Diana Vreeland once said of Leigh: “Only England could have produced her. She was the perfect English rose. When the door opened and she was there, she was so terribly good-looking. She had such an exquisite unreality about her.”
Leigh first met success at the age of 21 thanks to her role as a French courtesan in The Mask of Virtue in 1935. Four years later she’d meet international success with the unforgettable Gone with the Wind. Extremely cultivated, she may not be remembered for a designer association, but she often graced the pages of fashion magazines captured by some of the best photographers of the day, including Cecil Beaton, Louise Dahl-Wolfe and John Rawlings.
Keith Lodwick, Curator of Theatre and Screen Arts at the Victoria & Albert Museum. and in charge of the Vivien Leigh archive, talked about Leigh and the costumes the photographer, costume and set designer Cecil Beaton created for her.
dir: Julien Duvivier
with Vivien Leigh, Ralph Richardson, Kieron Moore
UK | 1948 | 139 mins | cert. PG | col
Duvivier’s take on the revered Russian classic by Leo Tolstoy is the story of the passion of an aristocratic woman trapped in a loveless marriage. Forced to choose between her love for another man and that for her son, Vivien Leigh’s wonderfully nuanced performance conveys the intensity of Anna Karenina’s love for Count Vronsky, rather than glorifying the tragedy of her ending. Cecil Beaton created Leigh’s costumes for the film, successfully capturing the fabric textures and movement of the period, subtly transmitting an idea of luxury that had a positive impact in post-war British audiences. Beaton’s silhouette for Anna Karenina remind us of Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’ launched the year before, and which borrowed from 19th century fashion, with rounded shoulders, tiny waistlines and full skirts.
The film was introduced by Keith Lodwick, Curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum Department of Theatre & Performance, and of touring exhibitions drawn from the Museum’s Vivien Leigh Archive.
Special thanks to The Vivien Leigh Circle
ABOUT KEITH LODWICK
Keith Lodwick is curator of Theatre and Screen Arts at the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Department of Theatre & Performance. He has contributed to numerous publications including: Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russes (V&A, 2010); Oliver Messel: In the Theatre of Design (Rizzoli, New York, 2011); Hollywood Costume (V&A, London, 2012); Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (2015); and Vivien Leigh: Actress and Icon (V&A/ Manchester University Press, 2017).
Keith was the assistant curator for the V&A’s major 2012 exhibition and international tour of Hollywood Costume, which examined 100 years of costume design for film, and is one of the most successful exhibitions in the museum’s history. Keith is the curator of the touring exhibition: Vivien Leigh: Public Faces, Private Lives, drawn from the Vivien Leigh Archive, which the V&A acquired in 2013.
Before joining the V&A, Keith trained as a set and costume designer at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London. His theatre design work has been exhibited nationally and his stage adaptation and design for Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber won a Herald Angel Award at the Edinburgh Festival (1997).