According to Alexander Walker in 'Sex in the Movies', Marlene Dietrich turned down the film "on the grounds that she could never be convincing as a woman who tries to gas herself because she cannot keep her lover or find other men." See more »
Anyway, chin up, love... there's nothing ever quite so bad but thinking makes it worse
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This film suffers from the lingering taint of tepid critical response upon its initial release, based largely on the facts that (1) Rattigan's original play was "opened up" (including a ski trip to Switzerland) and shot in CinemaScope and (2) that the beautiful and glamorous Vivien Leigh played a heroine created on stage by the talented but dowdy Peggy Ashcroft.
Leigh's performance was deemed cold - too controlled - yet she provides the cold fire, hot ice quality that always made her a fascinating film actress. More's performance as the lover was overrated - he won a prize at the Venice film festival, and made it plain that he and his co-star did not get along during filming, mainly because he protested Leigh's desire to look her best. Such a desire is all the more understandable given the fact that her last completed film was A Streetcar Named Desire, as the faded beauty Blanche, and that she had subsequently broken down during the filming of Elephant Walk and been replaced by the much younger Elizabeth Taylor.
There were dissenting critical opinions. Pauline Kael called Leigh's performance here "brilliant" when later reviewing The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone and finding the Karen Stone performance wanting in contrast. (I beg to differ with Pauline on that point, being a Karen Stone enthusiast myself.) In any case, The Deep Blue Sea deserves to be seen. It was produced by Alexander Korda in Britain, but distributed by 20th Century Fox in the U.S.A., so maybe there are copyright issues blocking its release on video.
Here in America the film would seem a likely staple of the American Movie Classics cable station, if for no other reason because it stars the woman who played Scarlett O'Hara. (20th Century Fox CinemaScope films of the same vintage play regularly on the station, e.g., How To Marry a Millionaire, Three Coins in the Fountain, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Anastasia, et al.) The critical success of David Mamet's adaptation of The Winslow Boy may stir interest in Rattigan once again - let's hope so.
The play itself was and remains a strong acting vehicle, especially for the woman who plays Hester. Faye Dunaway nearly did it in NYC for Roundabout, but somehow the star and the theater couldn't come to terms over contract demands, and it was revived instead with Blythe Danner (aka Ma Paltrow).
Let's hope that Vivien Leigh's performance will be available for viewing by movie fans and serious film and theater scholars alike in the near future. After all, she is one of the great actresses of the twentieth century cinema, and this is one of but eight films she made following Gone With the Wind.
An interesting footnote: Arthur Hill appears briefly in this film; later, when Vivien Leigh won a Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway musical Tovarich, Hill won the Tony for his dramatic turn in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. There is an amusing photograph of Leigh, Hill, and fellow winners Zero Mostel and Uta Hagen at the awards ceremony, circa 1963.
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