SMALL WORLD, 1958 (with Vivien Leigh, Sam Goldwyn, Kenneth Tynan)

In 1958, Vivien Leigh met, via satellite, with Ken Tynan and Samuel Goldwyn to discuss various Hollywood subjects on Edward R. Murrow’s show “Small World.” The show brought together a critic (Tynan), an actress (Leigh) and a producer (Goldwyn) in an attempt to get the points of view of all aspects of the motion picture industry.

A bit of history between Tynan and Vivien Leigh: Kenneth Tynan held a historical professional dislike for Vivien, often speaking badly of her when he reviewed her stage performances. Vivien took these criticisms to heart, and began to be very self-conscious during her performances for fear of a bad review from Tynan. After they met personally, however, Tynan was taken by her grace and charm toward him despite his earlier criticisms, and immediately became enraptured with her. He stopped his harsh criticism of her and began to be a frequent guest at the home of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. By the time of this program, the friendship had been established, but it is noticeable that there is still a slight friction there. Tynan seems to be pressing her, and Vivien becomes a bit defensive.

In my opinion, Kenneth Tynan in this program is rather insecure. His claims are often a bit immature from the critical perspective, and he tries to justify them without really listening to the other speakers and taking their responses in. He was young here (29 years old), and I think his discussion  is not really on the same level as Vivien and Sam Goldwyn, who were much older, more experienced members of the industry. He still resorts to some attacks of Vivien (insinuating that her performance of Streetcar was not entirely believable, for example), and it is evident that many of his views on the industry are based in his youth and general inexperience.

If Kenneth Tynan was too insecure, Samuel Goldwyn was the opposite. He had just made The Best Years of Our Lives, and already referred to it as “a picture that will last,” a rather bombastic claim if you ask me, especially as it had just been finished. He also makes some ridiculous comments (my favorite moment of the entire interview is when he says “I am not yet ready to shove under the doors six or seven million dollars and go away fishing!” And Vivien responds with “What does that mean….?” Brilliant) for some reason he couldn’t remember the name of Gone With the Wind, and some remarks are just simply erroneous, like his comments about Orson Welles not having succeeded as a producer or writer. I think Vivien and Tynan were right on the target when they very loudly corrected him on that point. How he even had the idea to say something like that is beyond me.

The doubtless star of this program was Vivien. She essentially controlled the interview by making everything she said count, either by agreeing with Goldwyn or Tynan, or very articulately shooting down the silly comments they make. She also manages to work Olivier into the discussion on a number of occasions, and criticized the fact that Olivier didn’t get to do Macbeth, which was very justified I think. There is a real class in her discussion, that doesn’t manifest in the other two members of the discussion, who seemed more concerned with defending and promoting their egos than anything else.

It is a fascinating interview, and even though some silly remarks are made by the two men, all three people are very interesting to listen to. Here it is in its entirety:

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2 responses to “SMALL WORLD, 1958 (with Vivien Leigh, Sam Goldwyn, Kenneth Tynan)

  1. Lara – I already love your blog, and this post is a gem. I haven’t seen nor was I even aware of the program (it seems a ‘first cousin’ to Murrow’s long-running “Person to Person”). Completely fascinating and so revealing of the participants. Leigh (along with Murrow) seems to be the glue that holds the conversation together. She’s contentious, but seems to be trying to keep the discussion grounded. Goldwyn seems as if he’s laboring to give a speech at times, but what an interesting man ( a Hollywood pioneer, after all). As for Tynan, he comes across much better on the page than on the screen. He’s occasionally insufferable here. Excellent post.
    TLE

  2. Awww, thank you so much for those sweet comments about my blog! Yes, I love this program. I think Vivien is so smart, and very much the glue that holds it together, as you say. Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you like this post! 🙂

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