Vivien Leigh was heralded as one of the great beauties of her time, won two Best Actress Oscars (especially impressive since she starred in only 19 films), and was the wife of one of the most celebrated actors of the century, Sir Laurence Olivier.
Despite all of the above, to most she was simply Scarlett O’Hara. When she died at only 54 years old, many of the world’s headlines proclaimed “SCARLETT O’HARA DEAD!” I’m sure she would have cringed at that headline. Not that she wasn’t proud of hving played Scarlett, but the role became suffocating in a way that she couldn’t escape. Vivien was always Scarlett and sometimes she didn’t want to be; she was pigeonholed far too early.
I attend many Gone with the Wind events here in Georgia and I will be the first to say that GWTW fans are nothing if not passionate. I am, of course, one myself–don’t get me wrong. One time I was talking about Clark and saying how if he had lived to be an old man he would have never attended GWTW anniversary celebrations. This shocked the group of women I was speaking to, who thought that surely I was wrong, that surely Clark Gable would have loved to be thrust in front of excited GWTW fans who wanted nothing but to talk about GWTW and Rhett Butler. Which shows how little those women knew of Clark Gable the man–the man whose filmography has 66 films and an Oscar five years before GWTW. But I digress.
One woman noted that positively Vivien Leigh would attend GWTW events if she was still alive. She was only a few years older than Olivia de Havilland, who blissfully is still with us. The women excitedly talked about how glorious that would have been for Vivien to have attended the events, talking to fans, scrawling autographs and answering questions. Never. Would. Have. Happened. I personally think that Vivien would have been much like Olivia is today but even more reclusive, maybe answering a fan letter or two, but not many, and keeping to herself in London, declining all requests for interviews or to appear at this film festival or in that DVD documentary. The fan letters she would answer would probably not be ones from ardent GWTW fans, but ones which asked questions about her stage career.
Vivien was gorgeous and extremely talented; a multi-faceted person who faced many a heartbreak and died way too soon.
Happy Birthday to Vivien Leigh: little Vivian Mary Hartley, Vivian Holman, Lady Hamilton, Scarlett O’Hara, Myra Lester, Lady Olivier, Cleopatra, Anna Karenina, Mary Treadwell.
…There was never any feud between Vivien Leigh and me during the filming of “Gone with the Wind” or at any time thereafter.
Hollywood goes just as much to extremes when it comes to male and female stars cast together as it does on any other subject. Get a man and a woman in a picture together and you are immediately reported as either fighting or romancing. The fact that in eighty per cent of your pictures you have no emotion about the beautiful creature opposite you, other than an interest in her acting ability, is never printed. Yet that’s the truth more often than not.
As for any possibility of Vivien Leigh’s falling in love with me I knew that was out from our first glance. For never have I seen any girl more completely in love than that one is—with Laurence Olivier. It’s as visible as a Neon sign that she can’t think or talk of or dream about anything or anyone else on earth—except when she’s on the set. When she’s on the set, she’s what a good actress should be. She’s all business.
As for my falling in love with her, I’m sure that could have been plenty pleasant except that, added to her lack of interest in me, I didn’t have any heart to give away, either. Mine was staked out to that Lombard girl who is mighty beautiful and brainy…
I’ll be truthful about it, however; I’ll confess that the first time I saw her I doubted that Vivien could really play Scarlett. That reaction shows I’m no casting director. But, accustomed to the more abandoned and superficial personalities of Hollywood girls, Vivien seemed too demure to me, at that first meeting, for the vivid, relentless Scarlett.
David Selznick introduced us to each other at a dinner party at his home. Vivien was wearing a very plain, tailored dress. She’s much tinier in real life than she appears on the screen, and since she uses little make-up she has a very young, unsophisticated air. Besides, she had all the fires banked that evening and that Olivier guy was her escort.
Now I know I should have stopped to consider all that. But having seen Vivien only in “A Yank at Oxford”, in which she didn’t have a lot to do, I just looked at her that first evening at David’s and wondered if that keen-minded producer had gone haywire when he signed her.
I knew he hadn’t the first day Vivien and I got on a set together. ~Clark Gable
Celebrate Vivien Leigh today…
Watch TCM (US) all day today for Vivien’s films!
You can preorder the Vivien Leigh Anniversary Collection on Blu Ray.
It was on November 4, 1960, 53 years ago today, that Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe filmed what would be their final scene ever onscreen. Sitting in the cab of a pick-up truck and gazing at the night sky as they traveled through the desert, Marilyn inquires, “How do you find your way back in the dark?” Clark, in a grainy and rather husky tone, responds, “Just head for that big star straight on. The highway’s under it, it’ll take us right home.” The music swells, the screen fades to black, and two stars are gone from us.
I’ve had many a Clark Gable fan say to me that they can’t bear to watch The Misfits because Clark looks so sickly. I agree that he does. It has always puzzled me how his widow, Kay, and others have been quoted as saying he was in perfect health at the time and what a shock his heart attack was. He looks nearly like a skeleton, it’s rather haunting. Maybe when you’re that close, you just don’t see what others on the outside see. Decades and decades of heavy smoking and drinking and taken their toll and instead of looking like his actual age of 59, Clark looks more like 70.
Declining appearance nothwithstanding, we have Magnum photographer Eve Arnold to thank for the iconic images taken on the Reno set of the film. Arnold, easily one of the most prolific female photographers of the century, lived to be 99, dying just last year. In her obituaries, she is labeled over and over as the woman who took some of the best pictures of Marilyn Monroe. Arnold had a decades-long friendship with Monroe, and ultimately photographed her from her early starlet days until her early demise. Arnold was much more than a Monroe photographer, however. She took breathtaking shots of everyone from poor migrant workers and the homeless to JFK and Queen Elizabeth II. Of this varied career, Eve said, “I don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary; I see them simply as people in front of my lens.”
Eve’s work on The Misfits would be considered gorgeous regardless, but the fact that we are gazing at a man who was in the very last days of his life makes it even more haunting. Monroe would live for a while longer, dying in 1962, but The Misfits was her final finished film.
View some of Eve’s work below.
From December 1931:
What do you think of this for a cast? Great Garbo…John Gilbert…Joan Crawford…Clark Gable in “Grand Hotel.”
Irving Thalberg (MGM executive and husband of Norma Shearer) thinks so much of it that it is practically set that these four stars will be united in Vicki Baum’s sensational story.
Anyway, the folks have had a lot of fun casting the parts. Garbo as the dancer, Gilbert as the young crook, Crawford as the stenographer–everybody agrees on that line-up. But what part is Gable to have? the only other important role in the book is the invalid from the country. Does Gable look like an invalid to you?
And of course he didn’t. The invalid role went to Lionel Barrymore, the crook role to John Barrymore, and Garbo was indeed the dancer and Crawford the stenographer. Clark was not in the cast, of course. I’ve heard these rumors of his casting before and always wondered what role they were really considering him for. The only one that remotely would fit would be the crook.
Carole Lombard was wacky. This was an adjective that would be used to describe her for years and, I think, often exaggerated. I know she did have a menagerie of animals and liked to play pranks, but I doubt her home was a virtual funhouse every day of the year. BUT this is a cute article anyway, describing the crazy antics of Carole’s humble abode.
Take—if you can stand it! Carole Lombard’s household—
There’s Carole and Fieldsie, her secretary-pal-confidante-companion-advisor-manager-sparring-partner-critic-et-cetera; then there’s two dachshunds, one bantam rooster, six doves, two ducks, one Pekinese named “Pushface the Killer,” two hens, one cocker spaniel, three goldfish, one cat named “Josephine,” which insists on sleeping with the dogs; also there’s a nice “comfy” mammy cook named Ellen, from Memphis, Tennessee, a butler named Edmund who’s also colored, and Carole’s personal maid named Eleanor, who never knows what her mistress is gonna do next…
“There’s all that,” says Fieldsie, and who knows what else there’ll be tonight. Because Lombard’s out shopping right now!”
Nuts? Sure, kind of. But that’s only the beginning. You see, you’ve got to mix all that up to really get an idea of Carole’s homelife, if any! I mean, you never know where you’ll find any part of that set-up…
Carole, herself, may be down in the kitchen swapping jokes with the cook and Edmund, the cat may be in the goldfish bowl, and ten-to-one, the ducks are wandering around the dining-room. The only place the ducks can’t go is the living room. That’s got white rugs!
To add to the confusion, the bantam rooster is named Edmund, and the two hens are named Ellen and Eleanor—so when Carole calls, nobody ever knows whether she’s calling the pultry or the household staff into conference.
“That house,” admits Fieldsie, “is MAD!”
Does all this sound absolutely batty? Screwy? Insane? Balmy?—oKAY, then, make the most of it. I simply can’t help it. I’m going to tell you about Carole Lombard’s home life, and that’s all there is to it. You can take it or leave it. All I’ve got to say is this—when it comes to the business of getting the most downright, sheer fun out of this usually drab business of living, then I had all prizes unreservedly to Carole Lombard.
Carole affectionately called her Bel Air home “The Farm” and even had stationary that said so. I imagine she was such a ray of sunshine to be around!
there’s the bee-bee gun. It was a gag present to Carole from—well, anyway, there’s the bee-bee gun. Carole takes it out in the backyard and shoots it. She’s got a target on some bushes, but she’d rather shoot anything and anybody else.
“I don’t dare go out in that yard,” says Fieldsie, “when Carole’s got the bee-bee gun, without wearing a red hat. With that gun, Carole is just too bad–!”
It isn’t only the gun that takes Lombard into the yard. She gardens, too. Oh, yes—she’s got orange trees and lemon trees and she picks the fruit and works in the garden. She always dresses for it, though—overalls, white cotton gloves, and a sunbonnet-sue top-piece. Lombard “dresses the best gardener I ever saw,” says Fieldsie. That’s another thing about Carole that just kills Fieldsie—“no matter what she does, she always dresses the part!”
One weird thing about this article: it never mentions Clark by name, but purposely avoids it in a way that makes it perfectly aware of whom they are speaking of. Why? Add a hint of mystery? Just to be cutesy? Or threatened by the editor not to mention her married boyfriend by name?
The dogs? Oh, they’re assorted gifts. “Fritz,” one of the dachsies, was just about hi-jacked, though, by Carole. It belonged to Mr. Whoozis—a friend of Carole’s—who was going away on a hunting trip or something. He loves to hunt.
“Why don’t you leave Fritz here?” Carole suggested.
“No,” said Whoozis.
“Because I know you’d never give him back to me.”
So Whoozis went away, and left Fritz with his own servants. Now it so happens that his servants are the mother and father of Carole’s maid. And ma and pa came to visit. And they brought Fritz along. “Why don’t you just leave him here? You might just as well,” suggested Carole to them. They did. And so Whoozis came back from the hunting trip, and there was Fritz in Carole’s house. Fritz didn’t seem particularly excited when his master returned.
“See?” crowed Lombard; “you’ve been gone three months and now he doesn’t even know you!” So Whoozis gave up, and now Fritz belongs to Carole.
“Pushface the Killer” came because Carole hates Pekes. A friend asked her one day: “You like dogs, don’t you?” (This was before Pushface’s advent, and led to it.)
“I just L-O-V-E dogs,” Carole cried.
“Pekes, too?” asked the man.
“I H-A-A-A-T-E Pekes!” howled Lombard.
That settled it. Because Lombard plays positively outrageous practical jokes on everybody she knows, everybody she knows plays outrageous practical jokes on her. So next Saturday, a big basket of flowers arrived for Carole from them man who talked about the dogs.
“Ooooo,” cried Carole, delighted, and buried her face in the flowers.
“Yap! Yap! Yap!” went the flowers, and something nipped Carole’s nose. “Those,” she protested, as she dropped them, “are the utterly weirdest flowers I ever saw. They bark and bite.”
Investigation revealed, buried deep in the posies, the Peke pup, six inches long, but full of vinegar! Carole’s hatred for Pekes ceased instantly, and now that she’s found the ideal name for him, “Pushface the Killer,” he’s lord of the household.
So, “Mr. Whoozis” is obviously supposed to be Clark, although that is the first I have heard of her stealing one of his dogs. And I’ve heard a couple of stories about how she acquired dear old Pushface–this one seems a bit farfetched.
You can read all about Carole’s house of craziness in the Article Archive.
She’s harum-scarum, she dances in the park at three A.M., she dotes on practical jokes, she hates pink, and she’s so impulsive she almost lives behind the eight-ball. Meet Carole, screw-ball comedian, dramatic actress, and radio’s new star.
Continuing in our Carole Lombard theme for the month of October, here’s one from 1938. This article is from Radio Mirror magazine and was written to promote the fact that Carole was a newly minted radio star on the new Kellogg-sponsored program “The Circle.” Well, unfortunately for Radio Mirror, Carole left the show just a few weeks after it premiered, so calling her the new radio star is a bit foolish. But, nonetheless, it’s a cute article about Carole.
She has always been able to take tough breaks of her own—even the automobile accident she was in years ago and its consequences. It happened when she was fifteen. Already out of junior high school and a pupil at Los Angeles High (yes, she has lived in either Los Angeles or Hollywood since she was seven) she was regularly winning Charleston contests at the Cocoanut Grove and those blue eyes of hers were fixed on the movies. She had been in pictures when she was a child—at least she had worked for two days in “The Perfect Crime” with Monte Blue. She now had visions of being a great actress. Then trouble came along.
It wasn’t much of an accident at that. The driver of a car in which she was riding only stopped rather short. But the movable seat came unhinged and Carole, thrown into the windshield, suffered an ugly cut from her upper lip to the middle of her cheek. They marched her into the nearest hospital, where a young doctor, not long past his internship, took a look at the cut and a look at her.
“You’re a pretty youngster,” he remarked. “We’ll try to keep you that way…but it’s going to hurt…”
Well, it did—the fourteen stitches he took in her face without even a local anesthetic. But anesthesia would have meant relaxed facial muscles and a bad scar so Carole gritted her teeth and “took it.”
“I’ll never be in the movies, now,” she said, quietly…Her dreams were over now. She would have to hide herself away, where no one could see and whisper about her “misfortune.” She did hide herself away for months, and scarcely saw anyone.
Inevitably, though, her courage came back and she listened to the advice of a friend. “If you still want to be in the movies, why don’t you try Mack Sennett? He cares more about figure than face, and you do have a figure…”
“I couldn’t,” Carole protested at first. “Who ever heard of a face like this in any kind of movie? It isn’t even comic.”
But the next day she put on her hat and went down to Sennett’s. “I can’t be killed for trying,” she thought.
She was right. She got herself a job. They put a little grease paint over the streak on her face and for two happy, healthy years she was a target for pies, was dunked, chased, tripped and so generally maltreated before the camera that she had no time to think about her personal “affliction”…until, one day, she suddenly realized that the angry red scar had disappeared, leaving only the faintest of tiny, white lines.
Since then, she has “taken it” in other ways. She “took” the failure of her marriage with Bill Powell. They were terribly in love, those two, in the beginning. She used to call the suave, sophisticated Bill “Junior” and he adored it. They were married and planned to live happily ever after. But Hollywood was even harder on marriage in those days that it is now. The pace a star, any star, had to set and keep left time for nothing else. They grew apart. And when Carole saw this happening, she did the next best thing. She salvaged friendship and has kept it intact—so beautifully intact that when Jean Harlow died it was to his ex-wife, Carole, the best friend he had, that Bill Powell turned in his grief…
Carole has “taken it” since her romance with Clark Gable. But she has continued to mind her own business; has never talked back to the gossips. You only have to see her look at Clark to know how she feels about him. But if she loses him, she’ll “take” that, too, and we’ll be seeing her in the movies and hearing her on the radio, a greater, stronger personality than ever.
Only, I don’t think anything will happen to those two.
I’ve seen them often at the Kellogg rehearsals, Clark sitting in the front row of the auditorium making occasional wisecracks; Carole on the stage with the others, wrinkling an impudent nose at him or sticking out a saucy tongue or maybe just smiling at him with that assured comradeship which bespeaks deep regard.
I think one of the things that draw people in about Carole—she really was a resilient person, an optimistic person, the kind that picked up the pieces and carried on. Her facial scar was visible often and she never seemed to mind; it was a part of her. And I love the description of Clark sitting and watching her radio rehearsals. To be a fly on the wall and watch those two interact, even for a just a little while! It seems everyone knew that they were something special.
And Carole off the job? A good deal has been written about the simple, wholesome life she leads. A good many writers have told about her small house and small staff of servants (two) and how she would rather go hunting with Clark and friends than to a night club; and skeet shooting than to a preview, even of her own pictures. But perhaps not so much has been written about the fact that even now, at the height of her career as an actress, she spends a good deal of her spare time considering possibilities if a career apart from screen or radio.
“I’ll never retire,” she told me just the other day. “I’ll always want to be doing something…Maybe advertising, maybe publicity. Maybe I’d like to manage a theater. I don’t know. I just know that when pictures turn thumbs down on me as one day they must, and radio, too, I’ll try something else. I’d go crazy just sitting around.”
She would. Even now, busy as she is, that vitality of hers is like a dynamo driving her to action. Harum-scarum? Certainly. She lets off steam that way. It is as natural for her to get out of a cab and dance in Central Park at three in the morning (as she actually did one time) as to wash her face. Spurred, too, by an incorrigible sense of humor, it is natural for her to play elaborate jokes on the people. They aren’t cruel jokes, though. She hates cruelty. I think one of her greatest faults—and she has faults, of course—is a driving urge to mix into other people’s affairs because she thinks they have been abused.
“Little champion of the downtrodden,” “Fieldsie” calls her, jokingly. But it’s true.
A lot is written about how Clark and Carole were so different and she “changed” for him. If you examine articles about them separately, even years before they got together, you can see that they really were quite similar in a lot of ways. Both described as humble and caring, both despised cruelty to others and were sympathetic. NICE people, in Hollywood. They did exist!
You can read of the article in its entirety in The Article Archive.
This website has many moving parts: content, blog, Facebook, gallery—the gallery being the most frustrating part by far. I want to share the over 10,000 pictures with Clark Gable fans the easiest way possible. However, I learned early on that if I leave the gallery wide open for anyone to register whenever they want, I am literally inundated with spam comments. Thousands of them, posted all day and all night long–sometimes it would take me hours to delete them all! I got so tired of dealing with that that I locked the gallery down and made it so that you must request a username from me to register. I tried my hardest to keep up with the requests and for a while this worked fine. Lately, however, I have received a lot of requests and for some reason the gallery will automatically ban any new user. I have no idea why and apparently neither does anyone who designed the gallery software; it’s some kind of bizarre glitch. I am extremely frustrated that Clark Gable fans, who are the entire reason I created this entire site and keep it up, are being shut out and banned from a part of it like they are unwanted—which trust me, is the LAST THING I would want.
So, while I work on another solution, the Gable Gallery is now wide open for registrations. Come one, come all, register and view the photos! Click on register on the main page, fill out the short form and then you will receive an email for you to verify your account.
If anyone has any trouble with this, please let me know. And if you have had trouble in the recent months, I sincerely apologize and I am working on a permanent solution!
From December 1940:
The town is chuckling over a gag that Carole Lombard recently pulled on Clark Gable. Clark couldn’t see the humor of the prank, they say, and he left the gathering in a huff. He and Carole were entertaining some friends at dinner and afterwards say down to see some home movies. Instead of the usual color shots of mountain streams and snow-clad peaks there appeared on the screen the first test Clark ever made for MGM. He was playing a native lover in nothing but a loin cloth and a hibiscus back of his ear. Gable couldn’t take it, but his guests had a hilarious evening running the thing over and over again.
By 1938, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were madly in love, and everyone knew it. The stories of “Will Their Romance Last?” were starting to dissapate and the “When Will Ria Gable Give Clark the Divorce so These Lovebirds Can Marry?” stories were roaring.
So, no surprise, Carole was Clark’s date to the annual MGM company picnic that year (I think I am mostly surprised Clark attended at all–maybe Carole convinced him to be a good sport?). The pictures of them from this event are some of my very favorites. Clad casually in sweaters and Carole with very little make-up and her hair pushed off her face, they look like any ordinary couple in love.
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