VIVIEN LEIGH’S CONTRACT FOR ‘GONE WITH THE WIND’
VIVIEN LEIGH. Motion picture actress. Four Typewritten Documents, forty-two pages, legal folio, January 16 to November 8, 1939. Concerning Vivien Leigh’s role in the production of Gone With The Wind. Together with an Autograph Letter Signed.
Typewritten Document, seventeen pages, legal folio, Culver City, California, January 16, 1939. The carbon copy of the contract for Vivien Leigh to appear in Gone With The Wind that belonged to her agent, John Gliddon.
The contract, between the producer Selznick International Pictures, Inc. of Delaware and Leigh, employs her “as an actress to portray the role of Scarlett O’Hara in the motion picture photoplay entitled ‘Gone With The Wind.’ The terms of the contract are then covered in detail. First is a concurrent but separate contract “with Alexander Korda, whereunder Artist is granting to Korda certain options on her services” and “Producer agrees, that the terms of the Korda-Selznick agreement are such that neither Producer nor Korda will be entitled to require Artist to render her services to either Producer or Korda at any time that will conflict with the rendition of her services to the other.” The remaining terms include the period of her employment; her salary at the rate of $1,250 per week; exclusive rights of the producer; dubs; rules of conduct; “options on her exclusive services”; provisions for illness and disabilities, interruptions by disasters and acts of God, and breach of contract; furnishing of the wardrobe, hairdresser, and transportation; assignments to other producers; insurance; extension of the option period; retakes, additional scenes, trailers, and other shots; membership in the Screen Actors Guild; radio broadcasts; compensation for work on Sundays; appearances according to the producer’s call; living expenses; secretarial services; the agent’s fee of 10 percent; and services “in connection with making screen tests, having wardrobe fittings, giving publicity interviews and the like.”
Typewritten Document, seventeen pages, legal folio, Los Angeles, California, January 16, 1939. A copy of John Gliddon’s contract between the producer Alexander Korda and Leigh relating to conflict of interest in the production of Gone With The Wind.
“First; Concurrently…but as a separate and distinct transaction, [Leigh] is entering into an agreement with Selznick International Pictures [called ‘the Selznick Agreement’] whereunder Selznick is employing [Leigh] to render her services as an actress. Concurrently [Korda] is entering into an agreement with Selznick whereunder this agreement is coordinated with the Selznick agreement. Said agreement may be referred to as ‘the Korda-Selznick agreement’. [On] August 15, 1935, London Film Productions Limited entered into an agreement with [Leigh] whereunder London Films employed [Leigh] as an actress. Said agreement maybe referred to as ‘the London Films agreement’. [Korda] agrees, that the terms of the Korda-Selznick agreement are such that neither [Korda] nor Selznick will be entitled to require [Leigh] to render her services to either at any time that will conflict with the rendition of the services to the other. Details of various terms similar to the above contract are then described, including options; notice of starting dates of work periods; the rendering of services in “a leading female role”; to work “pursuant to Producer’s instructions”; dubs; rights; rules of conduct; provisions for illness, disability, suspension, termination, disasters, acts of God, breach of contract, Leigh’s wardrobe, hairdresser, and transportation; assignments; insurance; extensions; retakes and additional shots; notices; membership in the Screen Actors Guild; radio broadcasts; compensation for additional work; producer’s call; screen credits; and the rendering of services without compensation for “making screen tests, wardrobe fittings, publicity interviews and the like.”
Typewritten Document, one and one-third pages, legal folio, Culver City, California, January 16, 1939. A copy of John Gliddon’s contract between London Film Productions and Vivien Leigh releasing her from her contract with them so that she can star in Gone With The Wind.
“…It is now agreed that in consideration of the execution of the Korda agreement by Leigh, the execution of the Selznick agreement by Selznick and Vivien Leigh, and the mutual releases…the parties do…cancel and terminate the old service agreement as of January 17, 1939.
Typewritten Document, six pages, legal folio, London, November 8, 1939. The solicitors Messrs. J. D. Langton & Passmore send their invoice in the amount of 47 pounds and 5 shillings for “Professional Charges” to Leigh’s agent, John Gliddon.
“The charges were for legal advice rendered on the telephone and in correspondence and agreements drafted from January to November 6, 1939, pertaining to Leigh’s cancellation of her contract with London Film Productions Limited. Gliddon had sought a “settlement whereby [Myron Selznick] were to pay you 50% of all commissions in respect of Miss Leigh’s earnings in any part of the world but so that the maximum sum payable to you was not to exceed £2,000. Advising that if Miss Leigh broke her Contract with Myron Selznick you might not receive anything and that in the circumstances you ought to reserve your rights against Miss Leigh.” Gliddon also had sought advice on “the question of commission in ‘Gone with the Wind.'”
Autograph Letter Signed, Vivien, five pages, small quarto, December 10, . To her agent John [Gliddon].
“I do hope you are alright, I would so love to hear from you if you have time. It feels dreadful over here with all our dear friends having such a miserable time at home, but they all assure us it would be very stupid to come home just yet, so we shall anyway do our two separate pictures before we do. They are supposed to start in January.
“I do hope the contract thing was arranged entirely to your satisfaction, & I am so glad, as it has turned out, that it was arranged on the lump sum basis, as any other way would have been terrible for you at the moment, & awfully unfair, as I suppose if I don’t come home yet I shall do the Korda picture here.
“I have to go to Atlanta for the opening of G.W.T.W. which I am terrified about of course. They keep writing from there to say, that the largest crowds in the world will follow us all day!!!!! You can imagine how comforting that is- I expect this will arrive just about Xmas time. And I do hope you will have as pleasant a one as possible-is your child out of London? Do write if you can John. Art would like so much to know what is happening to you-& if the office is open etc. Our fondest love & wishes….”
Gone With The Wind immediately became a monumental success and motion picture phenomenon, in no small part, due to the remarkable and enduring performance of Vivien Leigh, who made every scene she was in come alive. She brought magnetism to the role of Scarlett O’Hara along with beauty, tenacity, fire, humor, intelligence and great charm. After David O. Selznick purchased the film rights in 1937 for $50,000, he set out on a nationwide search for Scarlett O’Hara. Thirty-one women were actually screen-tested. By December 1938 there were four actresses left in the running: Jean Arthur, Joan Bennett, Katherine Hepburn, and Loretta Young. At that point in time, Vivien Leigh, fortuitously, arrived in Hollywood to visit Laurence Olivier, who was working on Samuel Goldwyn’s Wuthering Heights. Myron Selznick brought her over to the set to see the shooting of the burning of Atlanta. It was then that she met Myron’s brother David, who remarked, “I took one look and knew that she was right-at least as far as her appearance went-at least right as far as my conception of how Scarlett O’Hara looked. Later on, her tests, made under George Cukor’s brilliant direction, showed that she could act the part right down to the ground, but I’ll never recover from that first look.”
During the film’s production, Vivien Leigh (at age twenty-six) worked very hard from early morning until late evening, in addition to practicing a Southern accent for four hours each day. It took a total of 122 days on the set for her to complete her part, six days a week, sometimes working twenty solid hours, then returning to the set after only four hours sleep. After five months of arduous work, the filming was done, except for editing, retakes, matte shots, montages, titles, music, dubbing, and previews. The first rough cut of around five hours was trimmed, by the end of August, to three hours and forty-two minutes-the length of the final version. The total cost was 4.25 million dollars.
For the grand premiere, balls, parades, and parties were organized in Atlanta for its gala on Friday, December 15. Thousands of people attended the grand ball to celebrate the premiere. Clark Gable, Olivia De Havilland, Leigh, and many of the supporting cast, were flown in to attend three days of festivities and celebration. The film received a standing ovation from the crying and cheering audience that gala evening. The theater itself, with a seating capacity of 2050, was filled with those fortunate to afford and get tickets. Seats went for twenty times the normal price-equivalent to several hundred dollars today. In addition, over 18,000 people surrounded Loew’s Grand Theatre and the sidewalks in the vicinity of Peachtree Street in Atlanta, with hopes of catching a glimpse of the stars.
After Gone With The Wind, Vivien Leigh made Waterloo Bridge with Robert Taylor; it was released in April 1940. That Hamilton Woman, directed by Alexander Korda, followed a year later. It was the last of three films that Leigh and Oliver would make together.
Leigh’s letter also refers to the tense situation in England, where Londoners were anticipating a German attack-the “miserable time at home” and asking if Gliddon’s daughter is “out of London” and presumably in a safer location.
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