Vivien Leigh (1913-1967)
- Annabella, Under The Red Robe, 1937. Producer Alexander Korda kept Vivien waiting two years before finding a film for her - then dropped her with the excuse that French money insisted on a French star. In truth, he saw bigger returns from cashing in on the growing love affair of Viv and Laurence Olivier by having them play lovers (forever canoodling under Queen Elizabeth's eye) in Fire Over England.
- Maureen O'Sullivan, A Yank At Oxford, 1938. Forget the legend. Viv was known to MGM before GWTW... LB Mayer, himself, dropped her as Robert Taylor's leading lady and regulated her to a (prophetic) smaller role of a philandering wife.
- Rosalind Russell, The Citadel, 1938. When Allan left MGM after three years, the studio agreed to have her “on call” for two films a year. This was the first. The Hollywood Reporter reported her joining Robert Donat on February 10, 1938. (She beat Leigh, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Greer Garson). By March 31, Allen was out, replaced by Russell - replaced in her gig, The Shopworn Angel, by Margaret Sullavan! Allan sued MGM for breach of contract.
- Barbara Stanwyck, Union Pacific, 1938. Director Cecil B DeMille offered $2,000 a week, plus $160 expenses and annual options on four more films rising from $20,800 to $56,000. Yet nothing could dissuade her from saying - with what Olivier called "an almost demonic determination" - that she would be Scarlett O'Hara.
- Ida Lupino, The Light That Failed, 1938. Battle of three Brits... Lupino stole a script and insisted director William Wellman test her as Bessie. Ronald Colman, having already lost a previous Rudyard Kipling project (Gunga Din, 1938),wanted this one. When Wellman voted Lupino, Colman tried to oust him. He failed. Not a happy set! “If he didn't want me,” claimed Lupino, “he never let on.”
- Merle Oberon, Wuthering Heights, 1938.
- Greer Garson, Pride and Prejudice, 1939. MGM house genius Irving Thalberg was due to supervise his pet project - co-starring his wife Norma Shearer and Clark Gable - when the production chief tragically died at age 37. MGM then liked the the magic of of keeping Gable opposite his Scarlett… But Shearer would not be moved. And wanted Robert Donat, Errol Flynn (!) or Robert Taylor as Mr Darcy. Leigh wanted the role opposite her lover, Laurence Olivier but, scared of adultery headlines, Metro put her in Waterloo Bridge with… Taylor! Finally, Metro safe with Olivier opposite Greer Garson. Olivier was very unhappy with the result. “Difficult to make Darcy into anything more than an unattractive-looking prig, and darling Greer seemed to me all wrong as Elizabeth.”
- Joan Fontaine, Rebecca, 1939.
- Ida Lupino, The Light That Failed, 1939. Battle of three Brits... Lupino stole a script and insisted director William Wellman test her as Bessie. Ronald Colman, having already lost a previous Rudyard Kipling project (Gunga Din, 1938), wanted this one. When Wellman voted Lupino, Colman tried to oust him. He failed. Not a happy set! “If he didn't want me,” claimed Lupino, “he never let on.”
- June Duprez, The Thief of Bagdad, 1940. Due to begin shooting when she flew off to see Larry Olivier in Hollywood and do something positive about securing her GWTW dream role. Korda's film followed her when the war meant quitting Denham Studios for the Mojave desert.
- Greer Garson, Pride and Prejudice, 1940. Thwarted over Rebecca, Viv set her sights on Elizabeth Bennett opposite "Larry boy" as Darcy. Her GWTW producer David Selznick over-ruled her again and she had to make way for Olivier's former stage protegée, who had preceded her to Hollywood fame as Mrs Chips.
- Wendy Hiller, Major Barbara, 1941. Another campaign. She played his Doctor's Dilemma on stage, was making ready for a version of his Barbara project - and Viv now set out to convince George Bernard Shaw how perfect she was Caesar and Cleopatra. He agreed. Of course, he did.
- Ingrid Bergman, For Whom The Bell Tolls, 1943. After GWTW, she was on the A List for for every film in town. Right or wrong for her.. That's Hollywood. Kinda stupid.
- Joan Fontaine, Jane Eyre, 1943. Producer David O Selznick fluctuated between Fontaine, Leigh and Katharine Hepburn for the titular governess. Idem for the byronic Mr Rochester, until dropping Ronald Colman, Alan Marshal, Walter Pidgeon for Orson Welles. DOS then sold his whole package – director Robert Stevenson, writers John Houseman, Aldous Huxley - to Fox.
- Joan Fontaine, Frenchman’s Creek, 1943. English lady. French pirate. Love at eight bells. Also up for Dona St Columb (opposite Mexican star Arturo de Córdova) were Leigh, Irene Dunne, Merle Oberon, Katina Paxinou and Rosalind Russell. But having lately refused Ernest Hemingway and Charloitte Bronte heroines why would fancy Daphne Du Maurier’s… ?
- Ingrid Bergman, Saratoga Trunk, 1944. Also rejected by Bette Davis.
- Renée Asherson, Henry V, 1945. David Selznick mean-mindedly stopped her joining Laurence Olivier's masterpiece, deeming the French princess too small a role. Not for Viv when playing it opposite Larry in a 1941 military tour. (Nor for Emma Thompson in her then-husband Kenneth Brannagh's 1989 version). Viv never forgave Selznick..
- 1Deborah Kerr, Perfect Strangers/Vacation From Marriage, 1945. To follow Caesar and Cleopatra, producer Alexander Korda tapped Viv as first replacement for an ill Merle Oberon. Instead, the role went to one of the many actresses who lost Cleoptara.
- Paulette Goddard, An Ideal Husband, 1946. Viv was originally intended for Laura Cheveley. The switch annoyed a dozen of Shepperton Studios’ hairdressers, going on strike because Goddard had the temerity to bring brought her own Hollywood stylist with her.
- Ingrid Bergman, Notorious, 1946. Selznick always wanted his Scarlett to be Alice - then sold his rights to RKO for $800,000 to help complete his folly, Duel in the Sun, 1946.
- Lana Turner, Cass Timberlane, 1946. Marie McDonald pushed hard for the Sinclair Lewis heroine - from the wrong side of the tracks - but MGM only considered Leigh, Virginia Grey, Jennifer Jones before having Lana Turner marry Spencer Tracy’s Judge Timberlane.
- Linda Darnell, Forever Amber, 1947. A matter of age. Viv and Margaret Lockwood were older than Peggy Cummins - sacked after 30 days shooting and replaced, no less, as the sexy Amber by the vision of the Virgin Mary from The Song of Bernadette.
Jeannette Nolan, Macbeth, 1947.
Tallulah Bankhead, Mercedes McCambridge and Agnes Moorhead all rejected Orson Welles’ invite to be his Lady M. Their egos were bruised by being second/third/etc choices after…Vivien. "I wanted a sexpot... who could speak the lines... Olivier wouldn't hear of it." Of course not. Laurence Olivier was planning his own version of “the Scottish play.” On realising the Welles film would be out first, Olivier switched to Hamlet winning four 1949 Oscars including Best Actor and Film. Welles even withdrew his film from the 1948 Venice Festival, fearing bad comparisions to Hamlet. This once, Welles knew when he was beaten. And so, Welles’ radio co-star made her (much criticised) screen debut. With a tiny budget (of course), Welles shot it in 21 days.
- Angela Lansbury, If Winter Comes, 1947. Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick bought the morality tale in 1939 for Fontaine and Leslie Howerd - or Vivien Leigh opposite her husband, Laurence Olivier. They all passed. So did DOS, selling his rights in 1940 to London producer Alexander Korda… who did the same to MGM, which wanted Donat and Greer Garson as the feuding Sabre couple…Finally, they became Lansbury and Walter Pidgeon on, for the historic first time, non-flammable film.
- Mala Powers, Cyrano de Bergerac, 1950. For Roxanne opposite Charles Laughton - but the first film of her Alexander Korda contract was cancelled in 1935 following lengthy disputes about noses and perfectionist Laughton insisting that Viv go blonde. She was first choice again when producer Filippo del Giudice suggested Cyrano as Olivier's follow-up to Henry V, Hollywood suggested the same as he prepared Hamlet, 1948. José Ferrer made sure no one rained on his (Oscar-winning) nose by hiring a B-movie Roxanne.
- Ann Todd, Madeleine, 1950. The most forgotten of iconic director David Lean started as a play about the 1850s' notorious - and legally Not Proven - Scottish murder case. It was bought for Viv by the Rank Organisation as a co-production with David Selznick. Having played Madeleine Smith on-stage, Ann Todd persuaded Lean, her new husband, to direct. A grave error. For both of them! He left her in 1954.
- Olivia de Havilland, My Cousin Rachel, 1952. Before quitting the project because he disliked producer Nunnally Johnson’s scenario, director George Cukor had envisaged Viv as Daphne Du Maurier’s Rachel opposite Richard Burton’s Hollywood debut. That, of course, was after Garbo refused to play.
- Deborah Kerr, Young Bess, 1953. Deborah replaced Viv in some Alexander Korda films. Viv rejected MGM in 1947 at age 34 as the offer was not for the teenage title role - offered to Elizabeth Taylor and eventually played by Olivier's Ophelia, Jean Simmons. Unlike Selznick, who lost Viv (in court and life) in 1945, Korda won Viv back with Anna Karenina, 1948.
- Rita Hayworth, Salome, 1953. Viv would shed veils for Orson Welles in the dual role of King Herod and Oscar Wilde. However, producer Alexander Korda could not raise the money to see Viv strip. Columbia's crude Harry King Cohn could and made the ex-Mrs Welles shed her veils for King Charles Laughton.
- Elizabeth Taylor, Elephant Walk, 1954.
After a month’s location in what is now Sri Lanka, Vivien Leigh was a mental case. Working with her lover, Peter Finch, in a role refused by her husband, Laurence Olivier (who then recommended Finch!) sure didn’t help her brittle condition. She had ecstatic mania… "I knew it was coming and I couldn't stop it. At times, I found my memory going back to Streetcar and I'd be saying Blanche's lines to myself." Olivier rushed her home. SOS calls were sent out to Claire Bloom, Jean Simmons and Taylor. She had been first choice for the film - but pregnant. Leigh remained visible in many of the long shots and when she turned for her close-up - bingo, it’s Liz! Nine years later, Liz was a thinly disguised Viv in The VIPs, 1963, a Terence Rattigan script based on Leigh changing her mind about running off with Finch after being fogged in at London Airport.
- Jean Simmons, Désirée, 1954. Long before Brando and Simmons, the Fox studio had planned the Oiviers as Napoleon and the fiancee that got away. Daisy Rae as Brando insisted on calling her.
- Claire Bloom, Richard III, 1955. This time, Bloom did inherit… Being back to health and her theatre box-office allure - with Laurence Olivier in The Sleeping Prince - meant little to the backers of his third Shakesperean classic. Also, she was deemed too old for Lady Anne; and, well, Claire was Olivier's lover. As producer David Selznick understood in the 40s and critics finally agreed, Viv and "Larry boy" were never a great team, only at their best when acting apart - proved again when she played her age and rescued her screen career in The Deep Blue Sea.
- Elizabeth Taylor, Giant,1955.
- Audrey Hepburn, War and Peace, 1956. Producer Alexander Korda had earlier pegged Orson Welles to play Pierre and write-direct with the Oliviers as Natasha and Andrei.
- Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1956. Scarlett was the most obvious (and aged!) of the 30 names on the memo pad of veteran Hollywood director George Stevens.
- Deborah Kerr, Separate Tables, 1957. Laurence Olivier found directing impossible under co-producer Burt Lancaster and withdrew (with Viv) from both tables. Lancaster, Kerr and David Niven (a friend of the Oliviers) took the other three roles….
- Rita Hayworth, Separate Tables, 1957. …and, terrified or not, Hayworth (a former Niven lover) accepted the fourth, an image-switch suggestion from her co-producer (and new husband) James Hill. Director Delbert Mann thought the role beyond her, but... "The character is frightened of being alone and needed someone to cling to and I had a great sense that a lot of the truth of that performance came from Rita, herself."
- Marilyn Monroe, The Prince and The Showgirl, 1957. Or, still The Sleeping Prince when the Oliviers planned to film their stage success. "Then," recalled Viv, "I saw Marilyn Monroe in How To Marry A Millionaire and said to Larry: This girl's wonderful in comedy. She should star in the film... And I added I thought I might be too old for the part. [Playwright] Terry Rattigan and Larry went mad over Monroe and when I changed my mind, suggested I might play the part after all, they said: 'Oh, but you're too old."
- Katharine Hepburn, Suddenly Last Summer, 1959. From the outset, producer Sam, Spiegel wanted Elizabeth Taylor and Leigh as Catherine, the victim, of the dreadful Tennesse Williams’ creation, Violet Venable. “After all,” explained Sam, “Liz looks like a younger version of Vivien.” Not a comment to delight Leigh! Ultimately, Sam realised that Viv meant "too many problems." Kate thought George Cukor would direct and clashed with the man in his place, Joseph L Mankiewicz. He threatened to shut down production until the arrival of the Directors Guild card he had ordered for her!
- Simone Signoret, Room At The Top, 1959. "We tried to get Vivien," said producer Sir John Woolf. "She wasn't free." And the hype said no British actress would - could! - play an adulteress. D'oh! And the Oscar goes to...
- Wendy Hiller, Sons and Lovers, 1960. "I don't want to look crummy, Jack." Hollywood wanted Vivien, director Jack Cardiff did not... and eased her out. Diplomatically. "Well, Viv, darling, you live in grimy poverty and perpetual coal dust. You have to scrub the dirt off your husband in a zinc bath every night and one of your sons is 24. I'm afraid you'll look crummy most of the time - but it's a wonderful part!"
- Claudette Colbert, Parrish, 1961. Stage-screen director Joshua Logan left his project (to Delmer Daves) when he could not get Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara for Warren Beatty's parents! No young career would have survived such a gimmick. Instead, Beatty became Viv 's gigolo lover in The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone, 1961.
- Geraldine Page, Toys in the Attic, 1962. “This turgid drama and his avid actors …get completely out of hand and run wild in a baffling confusion of theatrical bursts and attitudes.” Owch! That was the New York Times critic Bosley Crowther. As for Page, “she sizzles and pops and spins in circles. But what’s at the core of her? Who knows!” Double owch! Obviously, director George Roy Hill was out-of-his-depth and could not have better controlled the studio’s first, dream-wish cast. Katharine Hepburn, Gene Tierney and… and Vivien Leigh.
- Olivia De Havilland, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, 1964. Old Gals Week. Viv refused to sub the "ill" Joan Crawford saying: "I can just about stand looking at Joan's face at 6am, but not Bette Davis' "
- Julie Christie, Far From The Madding Crowd, 1967. Bathsheba was first planned by producer Alexander Korda in 1945. Viv was reserving her fire for the stage, with Olivier directing. She was under contract to the GWTW producer, David Selznick, and he charged into court. "We are aware that you do not care whether you make another film," said his lawyer, "but obviously this cannot be our viewpoint." Selznick lost and Viv never worked for him again.
- Anne Heywood, The Fox, 1968. First choice for Howard Koch's first script. Minus, no doubt, Anne's nude masturbation scene.
- Antonina Shuranova, Chaikovsky, USSR-USA, 1969. Little interest from Hollywood after Ship of Fools, but Igor Talankin wanted Viv to join the Russian Hamlet, Innokenti Smoktunovsky, as Madame von Meck, the mistress of Peter Ilyich. Mildly interested until a new play came up, ironically called A Delicate Balance. With her own mind and health precariously balanced, she was found dead by her lover, actor Jack Merival, on July 7, 1967.
- Beryl Reid, Entertaining Mr. Sloane, 1970. "I saw the play in 1964 and I wanted it for Vivien and Mason," said Silvio Narizzano. He also directed another Joe Orton piece, Loot.
- Sandrine Bonnaire, La Peste/The Plague, France-Argentina-UK, 1991. First film of the Albert Camus book was announced by director Marcel Cravennne at the second Cannes festival in 1947 - for Jean Gabin, Viv, Fernand Ledoux, Gérard Philippe.