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The Vivien Leigh Anniversary Collection

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Nov 19, 2013
The Vivien Leigh Anniversary Collection

Vivien Leigh may best be known for her role as Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" and Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire," but she wasn't, in real life, a Southern belle.

Born in India in 1913 to British parents, Leigh began her film career in England. After a few bit parts, she caught the eye of producer Alexander Korda, who put her into three 1937 films, one right after the next: the William K. Howard-directed "Fire Over England," an Elizabethan period piece where she starred opposite her future husband, Laurence Olivier; "Dark Journey," directed by Victor Saville, in which she played a double agent in WWI, opposite Conrad Veidt; and "Storm in a Teacup," a comedy directed by Saville and Ian Dalrymple, in which she sparred with Rex Harrison.

These films were followed up in 1938 by "St. Martin's Lane" (released in the U.S. as "Sidewalks of London"), in which Leigh starred once more with Harrison but was paired with Charles Laughton, who plays her mentor, a street performer who she leaves behind -- but does not forget -- once she achieves stardom.

These four early films are presented in a Cohen Media Group release, and given careful treatment -- a 2K restoration from archival prints and materials. These black and white features glow, partly from the loving restoration work, but more essentially thanks to Leigh herself. There's no more fitting tribute to Leigh on the centenary of her birth.

There are only a couple of extras, but they bring a tingle. There's a video essay by Anne Edwards, author of the 1977 book "Vivien Leigh: A Biography"; there's also a written essay by another Leigh biographer, Kendra Bean, author of "Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait," released this year.

When it comes to well-preserved films like these, which shed light on the early careers of major Hollywood stars, there's always room on the shelf. Go pick this one up -- and enjoy.

"The Vivien Leigh Anniversary Collection"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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