My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Best Actress 1939: Vivien Leigh in "Gone with the Wind"

What can there be said that hasn’t been said already?

Some performances are great. Some are fantastic. Some are considered to be the best of all time. Some are legendary.

And then there is Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind.

Scarlett O’Hara is easily the most iconic female character in motion picture history. And Vivien Leigh gives easily the most iconic female performance in motion picture history.

This is one of the cases when a performance isn’t even a performance anymore but turns into something so real and true that you don’t see an actress but only a character. Vivien Leigh and Scarlett O’Hara become one person.

Vivien Leigh’s acting is so modern that she gets better with each viewing. She is able to demonstrate all the layers of this rich and fascinating character. And of course the fact that she is stunningly beautiful helps, too…

What’s so flawless about this performance is that Vivien Leigh shows Scarlett as an always developing character. She is spoiled and manipulative and she will never lose these “qualities” but she grows during the war and the time after that. With the same determination she used to get every guy she wanted she fights her way back to Tara or runs a business. Scarlett is a force of nature.

But her determination and manipulations could also make her a very unlikable character but Vivien Leigh perfectly captures the Southern belle – she may be a bitch but she is so full of life and charme that we can understand why everyone is so fascinated by her, why everyone is drawn to her. Vivien makes us love and care about Scarlett despite the fact she is a woman who couldn't care less about her husband's death or anything else that doesn't have anything to do with her.

One also has to give Vivien credit for being the main reason why Gone with the Wind is the most famous movie ever. She is in 99% of this 3,5-hours epic, she has to carry this massive production on her shoulders. And boy, does she succeed!

Gone with the Wind is not only a story about love but also a woman fighting to survive, to get to the top. Vivien also captures all these parts of Scarlett.

She is such a dominant person that you can never take your eyes off her. All her scenes at Twelve Oaks, her flirting, her talk with Ashley and that wonderful moment when she is walking up the stairs while everyone else is celebrating the beginning of the war are so wonderful because Vivien is able to combine so many parts of Scarlett: her lying, her true feelings, her façade, her anger, her passion. Vivien inhabits this character like nobody else could have.

Sure, you can watch the old screen tests and see that Paulette Goddard would have been good, too, you can also see that she doesn’t bring that “something special” to the part like Vivien did. If anyone was ever born to play a role, it’s her.

Who can forget her "Oh yes, I will" when she decides to dance with Rhett Butler? Speaking of Rhett, Vivien's chemistry with Clark Gable is also wonderful. When they are married, they both perfectly show two people loving each other but both are too stubborn to admit their true feelings and their pride keeps them from real happiness.

But let's not forget Vivien's great chemistry with Olivia de Havilland which is also an important part of the movie. In fact, the relationship between Melanie and Scarlett may be the most interesting aspect of the whole movie and Vivien is perfect in showing her mixed feelings towards Melanie, her dislike and admiration at the same time.

Without any signs of overacting or theatrical posing, Vivien brings Scarlett to full life. Her devastating reaction to her mother's death, her burden of keeping Tara alive, her willingness to do anything to get money for the taxes - it's all unforgettable.

It is such a natural performance of a truly larger-than-life character that “Fidlee-dee-dee” seems to be the only word to describe it…I really give a damn!

So, for this most iconic performance, Vivien naturally gets


Anonymous said...


Oneliner said...

She's easily the most deserved among the Best Actress Oscar winners.... and will probably keep the title forever despite so many other greats that followed. Picking a #2 is tough, I'm partial toward Elizabeth Taylor (Virginia Woolf) and Sissy Spacek, and maybe even Leigh in Streetcar as #2!

Sage Slowdive said...

Hey Fritz, are you going to do your ranking soon?

I can't wait :)

Fritz said...

lol, I try to start at the end of next week (I have to get "The Reader" first)

Sage Slowdive said...

I can't wait! :D