From the archives: An article on Julia Lockwood

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The Sydney Morning Herald, 1960.

In England, complete with a newly remodeled nose-“”it gives me more confidence”- and teeth filed level-“”it gives me a better smile,” young film actress Julia Lockwood stepped into the last of her teen years transformed from a pretty miss into a glamorous, sophisticated stage star.

The rapid transition has been so successful that “Toots,” as she has been called from childhood, may soon be on her way to Hollywood. Maxwell Arnow, the same man who discovered Kim Novak, flew to London to search for new faces recently and one of the actresses he singled out was the young Miss Lockwood.

The promise of a film test by Columbia Pictures that resulted from the interviews is responsible for the “new look” with which she is emerging. As well as the new nose and filed teeth, there’s a shoulder length, curly golden wig that’s filling in until her own pale blondy straight hair has reached the length she wants.

Soon-when she’s had her tonsils removed-she’ll be taking the giant step towards independence by moving into a bachelor-girl flat in London’s Dolphin Square. “I thought it was time to get away from home,” she explained.

All this artificiality and independence seems out of character for a girl described by cynical show-page reporters as: “Absolutely adorable-shining, wholesome and sweet.”

But, although for the sake of career the “new look” Julia Lockwood resembles the type of screen beauty seen all too often in Hollywood pictures, people who know her-ranging from the callboy on the film set to her teenage friends-all day: “Everyone loves her. Her sincerity and youthful charm remain un-spoilt.”

“She has always been a very homey child,” says Miss Hettie Hollick, her nanny since she was three months old. “When she was cross, the worst thing she could do was not to say goodbye to me as she went out. But she would always come back and make it up.”

“She has all the teenage enthusiasms,” said a friend. “She is a personality in the theatre. Yet she’s as wild about Cliff Richards and cha-cha as all the other kids.”

She is a born organiser and the “Peter Pan” company during its stage run in London a few months ago (Julia played Peter Pan) had a saying in an emergency: “have no fear, Toots is ‘ere.”

Charming to her elders, popular with the children, and one of the most eligible young women about town, Julia at the moment has her heart set very firmly on a career. “When I’m not working I get bored,” she says. “I don’t expect to marry until I’m at least 25.”

Her romantic crush at the moment is Cary Grant. “I think he has a wonderful face,” she says. “But I doubt if I shall marry an actor. I prefer boys who are not in show business. With young actors you never know whether they’re acting or not. They’re always over confident. Other boys are more sincere.”

An acting career was mapped out for Julia when, at the age of five, she was enrolled in a theatrical school. From then on, she’s been knee-deep in a show business atmosphere. Her move into the limelight was a foregone conclusion. “I wouldn’t have minded being a children’s nurse,” Julia says. “I love children. When I marry I shall have a large family. I don’t believe in raising an only child.” An only child herself, “I’ve been pretty lonely at times,” she says.

“My parents parted when I was about five and were divorced when I was eight. I spent a great deal of time being looked after by Nanny. I think a girl needs a father, even more than she needs a mother,” she added, rather surprisingly, in view of the fact that her actress mother, Margaret Lockwood, has probably done much to guide her pretty daughter along an acknowledged tricky course.

Julia has a few memories of her mother’s famous films-including daring pictures like The Wicked lady. “Mummy made so many pictures that I haven’t seen more than a few of them,” she says. “My earliest memory is being carried out screaming in the middle of one of her films because I was frightened when I saw someone strike her on the screen.”

For that reason, most of her acting talents were learned at school rather than from her mother. And probably for that reason too, Margaret Lockwood still remains her daughter’s best friend. “She sits on my bed sometimes till four in the morning,” says her mother. “She tells me what she’s been doing, what her friends are doing and what the party was like. Toots is in love with people and life itself. She gives a lot. And that is why she gets such a lot back.”

 

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Guest Blog: Terence Towles Canote on ‘Bank Holiday’

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Like most Americans I discovered Margaret Lockwood through the classic Alfred Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes (1938).  Miss Lockwood impressed me in a way that only a few other actresses had before. In fact, she would join my ever growing number of classic film crushes, a number that includes such actresses as Audrey Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, and Grace Kelly. It was not just a case that Margaret Lockwood was incredibly beautiful. The character she played in the film, Iris Henderson, was independent, intelligent, resourceful, and charming. What is more, Miss Lockwood played the role very convincingly.

Given the impression Margaret Lockwood made upon me, it was natural that I sought out her other films. Unfortunately, living in the United States this would not prove to be easy. While The Wicked Lady and Night Train to Munich were shown on American television from time to time, her many other films were rarely shown. And many of them were hard to find on VHS or DVD. It would be literally years after I first saw Margaret Lockwood in The Lady Vanishes that I would finally get to see what would become one of my favourites of her films, Bank Holiday (1938).  The fact that Bank Holiday was one of the early films of Carol Reed, a director whose films I admire, made me want to see it even more.

For those who have never seen the film, it is perhaps easiest to describe Bank Holiday as a particularly British variation on the “Grand Hotel” theme, in which storylines involving different characters are linked by a specific locale or event. In the case of Bank Holiday, the storylines are joined together by the fictional, seaside town of Bexborough, on which the various characters converge during an August Bank Holiday weekend. Among the storylines in Bank Holiday are one involving a Cockney couple (Arthur, played by Wally Patch, and May, played by Kathleen Harrison) and their rather unruly children and one involving a young woman named Doreen (Rene Ray), who is competing in a beauty contest as Miss Fulham. Central to the film is Margaret Lockwood’s character, Catherine Lawrence, a nurse from London. She has agreed to spend the weekend in Bexborough with her fiancé (Hugh Williams), a situation about which she has very mixed feelings. This is complicated by her concern for an extremely distraught widower (John Loder), whose wife has just died in childbirth.

When I first watched Bank Holiday I must say that I was surprised. At the time the only British films from the Thirties I had seen were those directed by Alfred Hitchcock, films that did not stray too far from the Production Code of the United States that dictated what is and what is not acceptable in American films. Bank Holiday was a far cry from most of Hitchock’s films and an even farther cry from American films of the same era. At a time when American films portrayed married couples sleeping in separate beds, Bank Holiday featured a not yet married couple who planned to spend the weekend in the same room (and the same bed at that).  What is more, one of Miss Fulham’s rival beauty contestants, Miss Mayfair (Jeanne Stuart), plies her feminine wiles on a judge in an effort to win the contest.  Bank Holiday had a sexual frankness that I had only seen in the Pre-Code films of Hollywood and films from later eras. I certainly did not expect to see it in a British film released in 1938.

Beyond its uncompromising approach to sexuality, I was also surprised that Bank Holiday largely centred on working class characters. By the time I first saw Bank Holiday I had already seen films from the British New Wave, not to mention various British sitcoms over the years, but I had never seen a portrayal of the British working class prior to the Fifties. Most of the central characters belong to the lower classes. Beauty contestant Doreen (“Miss Fulham”) and her friend Milly (Merle Tottenham) are both shop girls. Arthur and May, the Cockney couple with the rambunctious kids, are virtually stereotypes of the British working class. The working class characters of Bank Holiday are not portrayed with the reality of the later kitchen sink films (as I said earlier, Arthur and May are virtually stereotypes), but the fact that they were present in a British film made in 1938 rather opened my eyes.  As an American I tended to forget that prior to the Fifties, not every British subject was an aristocrat.

Bank Holiday is not a perfect film. There are portions of it that do seem contrived, particularly portions of Catherine’s storylines. What makes the film work are Carol Reed’s attention to details and Margaret Lockwood’s performance. Many of Carol Reed’s touches, such as the rush at Victoria Station and the crowded beach at Bexborough, give it a reality that might have been denied by some of the weaknesses of the film’s plot. As to Miss Lockwood, she makes Catherine seem like a real person despite the occasional unreality of her storylines.  Given the weepiness of some of the material, many actresses may well have overplayed the part of Catherine. This is not the case with Miss Lockwood, who gives a very nuanced performance in the role. She is convincing even when the screenplay isn’t always.

Given its sexual frankness, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Bank Holiday ran into trouble when it was submitted to the Production Code Administration (the PCA) in the United States. After all, Catherine’s liaison with her fiancé violated part of the Production Code. While Joseph Breen, head of the PCA, thought Bank Holiday was a “very, very good picture,” he did not think it could be re-cut in such a way as to conform to the Production Code. Gaumont British had the PCA watch Bank Holiday again, after which Gaumont British agreed to find an editor who would remove all objectionable material from the film. Ultimately, 1450 feet of film (about five minutes) was removed from Bank Holiday in order to make it conform to the Code. It was released in the United States on 1 June 1938 under the title Three on a Weekend (it was presumed most Americans would not know what a “bank holiday” was). The United States was not the only country in which Bank Holiday faced censorship. Several cuts had to be made to the film before it could be shown in the Republic of Ireland as well.  I don’t know about the Republic of Ireland, but fortunately the original, uncut, British version of Bank Holiday would eventually become available in the United States.

Ultimately Bank Holiday made me fall even deeper in love with Margaret Lockwood. It also made me realise that sexual frankness and portrayals of the working classes existed in British films prior to the British New Wave. For all its weaknesses, it has over time become one of my favourite Margaret Lockwood films and one of my favourite Carol Reed films as well. Whatever the flaws of the film’s screenplay, Carol Reed’s direction and Margaret Lockwood’s performance more than compensate for them. In the end Bank Holiday is a film in which its sum is definitely greater than its parts.

Terence Towles Canote is the author of Television: Rare & Well Done: Essays on the Medium. Click here to visit his pop culture blog, A Shroud of Thoughts.

Vivien Leigh

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As Scarlett O’Hara

‘Hey Genius, meet your Scarlett O’Hara!’ Myron Selznick called to his brother, the Hollywood producer, David O Selznick, as he stood amongst the flames and stuntmen on a studio backlot in Culver City. Vivien Leigh emerged from the car, her tiny frame wrapped in a mink coat. Eying up this unknown English actress, Selznick took the biggest gamble of his career- he fired his leading lady, Paulette Goddard, and casted Vivien in the movie the whole world was talking about, Gone with the Wind. It was the stuff fairy tales were made of, and it launched her celebrity to astronomical levels. But behind the glittering facade, lay a deeply troubled woman whose entire happiness was built on the foundation of other people’s misery.

At the age of 22, Vivien had set her eyes on an unknown stage actor, Laurence Olivier, who was appearing in Romeo & Juliet. ‘Look at him,’ she whispered to her friend, ‘that’s the man I’m going to marry.’ She was relentless, and after watching Olivier perform night after night, and bumping into him at his favourite haunt, the Savoy grill room, the two fell in love. They were the epitome of a Noel Coward lyric; young, beautiful, talented…but they were married to other people- Vivien to Leigh Holman with whom she had a child, and Olivier to the famous stage actress, Jill Esmond, who was expecting their baby. It was an unstoppable force, driven by lust and plagued by guilt, both had been the product of a religious upbringing, Vivien, schooled in a convent and Olivier, the son of an Anglican clergyman. Their affair was common knowledge amongst the theatrical set, and after starring together in the historical drama, Fire over England, the two left their respective spouses to set up home in at Durham Cottage in Chelsea.

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From the beginning their relationship was tempestuous; Vivien was prone to hysterics, often lynching him with a tirade of insults backstage: ‘She clawed and scratched and looks lovely doing either,’ said the smitten Olivier. He, too, was fueled by jealousy; she had been the bigger star on screen, and he had been a dynamic force on the stage, both wanting what the other had, and would go to lengths to compete. When Vivien won the Academy Award for best actress in 1940, Olivier wound down the car window and hurled the statue onto the road. On the way to their wedding, the two got into a furious row, hurling abuse at one another, but managed to calm down to say, ‘I do.’

In 1947, at the height of their fame, Olivier was knighted and they became Sir Laurence and Lady Olivier. With their 12th century manor house, Notley Abbey, and their pairing onstage, the two became the royal family of the British theatre. Such respected stars, the Oliviers represented King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on a goodwill tour of Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, the cracks really began to show.

Peter Finch entered their lives like a whirlwind. Olivier was intrigued by this arrogant actor who staged plays on factory floors. He was the incarnation of Olivier, himself, and Vivien did not fail to notice his immense charm and physical attraction. Finch followed them back to England where Olivier signed him to LOP [Laurence Olivier Productions] whereupon he began an affair with Vivien. Olivier, by his own account, was content with the situation–his energy went into acting, and he had little else left over for Vivien. ‘I am going to bed,’ Vivien announced as she stood in the doorway, wearing a flimsy nightdress. ‘Which one of you is coming with me?’ Finch and Olivier responded with peels of laughter and the three sat up, drinking through the night.

Vivien was slipping into the depths of manic depression brought on by an earlier miscarriage – for years her symptoms went undiagnosed – and in 1953 she had been institutionalized where she underwent brutal treatments of ECT and ice baths in a bid to cure her. The aftermath of such treatments ravaged Vivien, and Olivier admitted the cruel procedure of ECT had wiped away any familiar traces of her once vibrant personality.

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Courtesy of Kendra Bean @ vivandlarry.com

Finch eventually departed from their lives, and a reconciliation with Olivier was brief. Vivien suffered another miscarriage, and Olivier began an affair of his own, with the young actress Joan Plowright. For twenty years, their lives had been bolstered up by their international stardom, the accolades and public’s worship, but in the confinements of their home, and her deteriorating mental health, things finally crumbled. Vivien was plagued by guilt, having abandoned her child to go off with Olivier, and he was seeking a stable personal life. They finally divorced in 1960, their lives taking a dramatic turn.

Olivier became the father to three children, though the lure of the theatre was always a priority over family life. Vivien sought companionship with a young actor, Jack Merivale, and had grown close to her daughter and grandchildren. Though she seemed better, death was waiting in the wings; Vivien’s old ailment, tuberculosis, had returned. On the evening of July 7 1967, at the age of 53, Vivien succumbed to the disease.

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It was one hundred years ago that Gertrude Hartley, a young woman, of Irish descent, stood at the window of her palatial home high in the hills of Calcutta, gazing at the Himalayas in the distance. She believed the stunning beauty of the mountains would pass on to her unborn child and bless its life with riches. On 5 November 1913, Vivian Mary Hartley was born. ‘Why are there fireworks, mummy?’ the little girl would ask, unaware it was Guy Fawkes night. ‘They’re celebrating your birthday, darling,’ came the reply. It seemed a fitting response for the girl who would grow up to become Vivien Leigh.