Vivien Leigh Films: The English & Pre-'Gone with the Wind' Years

by Andre Soares

Vivien Leigh, one of the greatest performers of the 20th century, is Turner Classic Movies' Star of the Month in September. That's the good news.

The bad news: TCM won't be showing rarities such as 21 Days Together (1939), Leigh's second and last screen pairing with Laurence Olivier, or The Deep Blue Sea (1954), the rarest among her post-Gone with the Wind film appearances. And don't expect to finally be able to see Leigh's earliest film work in the 1935 British releases Things Are Looking Up, Look Up and Laugh, The Village Squire, and Gentlemen's Agreement.

That's a major letdown from TCM, which usually does a great job in digging up rare movies.

This evening, TCM will be showing Gene Feldman's 1990 documentary Vivien Leigh: Scarlett and Beyond, in addition to three pre-GWTW, British-made movies in which Leigh has sizable roles:

  • Victor Saville's very convoluted and appropriately titled Dark Journey (1937), starring Conrad Veidt;
  • Victor Saville and Ian Dalrymple's minor romantic comedy Storm in a Teacup (1937), in which Leigh looks very pretty while giving little indication of the major talent she was to become;
  • and Tim Whelan's minor comedy St. Martin's Lane / Sidewalks of London (1938), co-starring Charles Laughton and Leigh's Storm in a Teacup leading man, Rex Harrison. Once again, Leigh looks pert and pretty, but that's about it.

In his Now Playing introduction to Vivien Leigh's Star of the Month homage, Robert Osborne lists a number of movies in which Leigh was to have starred at some point.

Here they are (with the name of the actress replacing her in parentheses):

Frenchmen's Creek (1945, Joan Fontaine), Jane Eyre (1944, Joan Fontaine), My Cousin Rachel (1952, Olivia de Havilland), Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964, Olivia de Havilland), Cass Timberlane (1947, Lana Turner), Forever Amber (1947, Linda Darnell in a Scarlett O'Haraish role), The Voice of the Turtle (1948, Eleanor Parker), Saratoga Trunk (1946, Ingrid Bergman as another Scarlett variation), Tender Is the Night (1961, Jennifer Jones), Separate Tables (1958, Rita Hayworth), and Bell, Book and Candle (1958, Kim Novak).

Addendum: Leigh also wanted to play Cathy in Wuthering Heights (Merle Oberon got it) and Ophelia in Hamlet (the part went to Jean Simmons). Additionally, Leigh began filming Elephant Walk (1954), but fell ill during production and was replaced by Elizabeth Taylor.

Schedule and synopses from the TCM website:

5:00pm [Documentary] Vivien Leigh: Scarlett and Beyond (1990)
Interviews and rare film clips trace the troubled career of one of the screen's most beautiful actresses. Hosted by Jessica Lange.
Cast: Jessica Lange, John Gielgud, Claire Bloom, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Dir.: Gene Feldman C-46 min.

5:55pm [Short Film] Short Film: One Reel Wonders: Basil Rathbone Bio (1962)
BW-4 min.

6:00pm [Romance] Dark Journey (1937)
Rival spies fall in love during World War I.
Cast: Conrad Veidt, Vivien Leigh, Joan Gardner, Anthony Bushell Dir: Victor Saville BW-79 min.

7:30pm [Romance] Storm in a Teacup (1937)
A small-town politician tries to end his daughter's romance with a crusading reporter.
Cast: Vivien Leigh, Rex Harrison, Cecil Parker, Sara Allgood Dir: Ian Dalrymple BW-86 min.

9:00pm Sidewalks Of London (1938)
A street performer helps a young pickpocket find a new career as a dancer.
Cast: Charles Laughton, Vivien Leigh, Rex Harrison, Larry Adler Dir: Tim Whelan BW-86 min.

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2 comments

Louis -

Caught a very small bit of “Teacup.” However, it was more Harrison's scene than anyone else's. Re: “Wuthering Heights,” it's possible she would have made a good Cathy. However, I personally believe that of the many versions I've seen that Merle Oberon's Cathy is the best, most engaging, passionate, and tragic. (For example, Juliette Binoche left me cold.)

Happy (belated) Brazilian Independence Day!

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Andre -

Sylvia Sidney was going to play Cathy at one point. I wonder what that would have been like.
I think Merle Oberon's Cathy is excellent. Haven't seen Juliette Binoche's, yet.
As an aside, Vivien Leigh also wanted to play the title role in “Rebecca,” but Joan Fontaine was a much better choice.

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