On Jan. 26, 1939, Cukor began directing with a very incomplete script. Trouble started at once. Selznick was not satisfied with the results which Cukor, a specialist in intimate scenes, especially with women, was getting. Selznick felt that Cukor did not get the "big feel" of Gone With the Wind and worked too slowly.

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