‘The­atre folk are too self-cen­tred and spoilt’

The Daily Telegraph - Review - - Photography -

In di­aries and pho­to­graphs, Ce­cil Beaton recorded his friend­ship with Vivien Leigh, from breath­less begin­nings to bit­ter end. By Lucy Davies

Vivien Leigh liked to make her­self at home in her dress­ing room. The com­forts the Bri­tish ac­tress con­sid­ered vi­tal ranged from an elec­tric heater and a tin ket­tle she cher­ished par­tic­u­larly, to one of her De­gas or Renoir paintings.

One can imag­ine how the peren­ni­ally stage-struck Ce­cil Beaton re­acted when he en­coun­tered her in just such a set­ting in Novem­ber 1941. The so­ci­ety pho­tog­ra­pher, then 37, was in Ed­in­burgh for Vogue, and took the op­por­tu­nity to visit the the­atre, where the 28-year-old Leigh was star­ring in a re­vival of Shaw’s The Doc­tor’s Dilemma.

“She is a re­mark­able lit­tle per­son,” he scrib­bled ex­cit­edly in his di­ary, re­turn­ing four days later to take a back­stage por­trait, for which Leigh sat at her mir­ror and in cos­tume. Af­ter­wards, he took her for supper, where “she dealt firmly but nicely with the ir­ri­tat­ing re­quests for au­to­graphs”. Ac­cord­ing to Beaton, they stayed up talk­ing un­til past 3am, “while the night porter hoovered the car­pets and dusted the arm­chairs”.

He would pho­to­graph Leigh re­peat­edly over the next decade. Un­like with the many brat­tish so­ci­ety girls whose por­traits were

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.