Does Vivien Always Act This Way?

     In both the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire (directed by Elia Kazan and adapted from the 1947 book by Tennessee Williams) and the 1939 film Gone With the Wind, adapted from the book, Vivien Leigh did a superb job as an actress. She brought as much life to the roles of Blanche DuBois and Scarlett O'Hara that would be hard to parallel. She has plenty of talent playing the sweet, innocent southern lady. I thought that there were many similarities between the roles of Blanche and Scarlett, which may have been the reason that she was chosen to play both roles.

     First, both of the girls loved their men. Scarlett always had an abundance of men at her beck and call, men who wanted to be the one who would have the privilege of fetching her desert at the barbecue. She could have her choice of men, and she would not be satisfied if she did not have them drooling at her every move. She was very much the woman-izer counterpart; the man-izer. She did not care whose toes she stepped on to ensure her own happiness. This behavior is very similar to Blanche's encounter at the Flamingo, which she bitterly called Tarantula Arms (where she had lured her victims), when she was confronted by Mitch with her past. From what the neighbors said, she was constantly parading men in and out of her room. She was obviously very attractive and used this as a trap to catch men.

     In both roles, Leigh led men along. In In Gone With the Wind, she led Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) on, flirting and acting giggly and giddy; but she realized that she really liked him in the end when he walked out on her with his "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." In Streetcar, Blanche teases Mitch (Karl Malden), outside on the deck by the bar, and when he comes in to talk to her after Stanley (Marlon Brando) has thrown the radio at her and Stella (Kim Hunter). However, when she realizes that Mitch knows about her past, she is upset, and talks about how Mitch wanted to marry her.

     Leigh also was also caught up lusting for a man that she could not have, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard). She threw herself at him, but he ended up marrying Melanie (Olivia de Havilland) The way that Scarlett threw herself at Ashley disgraced all that knew her, as did Blanche's affair with the seventeen-year-old boy. She wanted something that she could not have and brought shame upon herself and her family by her behavior. She was run out of town for her mistake.

     By deception, both characters are able to portray a positive outlook on life to the audience. In essence, they were both skilled liars. Scarlett lied to the police when they came to arrest the boys after their raid on the carpet mill shantytown. She also dressed prettily to go bail Rhett out of jail to get money from him. Blanche made herself pretend that her life was different when events did not go her way. She constantly lied to cover her past. When she realized that her past had been found out, she created a false "friend" that supposedly called to invite her on a Caribbean cruise.

     As I have already stated, I feel that Vivien Leigh is a tremendous actress, despite the hardships that she had endured. I would be curious to know if she has played any other characters similar to Blanche DuBois and Scarlett O'Hara.

Julie Hallemeier

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