Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hampered by Beauty: The Curse of Vivian Leigh

Author(s): Maia
Location: Los Angeles

“Hampered by Beauty: The Curse of Vivian Leigh”

Directed by Stephen Frears
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer and The Weinstein Company
Written by Larry McMurtry
Cinematography by Caleb Deschanel
Costume Design by Julie Weiss
Makeup & Hairstyling by Greg Cannon
Original Score by Patrick Doyle

Principal Cast:

Rachel McAdams as Vivian Leigh
Daniel Craig as Laurence Olivier
George Clooney as Herbert Leigh Holman
Matt Damon as John Merivale
Carrie Ann Moss as Olivia de Havilland
Stanley Tucci as George Cukor

Tagline: “A woman's beauty is an actress' curse"

Synopsis: The year is 1940… “Gone with the Wind” has won a record number of ten Academy Awards and has become the highest grossing film of all time. Vivian Leigh, the film’s fiery leading lady is now an Oscar winner and has quickly become one of the most celebrated actresses in the world.

All this worldwide acclaim, however, has meant very little to Leigh. At age 27, she has just divorced from Herbert Leigh Holman and has lost custody of her young daughter Suzanne. To make things worse, she was also diagnosed with tuberculosis…

For her own sake, Leigh found some relief on her relationship with the famous actor and producer Laurence Olivier, whom she married the same year; and her friendship with “Gone with the Wind” co-star Olivia de Havilland and George Cukor, the first director involved in the project.

For the next decade, Leigh continued acting in Hollywood despite her animosity towards the American filmmaking system and she was commonly hired for roles that emphasized on her beauty but not on her acting talent. This situation was frustrating for her and as her anger slowly destroyed her work reputation, her marriage with Olivier was also in trouble.

In 1951, Leigh landed the role of Blanche DuBois in the film adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire. The film became a hit and she won her second Best Actress Academy Award. She thought her life was on track again but she was wrong, her tuberculosis aggravated and she developed bipolar disorder.

Her illness distanced her even more from Olivier and they finally divorced in 1960. By that time, Leigh was already involved with a less famous actor named John Merivale. In 1963, Merivale encouraged Leigh to participate in the Broadway musical Tovarich, she agreed and won a Tony Award for her performance.

Merivale also encouraged Leigh to stay in touch with Olivier, who even produced some of her last projects; and with Herbert Leigh Holman, who remained as one of Leigh’s closest friends through the last years of her life.

In 1967, Leigh’s tuberculosis turned extremely severe and she was forced to rest at home until her recovery. That summer, with Leigh’s condition improved; Merivale went out to perform in a play. When he returned at midnight, Vivian Leigh was dead.

The moment her death was announced, her detractors revised their previous opinions about Leigh’s performances and named her one of the most beautiful and talented actresses of all time. Olivier, Merivale and Leigh Holman conducted her memorial services in London…

What the press would say:

The tumultuous life story of legendary actress Vivian Leigh is intimately told by recent Oscar winner Larry McMurtry in the heartbreaking biopic “Hampered by Beauty: The Curse of Vivian Leigh.”

Director Stephen Frears delivers a transcendent and touching portrait of one of Hollywood’s most prominent icons: Vivian Leigh. Portrayed with enormous passion and energy, Rachel McAdams goes to places where few award-winning actresses have gone in the past and immerses herself devotedly into Leigh’s personality. Her "Vivian" is an incredible presence, sizzling in the outside and yet, fragile and soft in her inner self. McAdams, who is gorgeous enough to understand the affecting stigma Leigh battled through her career, communicates each of her emotions to perfection. Leigh’s close friend Olivia de Havilland said at the end of the Los Angeles premiere of the film that McAdams’s transformation was stunning and mesmerizing, she concluded: “Vivian used to say: I’m not a star, I’m an actress…Stars fade out but actresses go on for a long time. Rachel McAdams will become one of the best actresses of all time.”

McAdams is not only poised to receive a Best Actress nomination for her outstanding portrait of the “Gone with the Wind” star, she is on her way to an imminent triumph.

Daniel Craig is a perfect match for McAdams as the great Laurence Olivier. He brings to the screen the charm and intensity necessary for us to understand how this man tamed the feisty Leigh. Craig and McAdams make the perfect couple and the powerful chemistry they portray through the different stages of their characters’ marriage is one of the film’s best accomplishments.

Matt Damon gives a touching performance as the less known John Merivale. A man outshined by his companion’s fame but also a man who always stood by her side till the moment of her death. Damon, under heavy make up work to appear older, provides emotional balance for McAdams’ Leigh and it’s one of the most impressive supporting turns of the year.

Additional supporting work by George Clooney as Leigh’s first husband is vibrant and the brief appearances of Carrie Ann Moss and Stanley Tucci as Olivia de Havilland and George Cukor allow the audience to discover a more fragile side of Leigh.

Despite some controversy about the production of this film and the inevitable comparisons with Milos Forman’s “An Actress Named Vivian Leigh,” “Hampered by Beauty: The Curse of Vivian Leigh” proves that great work can always be outdone.

Stephen Frears, Larry McMurtry and Rachel McAdams have given the world a far more compelling, intimate and inspiring look at the glorious life of the legendary Vivian Leigh. Consider this moving cinematic experience for the following awards:

Best Picture – AMPAS
Best Picture (Drama) – HFPA
Best Ensemble – SAG
Best Actress – Rachel McAdams
Best Actor – Daniel Craig
Best Supporting Actor – Matt Damon
Best Original Screenplay
Best Crew

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