Friday, July 15, 2011

Have just finished reading ‘Damn You, Scarlet O’Hara.’ This is certainly no ordinary biography. Warts and all simply aren’t in it. Never has there been such an exposé. When I read a revue of this book a while back (which made me request it as a birthday gift) the reviewer was extremely snide about the authenticity of the material, almost screaming not true not true not true! But now, having read it, it seems to me the two authors really have done their homework and there is nothing made up. Like I said, what an exposé! Not only of the Oliviers but many of the elite in Hollywood’s star-studded firmament. We always knew about Hollywood and the film world, remember Fatty Arbuckle? ( And see ‘Hollywood Babylon’) but it seems, apart from ambition, blatant egotism, bitchiness, back-stabbing and disloyalty, sex and having affairs was the raison d’etre for living: homosexuality, lesbianism, bi-sexuality, heterosexuality, ménage è trois, orgies – name it. They were, still are I presume, at it like bunny rabbits. I’m amazed, considering what stamina is required work wise, they had any left for actual filming or, when filming, any stamina for sex though the stamina must have been there considering the number of episodes that went on between takes in dressing rooms.

Apart from Olivier’s numerous affairs with both sexes, some of which did embody actual love i.e. his long affaire with Danny Kaye, the red hot nympho of them all was the foul mouthed Miss Scarlet herself. She simply could not get enough and sometimes it would seem from any source when no lover of the moment was around to satisfy her craving.

I originally thought the title of the book was thought up as a put down by the authors but it was in fact something Vivien Leigh herself said. From the moment she read ‘Gone With The Wind’ she set her heart on the part of Scarlet O’Hara. So much so that she even went as far as to tell everybody she was already cast although at the time numerous actresses were being suggested and still being tested and any number of them were after it just as fiercely as Miss Leigh so she was nowhere near attaining her ambition. But eventually, as we know, she did get the part, much to everyone’s amazement and the arousal of any number of green-eyed monsters, and it was a burden she carried with her for the rest of her life, hence the ‘damn you.’

In Sondheim’s wonderful musical ‘Into The Woods,’ there is a lyric, part of which goes

‘Careful the wish you make,

Wishes are children.

Careful the path they take-

Wishes come true,

Not free.’

So true, so true.

In Olivier’s autobiography ‘Confessions of an actor’ confession seems to be the last thing on his mind. Never was there a biography so anodyne, so censored, either by himself or by his publishers, I think probably the latter. After all the book was written when being open about his sexuality could have left his reputation in tatters and affected the book’s sales. He goes as far as to say same sex affaires are okay by him but, as far as he was concerned, there was only one man in his life with whom he could have contemplated it. Did he mean Danny Kaye? If so what happened to Glen Byam Shaw, Noel Coward, Ivor Novello, Peter Finch, Douglas Fairbanks Junior, Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power and others too numerous to mention? No wonder he steered clear of it and ‘confessions’ was a misnomer if ever there was one.

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