Today's letter enticed me to watch Love Among the Ruins (1975), a film made especially for television, directed by George Cukor and starring Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier in their only film together. It's a charming film about an ageing actress who, after having been sued for breach of promise, hires a lawyer with whom she was romantically involved some 40 years ago; although she doesn't remember him, he has been in love with her ever since.
What makes the film so delightful are the great performances by the leads, in particular by Laurence Olivier whom I loved in this role. Both Hepburn and Cukor wanted Olivier as the male lead from the start but Olivier wasn't interested in the project at all, as his letter to Cukor dated 27 November 1973 indicates (seen below). According to an interesting Emanuel Levy article, Hepburn and Cukor tried to persuade Olivier to accept the role by writing him a long letter back, asking several questions: "Do you find the relationship–thus cast–not interesting? Do you find it not funny? Do you find it too trivial? Would there be any particular thing which could make you do it, and if so, what? Say it's just hopeless, and we will both blow our brains out." Adding more pressure Cukor then jokingly mentioned their greatest individual failures: "What a combo! The star of Romeo and Juliet; the girl who was so successful in The Lake; and the director–fresh from his success–of Gone With the Wind. Irresistible!". To this Olivier had no defense and finally accepted.
Love Among the Ruins was a huge success, receiving seven Emmy Awards including awards for Cukor, Hepburn and Olivier.
27th November 1973
My dearest Georgie,
I am a hell of a coward not to have got on to you before you left. Let me grovel before you about this, and now I have to grovel again about the opinion - which can be as wrong as all get out but it does insist and therefore has to be sincere - I don't honestly like the feeling of the film of LOVE AMONG THE RUINS, and what makes me feel so badly about not liking it is my opinion is an absolute polarization from yours and from Kate's, whose opinions I respect more than almost anybody else's I can think of.
I am dreadfully sorry but try as I may I just can't change my opinion or make my love and deep admiration for you both alter it to come into line with yours. I can't imagine why this is and there must be something wrong with me. I hope it isn't serious and I hope that it won't make both or either of you feel differently about thinking of me for such a heavensent partnership at some other time.
It was marvellous to see you last week and I can't tell you how Joanie [Plowright] and I ate up your most generous and delicious words of praise for what you saw.
Your appalledly contrite but ever devoted and worshipful,
Mr. George Cukor