Sunday, 7 October 2012

Romeo And Juliet on Broadway, 1940 - The Oliviers

I've probably said this before on the blog, but I'm playing Juliet in an abridged production of Romeo and Juliet (on monday so today I have my last rehearsal - 10am-5pm!) which we're taking to a Shakespeare School's Festival. So you can probably understand how completely thrilled I was when I saw that my favourites, Vivien Leigh and Larry Olivier played the title roles in that same play in 1940! I was even MORE exited when I found a bunch of stunningly high quality and interesting pictures from the production. Here are some thoughts and background info on the production. Enjoy!

In 1940 Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh decided to put on a production of shakespeare's classic, Romeo and Juliet. Vivien had just had massive success as Scarlett O'Hara in David O. Selznick's epic, Gone With The Wind, and Larry had experienced his first Hollywood film production (William Wyler's Wuthering Heights). Laurence Olivier found it harder to adjust to working in this new medium than his other half, Vivien did.

He was probably more than ready for a change, and the public status of the two lovers was growing rapidly (they married this year) so what better play to do than Shakespeare's legendary romance, Romeo and Juliet. The heartbreaking tale of two star-crossed lovers. At the time, the two of them had been involved in a scandalous affair while they were each married to others at the time, so the plot was not a parallel but had a similar theme to their lives.

Obviously Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier played the title roles, on top of this, Laurence Olivier - in true Larry fashion - decided that he would also direct, compose the music and design the production. Overachiever much? Dame Edna May Witty (you may know her as the character actress from 1940s films such as Mrs Miniver and Gaslight) also joined the cast as The Nurse - Juliet's confidant and mother figure. With this impressive cast, I can imagine how incredible this performance would have been. They both fit their parts incredibly well. WHY CAN I NOT GO BACK AND WATCH THIS???

Let's not forget that Larry and Vivien also did Macbeth, Hamlet, Twelth Night, Richard III, Anthony and Cleopatra, Twelfth Night and Titus Andronicus. Albiet not starring romantically in them all - they pretty much covered all the Shakespeare greats! Sir Laurence Olivier and Lady Vivien Olivier were really the consumate theatrical couple, and were certainly the most talented and prolific theatre actors in their era.




silverscreenings said...

Great photos! These two were pure magic, weren't they?

How did the performance go?

SummersCauldron said...

Olivier is my favorite actor. Thanks for this post!!

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