Saturday, July 7, 2012

Vivien Leigh

Today marks the 45th anniversary of Vivien Leigh's death.
Legendary Beauty
Alexander Walker, author of Vivien: The Life of Vivien Leigh, writes in his foreword:  "...Vivien died at fifty-three with tragic unexpectedness leaving millions the sadder for the extinction of that almost royal aura and beauty which could still suggest the dazzingly lovely girl - the 'lass unparallel'd', as one memorial puts it - who gained overnight celebrity in 1935, and never lost her power to fascinate her own generation and all subsequent ones."

Vivien Leigh as Lady Hamilton in That Hamilton Woman
Vivian Mary Hartley was born on November 5th, 1913, in Darjeeling, India. At the age of six, her parents, Gertrude and Ernest Hartley, enrolled her in the Convent of the Sacred Heart, located in England. At thirteen, her parents moved back from India and lived in several places in Europe. Each move meant a new school for Vivien. In 1932, she enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
She married her first husband, Leigh Holman, in December, 1932. In 1933, she gave birth to her only child, Suzanne.
Vivien on her wedding day to Leigh Holman
Vivien's first role was as a school-girl, in the movie, Things are Looking Up, in 1934. This was followed by roles in The Village Squire and Gentleman's Agreement.

Vivien's stage career began with The Green Sash, which only lasted about a week. However, her next play in 1935, The Mask of Virtue, had everyone talking. The role was Henriette, a prostitute masquerading as an "angel of purity".
The Mask of Virtue
Her second marriage was to the actor, Laurence Olivier. Of the nineteen movies that Vivien made, she starred with Olivier in three of them:  Fire Over England, Twenty-One Days and That Hamilton Woman.
Olivier and Leigh in Twenty-One Days
They also starred together in many plays such as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Sleeping Prince, Titus Andronicus and the list goes on!
Olivier and Leigh as ill-fated lovers Romeo and Juliet
She won two Oscars, both for playing southern women, though Vivien was whole-y British. The first Oscar was for her portrayal of Scarlett in Gone With The Wind.

Scarlett O'Hara

Taking a break on the set of GWTW
Her second Oscar was for her role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, a role which she'd originated on the British stage, under the direction of Olivier.
A Streetcar Named Desire
Vivien was a fashionista. In addition to acting, she also modeled for magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. With her striking beauty, she was a natural for their pages.

During her lifetime, Vivien suffered from tuberculosis and manic-depression (bipolar disorder). Unfortunately, back then, bipolar disorder was treated with shock therapy, which Viven underwent several times. She died July 7, 1967, just shy of her 54th birthday and was cremated.
Ms. Leigh
All photos are from my collection, except for this last, which came from a seller on ebay.

My fascination with Vivien Leigh began with Gone With The Wind. This legendary movie was only on TV once a year and it was a BIG deal in our house. As a teenager, I became fascinated with the love story of Leigh and Olivier. I began to collect as many articles and photos of these two amazingly talented people that I could find. Unfortunately, as a teenager, I didn't think twice about tearing up old magazines or cutting out the pictures and disregarding the rest. Of course, now I know what a big no-no that is! I have a huge collection of old theater magazines, photos, clippings and books that I'll share in a future post.

Thanks to everyone who stops by and reads this post dedicated to one of the world's greatest actresses.


Gina said...

She was so beautiful. I love seeing all these photos of her, especially that last one of her in the boat.

Ruthie Miller said...

She was so gorgeous. Thank you for this interesting post. The last picture is so haunting. I wonder if she lived now, her bi-polar disorder could be better managed. I have her biography and have not read it. I am very interested now.
Ruthie from

DogsMom said...

A beautiful actress and she starred in some classic movies that I love to watch over and over.