In Which We Decide To Live Within These Walls

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,

Two months ago I started dating a man named Shawn. We met through mutual friends and immediately clicked. Shawn runs his own business, a restaurant, but he is pretty good about making time for me. It’s a new relationship, but we have agreed not to see other people and give things a chance.

Shawn has asked me extensively about my dating past, and I have been truthful to him; granted there is not very much to tell. He is five years older than me, and when I ask him about previous girlfriends, he gets a bit uncomfortable. He did tell me about his most recent ex, a woman named Sheila. Naturally, I googled the fuck out of Sheila – she is an actress who has appeared in various television shows and resembles me to a certain extent. When I asked Shawn what happened, he just says it didn’t work out.

I want to be able to just let things go, but Sheila (not her real name) seems really amazing and it concerns me that I don’t know exactly what Shawn is thinking concerning her. How do I get over this?

Julia F.

Dear Julia,

(Un)Fortunately for you, this is one of those few, rare times where a situation gives you exactly two options.  You can either

a) trust that Shawn will open up in the future, since this is still an early time in the relationship, or

b) have a few whiskey sours at happy hour and demand an answer as to why he and Sheila broke up right before going to bed on a Tuesday. Hint: only one of these involves maintaining your dignity.

Exes are a touchy subject. To quote my friend, it’s a sens-y time. Some people, like you and me, want to be as open from the beginning of the relationship as possible. To us, being completely up front is a way of saying “I’m trusting you and us.” This makes it hard when others are not as eager, or willing, to share.  What we assume is a negative reflection on ourselves is really just a different way of processing a relationship. People like Shawn view complete, detailed honesty as earned, rather than deserved from the beginning. That’s not to say he’s texting Sheila on the sly, but maybe he’s just not ready to dig in to all of the reasons they broke up and all the feels it accompanied. It sounds like Shawn is just the Ron to your Hermione in terms of emotional expressiveness. Then again, Ron was a soulless ginger, but nobody’s perfect – not even this she-devil Sheila. She’s clearly the worst.

As a side note, if months pass and he’s still not fessing up – have a mature conversation as to why it is important to you that he shares more of his past. If he’s reasonable, he should be open to discussing it at least somewhat further detail. If he’s still being super sketchy, then maybe take route b and prepare for the hangover to follow.

Hi,

For the past few months, I have been dating a girl named Toni. Things seemed to be going well, but Toni’s ex, who I will call Daniel, cheated on her behind her back. Because of this, she has some trust issues and sometimes asks me who I am texting or calling in a very accusing way.

To be clear, I have no intention of going behind Toni’s back to do anything. I understand she has a difficult time trusting considering the circumstances, but the problem is this: seeing this needy and destructive side of her is making it difficulty for me to embrace her love wholeheartedly, since I know she is not all the way there with me. How can I keep this from souring our relationship?

Aaron T.

Dear Aaron,

A lot of people lack empathy, and can’t understand how their behavior affects others until they are on the receiving end of that same behavior. You don’t need to check Toni’s phone or ask who she is talking to – but maybe showing that you can be a little jealous, too will soften Toni’s attitude about the relationship.

Reassuring her that nothing is actually going on is probably what her ex-boyfriend did, time and time again. It’s what all liars do. Show her you are trustworthy, don’t tell her. Be offended by the implication without being angry, and try to change the subject.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording’s mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

 

In Which The Last Days Of John Keats Met Our Expectations

Piazza di Spagna

by LINDA EDDINGS

I am ashamed of writing you such stuff.

The last days of John Keats involved a great deal of wishing for death. Indigestion plagued his stomach, and the severity of his symptoms from tuberculosis drove him to leave England for Naples, where it was thought that a better climate would enhance his prospects. Because of his illness and general low prospects, none of Keats’ friends wanted to accompany him to Naples. Instead an acquaintance would go.

John Keats by Joseph Severn

The young painter Joseph Severn had little in the way of money, so he took on the job of caring for Keats. Storms prevented them from going any farther than Northampton at first, and Keats was deeply bothered by a female passenger suffering from consumption. He had observed years earlier that “Milton meant a smooth river.”

Keats had already left his previous life behind when he boarded the Maria Crowther. He penned goodbye letters to his sister and fiancée, both of whom were named Fanny. On board the Crowther he could not even muster the strength to masturbate and regretted never having sex with Fanny Brawne. “I should have had her while I was in health,” he complained to a friend.

She contrived to disappoint me in a way which made me feel more pleasure than a simple kiss.

Because of an outbreak of typhus in London, the Crowther was quarantined for ten days. Keats described his chest as burning with the fire of hot coals, and continued to regularly write letters to his friend Charles Brown. Penguin has recently put together the best of Keats’ letters in a single collection, and although some are childish, others contain the best writing of the period.

He understands many a beautiful thing, but then, instead of giving other minds credit for the same degree of perception as he himself possesses, he begins an explanation on such a curious manner that our taste and self love is offended continually.

After his ship was again quarantined outside of Naples. Keats moved to Rome, into an apartment at the Piazza di Spagna. “The very thing I want to live most for will be the great occasion of my death,” he explained somewhat insincerely in one of his last letters. He spit up what Severn noted was “fawn-coloured phlegm,” and Keats’ doctor predicted diarrhea. Their plan for daily walks through the plaza was now out of the question.

Severn gave up the responsibility for administering opium to Keats’ doctor, because he was giving John too much of the substance. Dr. Clark hired a nurse because Severn would stay up all night sketching Keats to keep him company, never bothering to sleep. “He talks of a quiet grave as the first rest he will ever have,” Severn wrote.

Severn had never eaten so well in his life as he did by Keats’ bedside. He served Keats bread and milk every day, because it was all the man could keep down. For himself he had fish or meat, and always pudding afterwards. He loved the convenience of having fresh produce in Italy. Keats finally feel asleep for good one night in Severn’s arms.

Casts were made of Keat’s face, hands and foot. Doctors found in the autopsy that his lungs had been entirely devastated for the past two months. Despite not really knowing each other all that well, Severn and Keats are buried next to each other in Rome’s Protestant Cemetery. All of Keats’ friends in Italy put daisies on his grave.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Manhattan. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about Simon.

“Words” – Seinabo Sey (mp3)

“Pretend” – Seinabo Sey (mp3)

In Which We Find A Hero More Engaging Than Lizzie Borden

Herowhen

by DICK CHENEY

While waiting for Game of Thrones to come back so I can dash off 1000-word essays about how the lack of subtlety in the performance of Daenerys Targaryen irks both me and my wife for completely different reasons, I have been watching a lot of bad television. I have also been preparing some reaction gifs for when Littlefinger and Lady Stoneheart consummate a most delicious union.

Outside of Game of Thrones, where Arya Stark prepares for the day when she can let a man run her life, heroines are hard to come by. Not even the Lifetime network is capable of creating a sympathetic one, although they give it the old college try in the new series The Lizzie Borden Chronicles.

I should redo my kitchen.

Ricci is deeply experienced at acting wacky and crazy, and The Lizzie Borden Chronicles takes advantage of this by showing her killing her father and stepfather in flashback a lot. Jonathan Banks is also involved, and what remains of Cole Hauser’s career – he really should have been nicer to Vin Diesel on the set of Pitch Black.

Borden has a few fun lines scaring the local children, but I guess the real secret is that she isn’t all that out of her mind – it’s the world that surrounds her that is. This means she is deeply familiar with the work of Sheryl Sandberg. As incredibly unfun as The Lizzie Borden Chronicles is to watch, at least one person is enjoying herself.

“The part of Lizzie Borden’s more conservative sister” attracted hundreds to an open casting call.

I was on the ground floor of the feminist revolution. I co-wrote Patricia Arquette’s speech at the Oscars, and I also personally knew Elizabeth Cady Stanton. We loved to watch Matlock together and eat what she called crisps, which I later learned were fried lentil beans. I once parked Gloria Steinem’s car — the inside smelled like wet paint and chromosomes.

If you look at so many shows on television, a new female archetype has emerged. It is capable, confident well-rounded woman who talks sense and gives peace of mind to the swirling winds of change that surrounds her. Jimmy McGill’s love interest on Better Call Saul, Gillian Anderson in The Fall, Mireille Enos in The Killing, the woman playing the zombie detective, any female character that Matthew Weiner writes, every single role ever portrayed by Anna Gunn or Blake Lively…

can’t help but feel that Jon Snow would have been right for this all important role

Actually, I will now retract all the awful things I ever said about Blake Lively. If The Age of Adaline is successful, think of all the wonderful roles Blake Lively will be associated with in the years to follow: Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Bradley Manning, the Chelsea Handler biopic.

Sure, it’s a little late to become a movie star — I believe Blake is 43 or thereabouts — but she has so many of the things we have come to expect in our leading ladies. Charm, and vivaciousness, a low ask, and the capacity for “amicable silence.” We will need strong, feminine women like Blake in the time to come, because all our heroes have died (Clint Eastwood has been dead for over eight years) or desiccated into this:

This is not even his final form.

But what am I saying… Harrison Ford is still definitely a person, and Blake Lively can only carry his career to new heights. Blake’s husband’s career has crashed and burned after he unwittingly accepted a bizarre role where he played Helen Mirren’s love interest.

It will be up to Blake Lively to carry the financial end of things in the relationship until the inevitable sequel to The Proposal materializes when Sandra Bullock enters her 60s and needs to provide for her kids.

Two friends often sit together this way, in Sodom.

You see Adaline has looked “29” for a long time, and she can’t let anyone know about this awful secret, because I guess they might get jealous? Then she bumps into a “charismatic” philanthropist whose dad is played by whatever is left of Harrison Ford.

About half of the women in Hollywood passed on The Age of Adaline, although it might have been good luck for the producers as both Katherine Heigl and Natalie Portman lack the charm that Blake Lively last captivated audiences with in…um…OK, Katherine Heigl would have been fantastic, but her aging would have made The Age of Adaline a bit nonsensical.

After 100 years, pretty much everyone is going to try a three-way.

Apparently heroines can only actually exist in the past. The real stories of women who are doing things other than living a long time are being swept under the rug. I don’t know how Suki Waterhouse put up with Bradley Cooper for that long. Who is lining up to tell her story? Harrison Ford’s agent is too busy torpedoing his client’s careers by letting him being viewed onscreen as Father Time to get this important project off the ground.

Women are capable, more than capable, of having other virtues. They are not just crazy or modest, ageless or aged, Jewish or gentile. They possess other, more subtle aspects to them that are apparently not evident to a diseased Hollywood afraid to cast a woman as anything other than a young starlet or a senior citizen. The 50s were a wonderful time for me — it’s when I started my first blog.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

“Lilacs” – Hannah Cohen (mp3)

In Which Our Mind Already Feels Considerably Sharper

painting by Roxann Poppe Leibenhaut

My Life As An Object

by DAN CARVILLE

It was as stupid a piece of advice as I ever received when someone told me to do what I love.

You know those old cartoons where the eyelashes of women are so carefully managed they appear to twinkle, extend and shine? That is what I felt like in the world.

Seeing anyone more than once was either too often or not enough.

+

I did not want to give her something to do. I knew that if she did well at anything writing, fashion, her relationships with friends and it went sour, it could come back on me. I might be blamed for it. When I told this to my therapist, a grim look came over his face. He said, “That is not very loving.”

We argued a lot. I have heard that is not a good sign. We constantly went back and forth about sleeping arrangements. She was not comfortable at rest. She was lactose intolerant, but always drank milk in her coffee. It took her a month for her to say that she sometimes left our bed out of embarrassment. I bought her a dairy free creamer but she never used it.

+

In Portland the shapes of the others changed, becoming more ethereal. I could stand on one corner and see something completely desirable, so much so that I felt like crossing the street, but never did. There is a politeness that restricts me from making a fool out of myself, and it constitutes a retaining wall impervious to anything except for lust and coincidence.

Waking leaves me in this same body again. So many have taken it in, pressed against it for one reason or another. Even if the number were only a few, the sensation it gives me now is inexhaustible.

Everyone that I know is thinking of another place to be other than the one they are.

+

She had moved in with me on a Friday with the thought we’d have the entire weekend to ourselves. She only took the drug when she was alone, and she did not use at all until I came home from work on Monday. She was watching Adventure Time with a glassy smile. Under the influence of the drug her features became more refined, her body assumed an enticing flow. Of course she was more detached, I had to keep telling myself. Watching her, it felt like one part bled into another.

To write of this when I had not lived before with someone in this way still strikes me as bracingly familiar.

+

I read Susan’s story, and it seemed like a nightmare and heaven in equal parts. She makes a kind of sense, but only a kind, like seven slices out of a pizza. I read Tropic of Cancer and felt like a scarecrow. In these last months I have learned to accept the wandering mindset, even let it infect me for a time. But I cannot imagine, even for a moment, their fantasies.

The words which trigger the onset of understanding are all the first ones I learned, and the last.

+

The last time I saw her she met me after a salon appointment. The fact that when her hair was viewed from the correct angle it substantially improved her countenance only added to the trauma. She looked bored. But then she said, “How’s work?” and for a gripping second I thought that something more important hinged on the small talk.

After that, I knew the only reason she had come was because she did not know how to tell me no. She said, “Can you ask your mother something for me?” A moment later, she received a phone call from her friend. I never did find out what it was she wanted.

+

When I talk to someone on the internet, I try not to construe them as a virtual, a computer program designed to respond to me and only me. I am shocked all I say will not be remembered.

I drove from Omaha to Austin with a wedding present in my backseat. I went from San Jose to San Diego; even up close the cars seemed like ants. Sensing the presence of another hinted at a prelude to intimacy, but in fact the reverse was true, or as true.

Do you like the poetry of Dr. Williams? Do you think that any of it is a lie?

+

The drug would put her to sleep. I will not say what it was, not out of respect for her, but for myself. Whether that is loving or not, I don’t truly know.

+

In New York things speed up or slow down completely. Now, in the darkness, the others sit or stand. I can make nothing of strangers and to try to know them is a losing battle. I want them to know me, not the other way around. It’s easier.

Whatever I did, I take it back.

When I go online, there is a reminder written in ink on my hand, twisted into a circle, but many-sided. The green icon, percolating like water on a stove. To step faster, per diem, and allow the change to render itself completely. Available.

+

Two months before she left, when things felt like they had reached some kind of pleasant equilibrium, I bought a kitten. I know that’s a dumb fucking thing to do. My therapist told me that I did not do this for her at all, but for myself as a reaction to the change.

She would use in the morning and fall asleep. By the time I walked in the door she was happy to see me. She wanted nothing more than for it to be the weekend. I came home one night and she’d prepared dinner, a task she had never shown interest in before. 

+

In San Francisco, where even the wind blows mild in comparison, someone once told me that the way you could tell between a human and an automaton was the manner in which they held a book. I asked the man who said this what would happen if books disappeared and he said, “Do you have a Kindle?”

Running in place. Everybody does it. I hate that word, everybody.

+

My therapist told me that there is nothing wrong with a personality shift if it is conscious. The only unintended personality shift that is positive comes from conditioning, whether it be in a military setting or a prison.

The cat died the third week we had her. First she went blind, and then she died. 

+

My mind feels sharper and I know that I am myself more educated, due to an increase of neurons firing in the brain. On one level I find this invigorating, filling me with the thought I have changed and the process by which others notice will, at the end of any given moment, start to begin.

When I do carry a book, I struggle to figure out how I should hold it.

Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about the moon.

“Can You Blame Me?” – Matt & Kim (mp3)

“Hoodie On” – Matt & Kim (mp3)

In Which We Cover Ourselves In A Glorious Sheen

A Flytrap But For Happiness

by KARA VANDERBIJL

On a cold day in early March, during work hours, the Lincoln Park conservatory is mostly empty. Its few visitors pause in the palm house, where it’s warm. We shed scarves and sweaters and tie up our hair. We’re covered in a glorious sheen of sweat.

“Are you getting dripped on?” I ask my friend. She’s burying her face in a plant at toe level. Her laughter comes through a veil of humidity. I’m lightheaded from sudden muscle relaxation and birthday breakfast mimosas, champagne with a drop of orange juice. Everything’s so lush and slow, it’s seductive. It smells sexy in here.

I wonder:

Do flowers smell different to different people?

Why are the undersides of so many leaves purple?

Why is that man talking so loudly on his cell phone?

How old are these koi?

Mimosa pudica, sensitive plant: Where have I seen that name before?


Mimosa — obviously, we giggled it while my friend fried bacon and stirred a chocolate gravy for biscuits out of a can. I poured champagne into tilted mason jar goblets. We were up early because we went to see the sunrise, read Mary Oliver on the banks of Lake Michigan and watch Chicago twinkling on the horizon. I was drunk before 9 a.m., because I turned 27 and Chicago turned 178.

Pudica sounds dirty, like pute, a word we shouted at girls we didn’t like in French high school. I’m telling my friend about this article I read in the New Yorker about plant consciousness, and when I go to email her the link, l see this:

Mimosa pudica, also called “sensitive plant,” is that rare plant species with a behavior so speedy and visible that animals can observe it; the Venus flytrap is another. When the fernlike leaves of the mimosa are touched, they instantly fold up, presumably to frighten insects. 

+

In a hot bath oolong unfurls its fists, relaxes into the steam. The second cup is best. After three, the leaves’ liquor weakens. I sip even the sediment. I wear a green sweater. Everything’s growing. My razor is rusted. My windows yawn, jaws cracking.

Conservatory: The interior of a tea salon in a dicey neighborhood in Marseilles, France. Monsieur Kim, its owner, employed his stepdaughter to whisper to patrons about green, black, and white varieties while chocolate tarts heated in a concealed microwave. The tarts were the only thing manufactured about the place, and even they probably came from some neighborhood patisserie. M. Kim brought tea back from trips to China and Japan, which he then stored in giant tins behind the counter. We’d come in twice, three times a week to sit in the dark basement of his shop, hung with gauzy drapes, and we’d sip tea and get high on incense. I was new to tea and drowned cubes of sugar in it. We ordered teas with fancy names: In the Mood for Love, Imperial Jasmine, Thousand and One Nights.


We invited boys, but they didn’t come. Just as well. It was a place for teenage girls and people in love. It was a sacred space that, like us, would have crumbled if criticized. Here we talked about the boys who — we were convinced — just needed more time to steep. We fell asleep on each other’s shoulders after the caffeine wore off and the sugar dipped low. We waited for our futures to brew.

The store shuttered not long after I left France, and I lost the heart to visit its gated front on subsequent visits. Were we the ones keeping it alive? Where do teenage girls in Marseilles go now to eat microwaved chocolate tarts and drink Imperial Jasmine and sigh about boys?

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. You can subscribe to her Tinyletters here.

“Another Night On Mars” – The Maine (mp3)

“English Girls” – The Maine (mp3)

In Which Disparaging These Individuals Remains Wrong

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,

My cousin Artis has been dating a woman named Jessica for around a year. We have some older family members who from time to time will say things that are less than politically correct. Jessica seems to go out of her way to lecture them about what they have said or criticize my grandmother, great-aunt and her husband, letting everyone know what she thinks is wrong about their point of view.

I understand expressing your beliefs, but at some point don’t you just have to back off? The individuals involved are in their 80s, and in one case, 94.

Jared R.

Dear Jared,

It depends on exactly what kind of faux pas we are talking about here. I myself use what I call the Pat Buchanan test. People became so immune to the horrendous things that Pat Buchanan says on the McLaughlin Group that after he would make his usual disgusting statement, Eleanor Clift would just be like “I don’t think so” and resume her explanation of how ovaries work.

Every once and awhile Pat would be like, “I blame Harvey Weinstein for this,” and although he was occasionally right, he was sometimes wrong and the motivation for the comment was suspect.

If your elders are saying something about gays or Asians that is one thing. The ABC network has proved it is okay to disparage these groups publicly, especially if that critique takes the form of a televised sitcom.

If, on the other hand, your great aunt’s husband is going after Patricia Arquette or Brianna Wu, call the police. It should never be wrong to tell the truth or set someone straight, and I fail to see how advanced age plays into it. We don’t lose our ability to act like human beings just because we were born before the Civil Rights Act.

Hi,

With the upcoming return of Game of Thrones, my roommate Jamie will be hosting his weekly Winterfell gatherings in our apartment. Since I host similar events from time to time not based on HBO fantasy series, I have no problem with these groupings.

My issue is with a particular friend of Jamie’s who insists on explaining the backstory of every single character who comes onscreen for the new viewers who may be casually watching this week’s episode or are just not able to follow all the action that happens when a Lannister pays his debts. I understand this friend is trying to be helpful, but his behavior is not only super-annoying, but it turns the hour-long show into a ninety-minute feature with not-director commentary. How can I prevent him from ever recounting the particulars of Littlefinger’s childhood in front of my loved ones again?

Brad C.

Dear Brad,

Sounds like you need to bring a Game of Thrones ringer into the picture. Someone who can see an expression on Tyrion Lannister’s face and ascribe it to a particular prostitute that his father might have procured for him on the mean streets of King’s Landing.

With this even bigger know-it-all shouting loudly over the far more prosaic, simple, rudimentary background information of your friend Jamie’s friend, all your problems will be solved. Or maybe just plan a night out and watch it later. It’s important to make Game of Thrones last; there is only so much of it that George R.R. Martin can write between his monologues about how much he hates fan fiction.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording’s mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

 

“Not Just Anything” – I’m From Barcelona (mp3)

“Sirens” – I’m From Barcelona (mp3)

In Which Laurence Olivier Leaves His Wife For Vivien Leigh

Misunderstandings

by ALEX CARNEVALE

1937. Laurence Olivier was very displeased with his marriage, so he began to look elsewhere. He registered in hotels with Vivien Leigh as Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Kerr. (Leigh was herself in an unhappy, sexless marriage with an older man she had met at 18.) When Vivien got out of the bathtub the first time Laurence ever saw her nude, she said simply, “Now I’ll show you how I do it.”

While he performed in Henry V, the two couples stayed in the same hotel so his fucks were more accessible. He planned a home in Chelsea where he and Leigh could live together. The two exchanged affection onstage as Hamlet and Ophelia, in full view of their spouses. “This welding closeness tripped the obvious decision, and two marriages were severed,” Olivier later wrote. Vivien would not be able to divorce her husband Herbert Holman until years afterwards.

wedding photo from Olivier’s unhappy first marriage

As soon as they were openly together, Olivier changed his will, giving Vivien the lion’s share of his estate. To his ex-wife Jill Esmond and Leigh he wrote, “It is my most earnest wish that my wife and Vivien shall live in friendliness and harmony of spirit both forgiving and forgetting any possible bitterness that may perhaps be between them.”

Olivier hated vacations, but that first year with Vivien he took two; one in Italy and one in France. While they were on the Riviera, Laurence was offered Wuthering Heights. They quarreled over the role that Vivien would get; she wanted the larger part of Cathy but William Wyler insisted Merle Oberon would play that part.

They shot Wuthering Heights in Los Angeles, and Wyler and Olivier just could not get along. The main conflict was over the amount of overacting Olivier was intent on doing as Heathcliff. (Wyler just wanted Olivier to be himself, and was undoubtedly correct in his appraisal.) “We argued and argued and I must say he didn’t argue very brilliantly,” Olivier wrote Leigh. “I suspect he must have good instinct with no brains.”

Things went no better between Laurence and his leading lady Merle Oberon, who accused him of spitting on her in close-ups.

Laurence Olivier missed Vivien terribly, especially sailing from England to New York.

Olivier refused to take cabin 69, thinking she might disapprove, and spent most of the trip drunk. “I love thinking of you when water is rushing past my face,” he wrote her. “I always used to find a cold sponge very soothing at Capri – do you remember? Great comfort in thoughts of you while in water. I must have a pre-natal wish, somewhere, to be your child.” Ew.

Los Angeles wasn’t much better for Olivier’s loneliness. “My dearest little darling passionate supreme love – I am with you, and round you, and in you all the time, my treasure.” Eventually, Vivien made her way to him. “HOW GLORIOUS. WILL MAKE ARRANGEMENT FOR EIGHT HEAVENLY DAYS,” he telegraphed. “I AM SO HAPPY. SHOULD DIE WITHOUT YOU ANY LONGER. DELICIOUS LOVE.” He later added “I DIE TILL YOU COME.”

Olivier in drag for “The Taming of the Shrew”

Vivien’s reasons for the trip were far more logical. When Hamish Hamilton asked why she was going, she explained, “Partly because Larry’s there, and partly because I intend to get the part of Scarlett O’Hara.”

For the Oscar-winning role Vivien received only $25,000, and was under David O. Selznick’s thumb for the next seven years. This incensed Olivier, who hated the slimy producer long before this. When Olivier brought his doubts to Selznick, the bastard told him, “Larry, don’t be a shit twice.”

with Marilyn Monroe, who he loathed

Leigh and Olivier were far from happy to be in America. “In fact,” she told her soon to be ex-husband, “I do not think there is anything nice about America except the football, and the politeness of men in garages.” But when Wuthering Heights came out, Olivier was an instant star in the country. Olivier appealed to both men and women in a deeply sexual way.

He quickly learned that this approval could vanish in an instant after he tried to star in his own Romeo and Juliet with Leigh in New York. The audience could barely hear Vivien, and Laurence as a brooding Romeo was a bit old for the part. The reviews were savage.

note to Vivien about doing his hair

Olivier lost $96,000 on Romeo and Juliet, and could not wait to get home to England. Unfortunately, he picked an awkward time to flop: France was fading, and English children were making the trip West to America for safety. When Olivier and Leigh landed in Bristol, they were in the middle of an air raid and the plane nearly went down.

Wanting to aid the war effort, Olivier enlisted in the Royal Air Force. Instead of bunking with the cadets, he and Leigh lived in a bungalow near the base, which she furnished with paintings and a few Indian rugs from their place in London. “I’ve always thought that my performance as a naval officer was the best bit of character work I’ve ever done,” Olivier lied.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

“Moon Never Rises” – Calexico (mp3)

“Woodshed Waltz” – Calexico (mp3)