January 2, 2017


Vivien Leigh (1913-1967) b. Darjeeling, India.

Vivien Leigh

Vivian Mary Hartley was born in India, the daughter of a junior partner in a firm of stockbrokers. She moved to England in 1920, went to school at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Roehampton, and later entered RADA.

Aged 18, she took a break from training to marry barrister Leigh Holman. She returned to acting in 1933, and within eighteen months had adopted the stage name Vivien Leigh. With virtually no stage experience, she made her film debut in the quota quickie called Things Are Looking Up (1935), and shortly afterwards, the producer Anthony Havelock-Allan cast her in two quota films for Paramount. A spectacular appearance in Ashley Dukes’s costume-play Mask of Virtue brought her a five-year £50,000 contract with Alexander Korda’s London Films.

Her first film for Korda was Fire over England (1937), with Leigh and Laurence Olivier cast as two lovers at the court of Queen Elizabeth. Korda subsequently loaned Leigh to MGM, who were filming A Yank at Oxford (1938) at Denham Studios.

In 1938, whilst visiting Oliver in Hollywood, Leigh discovered that the part of Scarlett O’Hara was still not cast, though Gone with the Wind (1938) was in production. The young actress made tests, and the most coveted part in the world was offered to her on the condition that she signed a seven year contract with David O. Selznick. Hollywood duly awarded her the first Oscar of her career for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Leigh married Olivier in California in 1940, after her marriage to Holman and Olivier’s marriage to actress Jill Esmond had been dissolved. When Olivier wanted her for the Princess in his film of Henry V (1944), David Selznick restrained her from appearing.

She made a two-fold success as Tennessee Williams’s Blanche Du Bois, first under Olivier’s direction on the London stage, and again in the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) directed by Elia Kazan, in which her performance gained her an Oscar for the second time.

In her last Hollywood film she portrayed a divorced American woman in Stanley Kramer’s Ship of Fools (1965). Vivien Leigh was found dead in bed due to a severe bout of tuberculosis at her London home aged 53.

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