Vivien Leigh: A Master of the Trade

I’ve been discouraged recently with the caliber of about 90 percent of the movies that have been released in the recent past. It seems that so many times I’ll have the itch to go to see a movie but nothing really good is playing.

Now what do I mean by good? 

I admit, I see the appeal and the importance of action films, however, I get tend to get bored with the 50th “Die Hard” (I’ve seen a few and they’re fun) or The Terminator… As someone who appreciates the trade and art of acting in itself, I can’t always trick myself into enjoying a brainless film where half the dialogue consists of gunshots and explosions (insert interlude with a girl in a bikini… riveting).

Of course these films hold important cultural meanings and highlight much of what our North American society deems important and entertaining. But, I would be hard pressed to find many people who would consider Schwarzenegger an academy award winning actor (because he isn’t). NOT to harp too viciously on these types of actors, as they have clearly identified their niche and done EXTREMELY well in capturing an audience… and hey they’re making tons of money. 

I don’t want to seem TOO cliche but I truly feel that Hollywood and the Movie industry in North America has lost a lot of what made it special in its “Golden Age.” Today, the focus of Hollywood and the media in general, goes to “celebrities.” This strips people of their talent and makes them into solely social icons. I want actors to be actors again. I want people to strive to be more than a niche (don’t get me started on Katherine Heigl) but to challenge and experience characters they never thought possible.

I certainly shouldn’t generalize, as I know I could name many actors who constantly push boundaries today and on the flip-side, many who pigeonholed themselves in the so called “Golden Age.” Yet, as an aspiring actress, I know how frustrated I would be at being typecast into a certain category and how I believe that I could accomplish all types of personas (whether this is true or not is actually yet to be determined).

A person who I look up to exceedingly and who I believe exemplifies the epitome of being a great actress is the beautiful, poised and talented: Vivien Leigh.

Her fire and dedication shows in literally every movie that I have seen her in and her talent is almost dumbfounding. A documentary that I watched recently on Gone With The Wind, recorded Olivia De Havilland (adorable, sweet and incredibly talented in her own right) remembering that Vivien could turn on her “Scarlett” at the drop of the hat. De Havilland herself noted that she would need some time getting ready in her dressing room to prepare for the part of Melanie before taking to set. Not many actors or actresses can simply flip a switch and capture a character in completeness without fail. This virtue is extremely desirable for an actor, and for the directors working with them.

If you haven’t seen Gone with the Wind, I propose that you stop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW and take the 3 hours and 53 minutes to watch it (and then read the book). To only mention Vivian in this film would be unfair, as this film in its entirely, has a cast that highlights true, professional and marvelous acting skill. Olivia De Havilland, Clark Gable, Hattie McDaniel, Leslie Howard, Butterfly McQueen (just to name the most prominent involved) and literally all others in this production put their heart and soul into the picture. Not many things in general can capture my attention for almost 4 hours – and I have to admit, Vivien is at the centre of it.

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Vivien as Cleopatra

Viviens’ portrayal of the “The Queen of The Nile” in Caesar and Cleopatra highlights her intensity and cunning ability to represent power, yet vulnerability.  As a fan of the 1963 Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor, who also deserves credit, there is something powerful and a little more believable in Leighs’ depiction of the character, that Taylors’ admittedly lacks. Vivien establishes a character much more easily — it becomes her, where others can appear forced and unnatural, Vivien rises above.

I could go on endlessly about the admiration I have for Vivien. She is the type of actress that I hope one day I can be, or even scratch the surface to… My hope is that more people can aspire to be great and to reinstate the quality and integrity of acting in Hollywood. I suppose not everyone can be great, as it would make the special few, less magical and awe-inspiring. But to strive towards it would make the industry more enjoyable and impacting for everyone involved (and perhaps relying less on explosions and more on explosive performances).

Thanks for reading!

Natalie Roth

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Posted in Films, Music and Everything Else In-between
3 comments on “Vivien Leigh: A Master of the Trade
  1. melissandrea says:

    Great blog! Can’t wait to read more from you!

  2. MsP says:

    If you love all things beautiful, I strongly recommend Leigh in Waterloo Bridge (haunting! Heart wrenching! Brilliant!) and That Hamilton Woman (with the brill Oliver). Keep up the super work!

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