Vivien Leigh: Memory and Calm

Tennessee Williams on Vivien Leigh
Interview with James Grissom

And now we have crazy Vivien. This is the prescribed and accepted definition and biography of a brilliant actress and a tortured but sweet woman, who needed work and safe arms and one good ear to hear what she was going through.

I can't bear to hear these things. I become married to so many women through my created women, and I come to love them. I am often able to forget or overlook their flaws and their contradictions and their cruelties, but I never knew Vivien to be cruel to anyone but herself: She brutally pushed and punished herself, but she pulled her tiny frame together, smiled that girl's smile, and tried to get back to work. A manic bird in a beautiful cage, furiously throwing her tiny bones against the rails of her prison.

She could be irritating. Can't we all? And how many of the irritating people then turn around and give you something as peerless and flawless as her Blanche? Are we incapable of forgiving or overlooking anything? Has all of our compassion--dare I say it?--gone with the wind?

I raise this glass to Vivien. I loved her. I love her still. She flew against the rails of the cage one last time. And now there is memory and calm.

©  2015  James Grissom


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