best film: Gone with the Wind. This category is a strength for Vivien Leigh- no doubt about it. Gone With the Wind is a masterpiece and landed well within the top 100 of all-time on the last update. A Streetcar Named Desire is a very solid film – landing in the top 500 of all-time. Vivien Leigh may have some weaknesses in her resume, but it is not in these top two categories.
best performance: Gone with the Wind in a landslide here. Not only is Gone with the Wind a masterpiece but Leigh is sensational in it. Few actors historically get to deliver a line like her “As God as my witness…” line at the end of act 1- and in a masterpiece, nonetheless. Leigh gets overlooked a little historically in this film (along with Streetcar actually) because she is dueling with Clark Gable (and Marlon Brando in Streetcar’s case) but she is the film’s narrative vehicle and for those who have not seen the 1939 masterpiece in a while, it is easy to forget just how much MORE of the film Leigh is in more than Gable. Her character is supposed to grate on the viewer (just like her character Streetcar) and it is not one to fall in love with. But the bottom line here is she is brilliant, as lead, in a masterpiece.
stylistic innovations/traits: Vivien Leigh is the rare Golden Era actor who had less than twenty (20) film credits to her name. Her personal life and health certainly contributed to her lack of resume and that is a shame. Her weakness here is the sheer lack of archiveable films (seven). It is worth noting that she played, in her two big roles, very unlikeable characters that were built to drive the viewer nuts the entire running time. Her Blanche DuBuois and Scarlett O’Hara are at least partially created so the viewer wants Brando or Gable’s character to tell her off. This is her purpose (Katharine Hepburn often played characters like this) and she succeeds. So, her performances here should be applauded- not decried.
directors worked with: Nobody more than once – Victor Fleming (1) in Gone with the Wind, Elia Kazan (1) in Streetcar and Mervyn LeRoy (1) in Waterloo Bridge.
top five performances:
- Gone with the Wind
- A Streetcar Named Desire
- That Hamilton Woman
- Waterloo Bridge
- Sidewalks of London
|1938- Sidewalks of London|
|1939- Gone With The Wind|
|1940- Waterloo Bridge|
|1941- That Hamilton Woman|
|1948- Anna Karenina|
|1951- A Streetcar Named Desire|
|1965- Ship of Fools|
The casting process for Scarlett is so fascinating. Idk if you’ve seen the auditions on YouTube but Vivien blows all of them out of the water it is quite unbelievable. It’s impossible for me to imagine anyone else nailing that character like she did. One for the ages.
I also don’t think of her performance as overlooked historically at all in GWTW. I more often than Gable see her performance getting the biggest praise, and the character has become a cultural icon. I don’t think she is just meant to drive you nuts either, her character certainly is immature in the first act but the resilience and determination of Scarlett in the face of crisis is so central to the narrative.
@Ce – thank you for your perspective- Gable definitely got his way during the production getting Cukor removed and getting him replaced with his guy Victor Fleming. You can see this with the ending. And I think your description of Scarlett covers the first half of the film- maybe a little longer- but it certainly doesn’t last to the end of the film. That resilience and determination give way to selfishness and the audience (at least the majority of the audience) sides with Gable’s devastating final line.
Well yes of course you’re right that she fails in many ways but in her final line, there’s hope for Scarlett nonetheless and she remains determined. She’s a complicated character, one of cinema’s most complex and well imagined I’d say
@Malith- thank you for the catch here on Anna Karenina. I’m sure I have slipped up in the past in places, but I am trying to keep the directors worked with to the top 250 directors list unless it is more than one archiveable collaboration- so no Duvivier for now
@Drake-Did you thought about adding Anna Karenina(1948) to her top 5 performances? You say she is excellent in that film