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A very, very Happy 100th Birthday to Olivia de Havilland!

Usually when I am writing birthday posts about Clark Gable’s co-stars they are actually no longer with us. But Olivia is alive and well in Paris, and I hope having quite a celebration!

She may be most commonly known as “mealy mouthed ninny” (as Scarlett called her) Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, but Olivia had a illustrious career beyond Melanie. Olivia is a two time Academy Award winner (The Heiress and To Each Their Own) and was nominated three more times. She starred in such classics as The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, A Midsummer Nights Dream, The Adventures of Robin Hood, They Died With Their Boots On, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte and more. Her co-stars include Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, James Cagney, David Niven, Paulette Goddard, Henry Fonda, Ida Lupino, Frank Sinatra, and Robert Mitchum, not to mention Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, of course.

In celebration of her birthday, here is a charming little magazine interview with her from 1944, in which she details her favorite things.

Scrapbook on Olivia de Havilland

olivia de havilland

 

by Eleanor Harris

Photoplay magazine, June 1944

 

Being the fascinating odds and ends in the fabulous life of a very fair lady

 

Favorite role: Melanie in “Gone with the Wind.” Until then, she had never known what it was like to love her work–or to be flattered by her producer. David O. Selznick showered his players with baskets of flowers, fruit, wine and caviar, which Livvie loved as well as the next.

Favorite inanimate object: Her bed in which she spends nearly all the time she’s home, from dusk until dawn. In it she reads, eats breakfast and dinner, telephones endlessly; and from it she even entertains her friends with the dignity of a drawing-room dowager!

Pet beauty secret: False eyelashes to bring out eyes to their fullest.

Favorite clothes: Bedjackets–she has three dozen of them in every material and color. After them, she’s poetic about a white blouse with bunches of bananas painted on the bosom and sleeves.

What she can cook the best: Boiled water–she can’t cook a thing. But she can make the most delectable tea sandwiches in the Western world; such as tiny cornucopias of white bread, spread with peanut butter, stuffed with watercress. And dainty open-faced sandwiches of cream cheese smeared with strawberry jam.

Worst faults: Her absurd old-maid complex; she tells everyone she’s sure she’ll never marry. Also, her grim determination to ignore other people’s opinions of her in public…with the result that she upsets restaurants by yelling her conversations, bossing her friends in shouts and laughing like a heavyweight prizefighter. None of this fits in with her ladylike appearance–and none of it is necessary or even natural. All we can say is, why?

Pet hates: Nearly all women. Men who don’t tip generously. Liars of both sexes, and bores of ditto. Most of all she loathes people who try to give her advice or tell her things for her own good. Her theory is that she’s the one who’s living her life and people who try to interfere are generally frustrated fumblers who’ve made hash of their own lies and have no right to try and better hers.

Current beau: She’ll cough and look the other way when you bring up her Number One Beau–but we know her heart’s with Captain John Huston. Even though her face has been seen recently through the windshields of cars driven by writer Dwight Whitney of Life Magazine, ex-director Major Anatol Litvak and actor Jess Barker–as whose face hasn’t?

Happiest moments: Whenever she’s flirting; whenever she’s eating delicious food; and one vacation in Cape Cod after the season, when she took the name of Emmy Brown and spent a month completely away from Olivia de Havilland.

Best woman friend: Hasn’t any. But thoroughly likes, admires and respects acquaintances Bette Davis and Geraldine Fitzgerald.

Favorite book: The Bible. Reads some of it every day.

Favorite flower: Moss roses.

The worst lie she ever told: She never told one, and more’s the pity. When a little evasion  would do the trick, she insists on telling the truth–even when it makes her out an egomaniac or a bird brain.

Favorite food: Tea first–and then every kind of food from every kind of country, just so it’s cooked to perfection and served with distinction.

How she’ll celebrate end of war: By starting on a long trip around the world–with hiking shoes in one hand and her Airedale Shadrack under the other.

Pet form of entertainment: Small dinner parties at her home, carefully planned, exquisitely carried out–with no crowds, no games. But lots of good food and conversation.

Ex-boyfriends: Get set for a long list. George Brent, Lew Ayres, Roger Pryor, Burgess Meredith, Jimmy Stewart, Franchot Tone, Jock Whitney…of which Whitney and Stewart came closest to riding on the well-known white charger.

What she wants in a husband: He must be homely as a mud fence (that’s the way she likes ’em), intelligent, sensitive, cultured, humorous–and very understanding.

What she’d like to be as a wife: If he were just Mr. Average, she’d continue whirling through her acting career until death did them part. But if he were a man of destiny she’d drop everything always to help him in his interests and career at the expense of her own.

Ideal home: Just the one she has–small, formal yet gay; shiningly immaculate, run like clockwork; and yet comfortably filled with flowers, books and candy. With a sign on the front gate: “Private!”

Habit she’s trying to break herself of: Her dead-pan sense of humor which people take seriously; and her habit of subscribing to every magazine, from the Wall Street Journal to Rod and Reel!

What she wants to be doing when fifty: She wants to look down the dinner table at a husband, around the dinner table at her children–and in the newspaper for her latest motion picture!

How many children she wants: A houseful of them–and if she never marries, she intends to adopt a lot. She refuses to grow old without them.

Unhappiest moment: When she and Jimmy Stewart decided it was time to take their romance off the fire.

Most irritating daily task: Dressing her hair, which is as fine as a baby’s and as unruly. When unaided, she always ends up by stuffing it in a snood-when aided, it takes one hairdresser and two hours to do it right.

Proudest achievement: It was also her most painful achievement–changing from the shy and sheltered girl who came to Hollywood (causing everyone around her to form a “Club for the Protection of Olivia de Havilland”)–to the aggressively independent young woman she is today, who makes up her own rules, chooses her own friends, and lives alone..and loves it!

What bores her the most: Big parties–and people who shirk their jobs, regardless of the job’s importance.

Pet superstition: Walking on cracks in the sidewalk, for good luck.

Loneliest moment: Her first night alone in her house four years ago–after her mother had moved back to Northern California, her sister, Joan Fontaine, had married and moved away and suddenly Olivia was by herself…and frightened.

Greatest virtues: Her generosity, her devastating honesty–and her truly great ability to act.

Greatest annoyance from the public: The widespread theory that she and her sister, Joan Fontaine, despise each other–when the truth is that they fight sharp skirmishes with each other, but defend each other savagely to the rest of the world.

Greatest thrill: The time she almost died, alone and lost, on a freezing night in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

First proposal: From a gangly boy in high school, who gasped out “Will you marry me?” while he cranked the engine of his drying T-Type Ford.

What she doesn’t suspect about herself: That she’s the unhappiest girl in the world–when she could be the happiest!

Well, that feud with her sister was true–and was seemingly never resolved before Joan died a few years ago. I find it odd that it says she’s sure she’ll never marry, but then they ask her what kind of husband she wants and what kind of wife she’d be, and she says at fifty she pictures herself with a husband! At fifty she was only halfway there so far….

 

Happy Centennial Olivia!

 

gone with the wind premiere

1. Tickets for the premiere went on sale at Loews Grand Theater on November 18, 1939.

2. The premiere festivities lasted from December 13-15, 1939.

3. Ann Rutherford (Careen O’Hara) was the first star to arrive, on December 13. She was given the key to the city.

4. One of Ann’s first stops was at the Atlanta Journal newspaper offices, where she requested to see where Margaret Mitchell worked. She had her picture taken at the typewriter Ms. Mitchell used.

5. Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O’Hara) arrived on December 13, accompanied by Olivia de Havilland (Melanie Wilkes), Mr. and Mrs. Selznick and Laurence Olivier.

6. Evelyn Keyes (Suellen O’Hara) and Ona Munson (Belle Watling) also arrived on December 13.

clark gable carole lombard gone with the wind

7. Arriving on December 14 were Laura Hope Crews (Aunt Pittypat), Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.

8. The American Airlines airplane that brought Clark and Carole to Atlanta was painted “MGM Gone with the Wind Special Flight to Atlanta Premiere.”

9. Director Victor Fleming was not happy about having to attend the premiere. He backed out when his dear friend Douglas Fairbanks Sr. died on December 12. The funeral was held at Forest Lawn at the same time as the premiere; Fleming was a pallbearer.

10. 300,000 people crowded Peachtree Street in Atlanta to get a glimpse of the stars in the motorcade.

11. Speaking in front of the Georgian Terrace Hotel: David O. Selznick, Evelyn Keyes, Kay Kyser, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and Vivien Leigh.

12. The stars were gifted with Wedgewood Ware tea and coffee sets, painted with highlights of Atlanta’s 100 year history.

13. A press party was held on December 14 at the Georgian Terrace Hotel.

14. The cast stayed at the Georgian Terrace Hotel, with the exception of Vivien Leigh who stayed at a private residence, along with Laurence Olivier.

15. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard stayed in the royal suite, rooms 918-19-20.

16. The Atlanta Junior League Ball was attended by the cast on the evening of December 14,

17. The next day the Atlanta newspaper printed a detailed account of nearly every ballgown that each woman wore to the ball.

18 .On December 15 the stars attended a showing of the Battle of Atlanta at the Cyclorama.

clark gable gone with the wind

 

 

19. A press party was held at the Piedmont Driving Club after the Cyclorama event, where the stars mingled with Margaret Mitchell.

20. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard met up with his uncle Charlie Gable, who owned a movie theater in Florida and came up to Atlanta for the chance to see his nephew.

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21. Original costumes from the film were shipped to Atlanta and were on display in department stores during the premiere festivities. Among them: Scarlett’s wedding gown, Rhett’s Twelve Oaks barbecue suit and Scarlett’s curtain dress.

22. The movie began at 8:15pm.

23. The cost of a ticket to the premiere was $10.

24. Since Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier were both married to others, his attendance at the premiere was explained as he was there “on his own business” and escorted Olivia de Havilland to the ball and the film.

25. Carole Lombard’s premiere gown was lavender satin, with a matching coat and organza hood.

26. Loews Grand Theater could seat 2,031 people.

27. Among the celebrities attending who were not in the film: Claudette Colbert, Ginny Sims, Kay Kyser and golfer Bobby Jones.

28. Leslie Howard (Ashley Wilkes) did not attend the premiere, as he had returned to his native England to aid in the war effort.

clark gable gone with the wind

29. Arrangements had been made to sneak Clark and Carole in and out of the various premiere events, but Clark refused those arrangements, saying ” Listen, I came here. They begged me to come. The people want to see me. I don’t want to go ducking in back doors.”

30. Hattie McDaniel did not attend the premiere, as Georgia was segregated in 1939 and she would not have been permitted to stay in the same hotel or sit in the same theater as the white stars.

31. As Clark and Carole rode down Peachtree Street in the motorcade, women threw their gloves, hats, and yes, even their underwear at him.

32. Clark would only attend the premiere if he could fly separately from David Selznick.

33. The premiere program was 18 pages and featured essays from the film’s stars.

gone with the wind

34. Pictures from the premiere all show Vivien Leigh in her fur coat, so her dress is not seen. Her gown was gold lame’, quilted in a rose pattern and featured gold sequins. It was designed by Walter Plunkett, the costume designer of GWTW.

35. Thirty young ladies from Weslyan College were selected to be hostesses at Loews, all dressed in antebellum costumes.

36. Several surviving Confederate veterans attended, all in their nineties.

37. In the foyer of the theater, a sign read” Gone with the Wind: Never in a Lifetime Have Eyes Beheld Its Equal.”

38. The back of the sign read: “Gone with the Wind Will Not Be Shown Anywhere Except at Advanced Prices–At Least Until 1941. Buy Reserved Seats Now”

clark gable carole lombard

39. Five 800-million candlepower searchlights were used for the premiere, borrowed from the 214th Coast Artillery’s anti-aircraft unit. These, in addition to MGM searchlights and the hundreds of flashbulbs flashing, made the night sky light up like day.

40. A 13 year old boy named Nathan Teplies broke through the barricades to meet Clark and Carole. The police tried to push him away but the Gables smiled and insisted on shaking the boy’s hand.

41. Among the promotion items available at Atlanta department stores during the premiere festivities: A motion picture edition of the book, a 2-volume edition of the book, luggage tags, compacts, handkerchiefs, nail polish, perfume, jewelry, stationary, dolls, candies, scarves, dresses, sports coats, hosiery, slips,  window treatments, toothpaste, cookbooks,  and games.

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42.Six thousand people attended a jamboree featuring Kay Kyser on the night of the premiere, arranged by the premiere committee so that there was something to do for those who could not obtain a ticket to the film.

43. The governor of Georgia had declared December 15 a state holiday and government offices and most business were closed.

44. Later in his life, Clark’s memories of the premiere were limited to how nice the people of Atlanta were and how beautiful Carole had looked. “People were just agog at Ma–she was so beautiful. They were all at her feet.”

45. Clark did not see the film before the premiere–and didn’t see all of it until the mid 1940’s. He fell asleep.clark gable vivien leigh margaret mitchell olivia de hailland david selznick gone with the wind

Photos from the set of Gone with the Wind:

Let’s take a look at the stars of Gone with the Wind before they starred in their iconic roles 75 years ago…

Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O’Hara)

vivien leigh

 

Olivia de Havilland (Melanie Wilkes)

olivia de havilland

 

Ann Rutherford (Carreen O’Hara)

ann rutherford

Evelyn Keyes (Suellen O’Hara)

evelyn keyes

 

 

Leslie Howard (Ashley Wilkes)

leslie howard

Barbara O’Neill (Ellen O’Hara)

barbara oneill

Thomas Mitchell (Gerald O’Hara)

thomas mitchell

and…a young Clark Gable (Rhett Butler)clark gable

 

clark gable olivia de havilland gone with the wind

Since Olivia de Havilland’s 98th birthday was yesterday (and yes, she is still alive and kicking in Paris!) here’s a snippet Olivia told a fan magazine in November 1939:

Clark Gable is just an old softie. Olivia de Havilland made that discovery when she was working on “Gone with the Wind” with him. According to Olivia, (whose “Melanie,” they say, is something out of this world it’s so wonderful) there was an old worn-out horse, called “Marse Lee,” used in the flight-from-Atlanta sequence. The horse was so skinny it’s bones rattled, but everyone at the studio had definite instructions not to feed it as they had to keep him starved looking for the picture. Clark just had fits every time he had to look at the poor hungry old nag. So, as soon as the picture was finished Mr. Gable ups and buys “Marse Lee” and turns him loose out on the Gable-Lombard pastures to eat his stomach full for the rest of his days.

Horrifying. I know they wouldn’t get away with that nowadays!

Screenplay Magazine Honor Page, from December 1939:

vivien leigh clark gable olivia de havilland gone with the wind

“Gone with the Wind” is the great picture of its time, as “Birth of a Nation” was great in its day. It runs for 3 hours and 45 minutes, It has an all-star cast and thousands of extras. It is all in brilliant Technicolor, with some scenes of breathtaking beauty, It’s always stirring and often thrilling. But you can’t describe this Selznick epic. You must see it in order to believe it.

Three-star pictures are rare. In “Gone with the Wind” three performances are such absolute perfection in portrayal that all three must be given our award. Vivien Leigh reincarnates Margaret Mitchell’s headstrong heroine. Gable lends enormous gusto to his role of Rhett. Olivia de Havilland contributes the tender notes of poignant beauty and self-sacrifice as kind-hearted Melanie.

clark gable vivien leigh gone with the wind

In 1940, Photoplay magazine supplied its readers with facts on Gone with the Wind so that they could play their own GWTW trivia game…

Hollywood can talk of nothing these days but Gone with the Wind. It’s crept into every luncheon and dinner party until hostesses, in despair, have invented a Gone with the Wind game. Pencils and papers with questions to be answered concerning the mighty epic are passed around at every gathering. The one winning the highest score gets the prize. Why not try it at your parties, too? With [us] supplying all the answers to facts and figures, you can make up your own questions.

Here goes:

The Margaret Mitchell book was purchased by David Selznick for $50,000 on June 3, 1936. Garbo was rumored as Scarlett. Other Hollywood producers offered Selznick as high as $1,000,000 for the rights. They were refused.

Gable was signed om August 25, 1938 for Rhett Butler and Shearer was announced as Scarlett. The nation went crazy. Shearer withdrew.

There is no wind in the picture, but there were 4400 people employed directly by the studio for the picture. The largest number who worked at one time was 1, 730. In all, 2,400 extras were employed.

Leslie Howard, an Englishman, and Olivia de Havilland, born in Tokyo of English parents, were signed for Southern Ashley Wilkes and Melanie.

Three talent scouts were dispatched to the South to find a Scarlett. Twenty-eight actresses were tested for the role and a total of 149,000 feet of black and white film and 13,000 feet of Technicolor were filmed in the testing. Cost of testing was $92,000.

First scene shot without a Scarlett on December 10, 1938, was the burning of Atlanta. A visitor to the scene, Englishwoman Vivien Leigh, was signed as Scarlett, January 13, 1939. Official starting date of the picture was January 13, 1939. Final shot was made November 11, 1939.

Seven hundred mustaches, 500 pairs of sideburns and 300 yards of crepe hair were used. Scarlett used thirty-eight different hairdresses. The completed picture runs three hours and forty-five minutes.

On February 15, 1939, Director Cukor resigned in favor of Victor Fleming. Vivien Leigh worked a total of 125 days of actual shooting, Gable seventy-one, de Havilland fifty-nine, and Howard thirty-two.

Scarlett wore forty-four separate costumes. Gable thirty-six, Olivia twenty-one, Leslie eleven. The cleaning bill alone amounted to $10,000.

In use were 1,000 horses, 9,000 bit and extra people, 375 assorted animals and 450 vehicles.

One million man hours of labor went into the making. Exactly 475,000 feet of film were exposed and 675,000 lineal feet of Technicolor film printed.

And, finally, the money spent on the picture was $3,957,000.

 

vivien leigh gone with the wind

image courtesy vivandlarry.com

From Hollywood magazine, April 1939:

The two-year search for Gone with the Wind’s “Scarlett” is ended. You would think that all of the excitement would be over. You would think that those people who have debated passionately the relative merits of nearly every Hollywood actress for the part during these two years would welcome any decision. You would think that the hurricane of speculation and argument would due away to an exhausted sigh of relief.

But arguing over Scarlett has become a habit, perhaps, because discussion still rages.

“Vivien Leigh is absolutely unknown in this country!” protest those who had chosen, in their own minds, Bette Davis or Miriam Hopkins or Katharine Hepburn or Norma Shearer or Paulette Goddard or dozens of others mentioned seriously at vairous times for the part.

They forget that David O. Selznick, producer, had declared from the start that he wanted an actress little known in this country for the part. They forgot that Selznick usually plans with a purpose, and usually carries that purpose through. Remember the long search for an unknown child star to play David Copperfield? Selznick insisted on a face new to Hollywood, and the result was the establishment of a new star in Freddie Bartholomew. He tried the same formula in the casting of Tommy Kelly as Town Sawyer, but with less dazzling success. However, he still is confident that there is nothing wrong with his principle of making stars overnight.

And, while Miss Leigh has been seen by comparatively few people in this country, she is an experienced actress, and capable of turning in a competent characterization. You may remember her as the college vamp with Robert Taylor in A Yank at Oxford.

You may have noticed her in Fire Over England and Storm in a Teacup, British pictures released, but not very widely, in this country.

“Imagine casting an English girl as Scarlett!” continue the objections.

Think a minute. What could be sounder?

Accents in Georgia are a heritage from English and French ancestors, in the great part. At the time of the Civil War, those accents were closer to the original than they are now. Scarlett, herself, was the daughter of a man born in Ireland, and it is likely that the faint coloring of Irish brogue with Vivien Leigh inherits from her mother is much cloer to Scarlett’s actual mode of speech than a phoney Hollywood Suthun-twakin’ act would be.

If you are going to worry about accents, waste no time on the casting of Olivia de Havilland as Melanie, or on Vivien Leigh as Scarlett. Don’t worry about Leslie Howard as Ashley.

Clark Gable is the man who needs the helpful thought waves, because his Pennsylvania Dutch is going to be much more of a problem than any English accent in the cast.

So you all quit arguing because it’s all settled, and glance again on the picture [above] and see if you don’t think Miss Leigh looks like Scarlett as you imagined her when you read “Gone wih the Wind.” There are the slanting green eyes, fringed with black lashes. Her hair really has a touch of red. Her waist really is sixteen inches around, when she laces as tight as Scarlett did. And we ought to give her a vote of thanks for putting an end to the argument over the part if for no other reason.

______

alicia rhett gone with the wind

I would be remiss in this, the first edition of our 2014 Gone with the Wednesdays series, if I didn’t mention the passing of Alicia Rhett, who played Scarlett-hatin’ India Wilkes. She was 98. India was her only acting role and she spent the remainder of her days back home in the south. Born in Savannah, Georgia and raised in South Carolina, Alicia was an authority on Southern ways and Southern speaking on the set.

Clark said after filming was completed, “I talked with Alicia Rhett, a Southern deb (she’s from Charleston, where Rhett was supposed to have been born), before every scene and she was a marvelous accent coach. (Watch for her in one of the smaller roles. The girl’s good and that ‘Rhett’stuff is her own name.)”

RIP.

 

 

Clark Gable

From a fan magazine, here are hand-signed holiday wishes from several stars of the golden era, including Olivia de Havilland, Claudette Colbert, Mickey Rooney, Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman, Jeanette MacDonald, James Cagney, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and more. No, Clark and Carole aren’t included, but I thought it a cute holiday gift nonetheless! Happy Holidays everyone!

Click to enlarge:

gwtw11

From August 1939:

There’s a mad scramble between every scene on the “Gone with the Wind” set. For Vivien Leigh is an Anagram fiend and Olivia de Havilland is equally rabid on the subject of Chinese Checkers–and they like Clark Gable for a partner. Gable happens to like both girls and both games, but he’s hit upon a practical solution for the predicament. It’s three-handed bridge and now everyone is happy.

***

Though Vivien Leigh has many elaborate costumes for “Gone with the Wind”, her costliest is the ugliest dress she wears in the picture. Fourteen copies of this dress had to be made, for it is the one which she wears when fleeing Atlanta–and then wears until it literally falls to pieces. Each copy of the dress had to show more wear and tear, and the last and most ragged copy made the biggest dent in the Selznick budget. For the girls in the wardrobe department worked two days to “age” it. Various trypes of knives, steel combs, brushes, sandpaper and wood rasps were used to abrade the cloth and chemical agents had to be applied with great care of that faded effect.

***

Selznick Studios would prefer that the results of their recent nationwide poll be kept on the QT. They investigated the country’s reaction to the selection of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett and the result was somewhat of a blow. Though 30% approved to the 30% who didn’t, 40% of the great American public didn’t know anyone had been chosen for the role.