By: Theresa Loeb Cone, August 26, 1960
During a recent conversation, Vivien Leigh, the English actress portraying a lady who places little value on virtue in “Duel of Angels” now at the Alcazar, said that she never had regarded the play as a comedy.
“On the contrary, I always considered it a most serious work,” she insisted. “It needs a great deal of concentration on the part of the audience, actually. Like all plays which are more concerned with language than with action, ‘Duel of Angels’ demands that the theatergoer pay close attention every minute,” she added.
But what about the comic touches, the humorous lines, the obvious playing for comedy reaction on the part of the actors?
CHANGE OF MOOD
And then the sudden change of tone and mood in the final act as the story turns to tragedy. Miss Leigh did not think that anything but tragedy should be expected from the situation presented in the first act of this last of Jean Giraudoux plays and further added that despite the severs changes made in the drama from its first presentation several years ago in French and later in its Christopher Fry translation, the playwright’s original ideas and premise had never been altered.
“Speeches were cut considerably in translation into English because it is generally accepted that British and American audiences will not sit through the long session that the French accept,” she said.
Her last movie, in a career which started many years prior to her sensational success as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind,” was “The Deep Blue Sea.” She prefers not to talk about it the diminutive, blue-eyed, and occasionally acid-tongued star said.
Obviously it was a disappointment to her on celluloid, especially since she considers its author, Terrence Rattigan, one of England’s best contemporary playwrights. She had words of praise, too, for her friend Noel Coward but thought that while John Osborne’s “Look Back in Anger” was a splendid play, his subsequent work, “The Entertainer” was “saved by the magnificent performance contributed by my husband Laurence Olivier.”
BACK TO MOVIES
After the current tour of “Duel,” Miss Leigh will return to picture-making. She will fly to Rome to appear in the screen version of Tennessee Williams’ “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone,” the first and only published work of fiction that playwright can claim. Her costar is rumored to be a new young player, Rory Harrity, Joe Pasternak discovery. She won an Oscar for her appearance as Blanche duBois in Williams’ “Streetcar Named Desire.” In 1961, Miss Leigh said, She hopes to take a repertory company to tour Australia and Japan.
“We would play something by Shaw. Also an Ibsen, or Chekov, a Shakespeare and maybe this Giraudoux play. Australians are really very theater-hungry, make excellent audiences as I found in my Old Vic tour, and I think the company would be very well received in Tokyo, for instance, where an English speaking repertory has never seen presented before.”