You might say I’d brought it on myself. It all began when I criticized Vivien Leigh (Picturegoer, September 10) for her descent into The Deep Blue Sea, writes Margaret Hinxman.
The comments from readers about that were so various and positive that I thought this surely was the moment for a searching interview with the lady whose recent silence had caused such speculation.
So why not, I suggested in a letter to her, give me an interview and help set the score straight? There were many questions I wanted to ask on behalf of Picturegoer readers.
Her reply was brisk and to the point: Miss Leigh would be pleased to see me for fifteen minutes between performances at Stratford-on-Avon.
They were fifteen minutes I shan’t easily forget. I hadn’t thought that such a tiny woman could be so awe-inspiring. On the dot I was ushered into her presence.
Trim and self-possessed under vivid stage make-up, she parried some questions, enlarged on others and quite bluntly answered the rest.
She was unfailingly charming. In between times, she toyed with a cigarette, signed autographs, accepted a gift from a Swiss “fan.”
And here are the replies she gave to the questions everyone is asking about Vivien Leigh:
Question: For choice, would you prefer now to concentrate on the stage or the screen?
Vivien Leigh: I honestly don’t mind. Both are exciting. I love my profession in any form.
Q: It’s been reported that you will go to Hollywood to appear in “Anastasia.” True?
VL: No. You don’t want to believe all you read. I’ve no immediate plans to film in Hollywood. Of course, we have an interest in the play “Anastasia”; we put it on in London.
Q: What other plans have you for the future?
VL: Two months’ rest after the Stratford season (now finishing). I haven’t had a break since I started The Deep Blue Sea.
Q: I understand that you’ve been looking for a good comedy in which to appear. What luck have you had?
VL: I’m always looking for comedies, but they’re very difficult to find. When a good part -drama or comedy- comes along, I take it.
Q: Do you find it easier playing comedy?
VL: Not particularly. None of it is easy. It’s all very difficult. Acting is difficult. That is what makes it so interesting.
Q: What do you most like playing on the screen?
VL: I like to do roles I’ve played on the stage. I find it helps a great deal with my interpretation on the screen.
Q: Did you enjoy making “The Deep Blue Sea”?
VL: Very much. Although I would have liked to have had more time– but the Stratford season forced us to a deadline date.
Q: Were you satisfied with the film? Do you think it could have been a better picture?
VL: I thought it was very good. But I wasn’t very happy about the flashbacks. I felt the picture should have retained the claustrophobic, intimate quality of the play.
Q: Were you happy working with Anatole Litvah?
VL: He’s a fine director. Very understanding and very patient.
Q: What in your opinion are the mistakes you have made in your career?
VL: That’s a difficult question. I can’t think of any just now. Everything helps to give you some kind of experience in your work.
Q: What in your opinion are the wisest moves you have made?
VL: Shakespeare. It’s the most sensible thing any actor could do. This season I think “Titus Andronicus” is my favorite play.
“He’s Helped Me”
Q: Some critics have suggested that Sir Laurence has, in a sense, been the power behind many of your stage performances. Do you agree?
VL: Of course. He’s helped me enormously. That’s quite natural, isn’t it?
Q: Do you think that on the stage sometimes he tries to angle the spotlight on to you rather than himself?
VL: I don’t understand you. But if you mean: “Does he concentrate on my performance rather than his own?”, of course not.
Q: Is he a very exacting person, professionally, to work with?
VL: We’re both very exacting people. We both work tremendously hard.
Q: Why do you choose to play these great tragic roles?
VL: I think I’ve answered that in replying to your fourth question.
Q: Do you feel as a personality that you are right for them?
VL: I’m never satisfied with my performances, but I’m an actress. An actress should play anything she considers worthwhile.
Q: What is your reaction to press criticism? Do you think a lot of it is unfair?
VL: I dislike generalizations. I think a lot of it is thoughtless. After all, an actor lives with a part for months before the critics see it.
Q: In what way, do you think some criticism is thoughtless?
VL: I think very often an actor is credited with faults in a performance that aren’t due to him at all.
Q: It has been said that you have a very shrewd business brain. Do you think this is true?
VL: No, it’s not true at all. I’m not particularly interested in the financial side of this profession.
Q: Do you think that, as an actress, you drive yourself too hard?
VL: All actresses are inclined to do that. I don’t think I do, any more than any other true artist. The theatre is a very exacting profession.