Monday, 2 December 2013

Vivien Leigh in 'The Deep Blue Sea'

On Saturday afternoon I was taken to see a 'lost' Vivien Leigh film, 'The Deep Blue Sea'' at the British Film Institute on the Southbank. According to the curator of the Vivien Leigh series no organisation claims ownership of the film, it's not available on DVD and can't be re-mastered until the rights are clarified, so we saw an early print of the film, flaws and all. It was a bit jerky in places and, in others, the colour went odd, but it was perfectly viewable.

It's from a script for a play by Terrence Ratigan about a middle aged woman who falls for a younger man and leaves her safe husband (a judge) for the more hand-to-mouth life with the younger ex-RAF pilot. Vivien is the woman and Kenneth More (in his first film) is the young lover. It's, ultimately, a destructive relationship but it serves to free Hester (played by Vivien) from her husband. From trying suicide and weeping buckets she emerges as the strength in the relationship as she frees the young More from a relationship he's not equipped to handle.

I can see why it wasn't a big hit back in the day, it shows life in London after the war as a bit run-down and a bit dreary but it also shows a spark of life. There are very few smiles or real laughs in the film and it rather wears you down with the honesty of it all and, oddly, with Hester's integrity. She's left her husband to shack up with a younger bloke but when it all falls through she doesn't go crying back to her husband, she has the integrity to recognise that it all happened for a reason. That reason was that she wasn't happy with her former life so she would be foolish to go back to it. I can respect that and Vivien's portrayal of it.

I saw another Vivien Leigh film earlier last week, 'A Yank At Oxford', which was an altogether different kind of film. She played the young wife to an older book seller in Oxford and Robert Taylor played the yank in the title. That was a much younger Vivien in the '30s before she played Scarlet O'Hara with none of the subtlety of her 'Deep Blue Sea' performance. This was a dour Vivien with all the feeling she'd acquired over the previous decade or so.

I'm pleased I saw it.

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