General.. ..VL Films
• 1935 THINGS ARE LOOKING UP
• 1935 VILLAGE SQUIRE
• 1935 GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT
• 1935 LOOK UP &amp;amp; LAUGH
• 1937 FIRE OVER ENGLAND
• 1937 DARK JOURNEY
• 1937 STORM IN A TEACUP
• 1938 A YANK AT OXFORD
• 1938 ST MARTIN'S LANE/SIDEWALKS OF LONDON
• 1939 GONE WITH THE WIND
• 1940 TWENTY-ONE DAYS/21 DAYS TOGETHER
• 1940 WATERLOO BRIDGE
• 1941 LADY HAMILTON/THAT HAMILTON WOMAN!
• 1946 CAESAR &amp;amp; CLEOPATRA
• 1948 ANNA KARENINA
• 1952 A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
• 1955 THE DEEP BLUE SEA
• 1962 THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE
• 1965 SHIP OF FOOLS
1935 The Green Sash
1935 Mask of Virtue
1936 Richard II
1936 The Happy Hypocrite
1936 Henry VIII
1937 Because We Must
1937 Bats on the Belfry
1937 A Midsummer Night's Dream
1938 Serena Blandish
1940 Romeo and Juliet
1942 The Doctor's Dilemma
1942 The School for Scandal
1942 The Skin of Our Teeth
1942 Spring Party
1945 The Skin of Our Teeth
1946 Richard III, School for Scandal, Skin of Our Teeth
1949 School for Scandal, Richard III, Antigone
1949 Streetcar Named Desire
1951 Caesar and Cleopatra, Antony and Cleopatra
1953 The Sleeping Prince
1955 Twelfth Night, Macbeth, Titus Andronicus
1956 South Sea Bubble
1957 Titus Andronicus
1958 Duel of Angels
1959 Look After Lulu
1960 Duel of Angels
1961-1962 Twelfth Night, Duel of Angels, Lady of the Camellias
1965 The Contessa
VL's Favorite Poem
Lord Give Us... by Robert Louis Stevenson
"Lord, give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere. Give us grace to accept and to forgive offenders. Forgetful ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully the forgetfulness of others. Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind. Spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies. Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavors . . . If it may not, give us the strength to encounter that which is to come, that we be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath . . . and in all changes of fortune . . . and down to the gates of death, loyal and loving one to another. We beseech of Thee this help and mercy for Christ's sake."
-VL loved fine taylored suits when working and practically never leave home without gloves, long gloves in all colors. She adored light airy summer dresses-mauve and blue colors best
-VL's favorite cologne was Joy by Patou. She would always gift Dior
-At one time, VL had about 16 Siamese cats scattered about throughout her homes and flats. VL adored cats
-VL's luggage was monogrammed "VLO", even after she and Larry divorced.
-VL's favorite car was her Rolls Royce. You'd know it was her driving because "VLO" was on the license plate.
-When VL was off shooting, she always had the Times delivered so she could keep up with the crossword puzzles.
-VL collected china... From all over the world... mostly in her favorite color, white!
Quotes about VL
Olivia de Havilland - "I remember her coming forward to greet me [for the first time] and to shake hands with me, with her special air of cool, contained, and delicately assured good manners. In thinking now of that moment the recollection of her evokes all sorts of images: quicksilver; elegance and composure, like a small Siamese cat; and the tinkling charm of a Chinese wind lantern.
Douglas Fairbanks - "Her beauty never left her - nor did her humour. Only her life."
Miss Rachel Kempson - "Some of the many things I admire: her care over friendships, love of people, love and care over her garden, her love of paintings, interest in books, generosity over other people's performances."
David Niven - "I'll never forget her flower arrangements. Nor her love of Alex Korda. Nor all those cats. Her ridiculous laughter, her fabulous generosity of heart and her guts in adversity."
Anthony Quayle - "She could have been the model for the little faience snake-goddess which was found at Knossos and is now in the museum at Candia - fascinating, alluring, compelling, and potentially dangerous, not only to others but to herself."
Terrence Rattigan - "It somehow seems sad that so marvellous and beauitful a person will be remembered by so many, many millions only as 'that girl who was Scarlett O'Hara.'"
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"It's much easier to make people cry than to make them laugh."
"People who are very beautiful make their own laws."
"Scorpios burn themselves out and eat themselves up and they are careless about themselves - like me. I swing between happiness and misery and I cry easily. I am a mixture of my mother's determination and my father's optimism. I am part prude and part non-conformist and I say what I think and don't dissemble. I am a mixture of French, Irish and Yorkshire, and perhaps that's what it all is."
"A woman's charm is fifty percent illusion."
About me:..ATTENTION: There will be absolutely NO Advertisement postings allowed. This page is to pay tribute to Vivien Leigh ONLY. If you do post any advertisements, your profile and comment will be deleted! ..
Vivien Leigh was born Vivian Mary Hartley on the evening of Wednesday November 5th, 1913 in her parents home in Darjeeling, India. Her father, Ernest Hartley, was born in Yorkshire England in 1883, and had moved to India at the age of 22 in search of a career and adventure. He became involved with a brokerage firm, spent time racing horses, and acted in The Calcutta Dramatic Society. Vivien's mother, Gertrude Yackjee, although from Irish descendants, was also born in Darjeeling India, in 1888. Friends of the Hartleys said that Gertrude, with her dark hair, blue eyes, and peach-like skin (traits Vivien would inherit), was very beautiful in her youth, more so than Vivien. The Yackjee side of the family also had Armenian descendants which may have influenced Vivien's dark Eastern looks.
Meeting originally in Calcutta, Vivien's parents traveled to London where they were married in 1912. They then returned to India and settled in Darjeeling, a city within site of Mount Everest. A year after their marriage, Vivien was born, 'a most enchanting little girl with wonderful colouring'. Enjoying elements of fantasy and drama as a child, she was encourage to read early on and became fond of authors such as Rudyard Kipling, Hans Christian Anderson, and Lewis Carroll. She moved to England with her family at the age of 6 in 1920, returning to India only briefly in the 1960's.
On September 21st, 1920, Vivien was placed in the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton, and did not see her parents again for almost a year and a half. She was educated at the Convent for the subsequent 8 years, and 'from early on she showed poised, self -containment, and the ability to sustain a private existence.' Her first stage appearances at school were in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (playing the fairy), and in The Tempest (as Miranda). She studied ballet, played the cello in the school orchestra, and excelled at piano - taking her music exam at the Royal Academy of Music when she was a teenager. Vivien was also fascinated early on in different languages, Egyptian history, and learned to speak French fluently.
Vivien was so tiny and delicately made, with wonderful large blue eyes and chestnut wavy hair nearly to her waist, the tiny retrousse nose, the only complexion I have ever seen that really was like a peach.
- Patsy Quinn, family friend
Vivien stayed briefly at a sister convent of the Sacred Heart in San Remo, the capital of the Italian Riviera, during 1928-29. At the age of 15, she went to Paris to spend a term at a finishing school in Auteuil. She was the youngest student in the school, however she was already moving from the awkward youth phase into a charming, dark haired beauty that would later bring much fame. The purpose of the finishing school in France was 'to teach French - language and literature - and to send the girls out into the world with a good marriage set firmly in their sights.'1 At Christmas of that year, 1929, Vivien was chosen to be the heroine of the school play. Encouraged by her schoolmistress, she was inspired to work on her diction and acting abilities. This early help pushed her further towards an interest in a career on stage. Her final two years of education were at yet another finishing school, this time in the Bavarian Alps, which concluded her schooling in June of 1931 - halfway towards her 17th birthday. During this time, she developed an interest in the visual arts and continued to study languages - notably French and German.
In January of 1932 Vivien met Leigh Holman while staying at her aunt's in Teignmouth, England. He was a man 13 years her senior, but possessed a charm and intelligence Vivien found captivating. Born in 1900, Leigh was educated in Cambridge and practiced as a Barrister-at-Law. An attachment quickly developed between the two and they spent several months courting and corresponding. In May of 1932, Vivien began to study at RADA, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Life was looking up - she was about to marry a man she greatly admired, and she was studying acting in a well know academy. Much to her dismay, Vivien abandoned the academy, at Leigh's request, once they became serious about marriage. The wedding between Leigh and Vivien took place on December 20th 1932, at St. James's Cathedral. Shortly after they returned from their honeymoon in Austria, Vivien obtained Leigh's permission to return to RADA and she continued to study acting. A year passed and Vivien gave birth to a daughter on October 10th 1933, naming her Suzanne. At this point, things seemed to have settled into domestic life for Vivien. Her destiny would not remain domestic for long however, she had just heard of the chance for a small part in a new film entitled Things are Looking Up…
The year was 1934. On August 21st, Vivien arrived at Lime Grove Studios to begin work on her first film, Things are Looking Up. Work progressed slowly and when the film was finished, her one line of dialogue was cut from an already small role. In September, Vivien went to see a play called Theatre Royal starring a popular new stage actor, Laurence Olivier. She returned several times to see him act, intrigued by his good looks and stage presence. She even said to a girlfriend, 'that's the man I'm going to marry', knowing quite well that both she and her new matinee idol were already married. For the next several months Vivien worked on stage and appeared in two minor films; The Village Squire, a comedy, and Gentleman's Agreement, in which she played an unemployed typist. Her husband Leigh, felt this was just a fling with acting - one that would soon get out of her system. He hoped she would return to her domestic role of wife and mother, but it now seemed unlikely - Vivien was determined to continue acting.
In the spring of 1935, Vivien's talent agent succeeded in getting her a part in a comedy entitled Look Up and Laugh, starring Gracie Fields - George Burns wife and comedy partner. During this time, she auditioned for a leading role in a costume play called The Mask of Virtue. Her acting skills from her work at the academy had improved enough that Vivien succeeded in winning the part. After several months of rehearsals while continuing to work in the studio on her 4th film, the The Mask of Virtue opened on May 15th, 1935. The play was a great success and Vivien became an overnight sensation. Alexander Korda, the famous European film producer, happened to be present on opening night (invited by the play's director) and he asked her to sign a contract that would guarantee 50 thousand pounds over a 5 year period. This contract, if it had been completed, would have resulted in 10 films in Britain from the period between 1935 and 1940. Vivien ended up making only 6 films before leaving for Hollywood in 1938.
After The Mask of Virtue ended its run, Vivien waited for another success to feed her new found fame, but it did not arrive as easily. The remainder of 1935 was slow, and she performed in a few more plays of less importance. One thing of note did occur however - she was introduced to her matinee idol, Laurence Olivier, at the trendy Savoy Grill in London.
Laurence Olivier was 7 years her elder, born in Dorking, England, of Anglo-Catholic parents. He obtained a scholarship to the Central School of Speech and Drama, and made his way to the London stage by the time he was 21. He married his first wife, Jill Esmond Moore, also an actress in July of 1930. When Olivier was 28, he went to Hollywood and made three minor films, returning to England in 1932, unhappy with the results. Soon after, he acquired success as a matinee stage idol, performing in various works including Shakespeare. In August 1936, he was asked to co-star in what would be Vivien's first film for Alexander Korda, Fire Over England. Olivier played a sailor sent to Spain on an important mission for the Queen. Vivien played Cynthia, the Queen's lady-in-waiting, and his new found love. This film gave the two rising stars time to spend with each other on screen and off, and their relationship grew stronger. It was long hours of work and they spent whatever chance they could together alone. Shooting Dark Journey started immediately afterward for Vivien, co-starring Conrad Veidt. She had the leading role in a spy drama about a clothing shop owner who worked secretly for the government.
To continue her new film contract, Vivien was then due to star in Storm in a Teacup, the first of two films working opposite Rex Harrison. She took a short break in Rome with Olivier before returning to the studio to begin shooting. During this period Vivien read a great deal during breaks on set and found a new favourite novel that she re-read several times - Gone With the Wind. She even asked her agent to submit her name to the widely publicized search to find an actress for Scarlett O'Hara.
This request was returned with a reply:
I have no enthusiasm for Vivien Leigh. Maybe I will have, but as yet have never even seen photograph of her. I will be seeing Fire Over England shortly, at which time will of course see Leigh. - David O. Selznick
To continue her contract with Alexander Korda, Vivien would now star in a second feature alongside Olivier, entitled Twenty-One Days. A low budget drama about a convicted killer and the wife of the murdered man. Filming began in May of 1937, scripted by Graham Greene. On June 16th, after a brief run on stage in Hamlet, again opposite Olivier, Vivien left her husband Leigh, moving to Chelsea with her new found love. Their secret affair had gone as far as it could, as did each of their marriages. On the set, the conversation turned to the topic of the day - the casting of Gone With The Wind:
Somebody turned to Olivier and said, 'Larry you'd be marvelous as Rhett Butler.' He laughed it off, but the suggestion was not too preposterous.. discussion of the casting went on in a desultory fashion, until the new girl, Vivien Leigh, brought it to a sudden stop. She drew herself up on the rain-swept deck, all five feet nothing of her, pulled a coat round her shoulders and stunned us with the sibylline utterance: "Larry won't play Rhett Butler, but I shall play Scarlett O'Hara. Wait and see..."
- Caroline Lejeune, film reporter
Since Vivien was now living with Olivier, her daughter Suzanne was in the care of Gertrude, Vivien's mother. The next few years for the new couple would be spent waiting for an official divorce. Vivien was loaned to MGM to make A Yank at Oxford to increase her American exposure - a move that would benefit both Alexander Korda's role as her producer and Vivien's career, especially if she was to be considered for the role of Scarlett O'Hara. She worked on A Yank at Oxford during the autumn of 1937 with her former convent schoolmate, and now actress, Maureen O'Sullivan, while Olivier shot The Divorce of Lady X with Merle Oberon.
1937 had ended and a new year of work began. Vivien started shooting St. Martin's Lane in January 1938. This was her 9th film, and co-starred Charles Laughton and Rex Harrison. She played a busker that rises to stardom in London. When it was released, the reviews were positive, stating that Vivien had improved her acting enough to stand alongside Charles Laughton on screen. Laurence Olivier was just as busy. He was asked to play the part of Heathcliff opposite Merle Oberon in a Hollywood production of Wuthering Heights. Accepting this offer, he left England on November 5th 1938 - Vivien's 25th birthday. Wanting to be with him as soon as possible, she abandoned her winter plan of performing in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Old Vic, and left heading towards California on Saturday November 27th for a two week trip "…partly because Larry is there, and partly because I intend to get the part of Scarlett O'Hara". It was a journey that would not only change Vivien's career - but would change the search for Scarlett forever…
'I'm reading Gone With the Wind, but if I brought it here I shouldn't be able to start working. I've never been so gripped by anything in my life. It's the finest book I've ever read, what a grand film it would make! I've cast myself for Scarlett O'Hara. What do you think?' - Vivien on the set of Twenty-One Days, 1937 talking to a film reporter from The Evening News.
Margaret Mitchell's book, Gone With the Wind had sold 326,000 copies during the first six weeks of publication and won The Pulitzer Prize of 1937. Taking four years to write, it has sold millions more copies in the decades that followed, and started a world wide phenomenon. Still a recent best-seller in 1938, Vivien re-read the book on her journey towards Hollywood to visit Laurence Olivier.
'From the moment I read GWTW, I was fascinated by the lovely wayward, tempestuous Scarlett. I felt that I loved and understood her, almost as though I had known her in the flesh. When I heard that the book was to be filmed in Hollywood early in 1939 I longed to play the part…' -VL
After a remarkably well timed introduction to David O. Selznick by her Hollywood agent on December 10th, the first night of location shooting, Vivien did screen tests for her dream role. Both Selznick, and the film's director George Cukor, were impressed by her talent and beauty. She wrote back to her husband Leigh Holman:
"You will never guess what has happened and no one is more surprised than me. You know that I only came out here for a week. Well just two days before I was supposed to leave, the people who are making Gone With the Wind saw me and said would I make a test - so what could I do and now I am working frantically hard and rehearsing, and studying a Southern accent which I don't find difficult anyway... The part has now become the biggest responsibility one can imagine and yet it would be absurd not to do it given the chance..."
Vivien spent time at a beach house for relaxation, and took piano lessons in the evenings while Olivier was away in New York performing in No Time for Comedy. She disliked Hollywood immensely saying, "I could not stay here half the year…the more I see of Hollywood the less possible it becomes." This was a trying time for their relationship, and they saw little of each other during the early months of 1939. She kept a copy of Margaret Mitchell's book nearby on the set, and resented if writers diverged from the original text during the constant re-writes of the script. Vivien completed her work on June 27th and as they say, the rest is history. Her performance carried the film and helped create the success and popularity that would never cease, even today, six decades later.
As soon as filming was finished, Vivien did a screen test for Alfred Hitchcock for the film version of Daphne De Maurier's Rebecca. She didn't seem right for the part - qualities which made her ideal for Scarlett now made her unsuited for such a restrained role. Olivier did a screen test opposite her, and he eventually went on to play the role of Maxim in the finished film. Rebecca ended up winning best picture the year following Gone With the Wind. The couple were able to return to London in July for a holiday and returned to Hollywood in August with Vivien's mother. After doing some retakes for GWTW, Vivien next was given the lead role in MGM's Waterloo Bridge as part of her new Hollywood contract, although she would have preferred working on Pride and Prejudice. Olivier had the option to work with her as the leading man in Waterloo Bridge or take the lead in Pride and Prejudice. Vivien would work on either film, as long as she could work with Olivier. Due to her contract however, she ended up signing on to Waterloo Bridge without him. Meanwhile, she prepared for the grand opening of GWTW in Atlanta. It opened to great reviews and Vivien became the talk of the town. Right after Christmas, she began work on Waterloo Bridge, taking ballet lessons for a scene early on in the film, and voice lessons to improve her acting technique. Robert Taylor ended up being cast across her instead of Olivier which bothered Vivien, but she got along well with him, having worked together previously in A Yank in Oxford.
At this point in 1940, Leigh Holman finally filed for divorce. This meant that after 6 months wait, Vivien would be free to marry Olivier. On February 29th, the annual Academy Awards were held in the Ambassador Hotel in Hollywood. Vivien arrived with Olivier and at 1 am, her name was announced for best actress. Gone With the Wind was released two months later in her home country - and ended up running consecutively for 4 years in London. In May, Waterloo Bridge was released in America to favorable reviews and critics were surprised to see a different side of the actress, not just another variation on Scarlett.
"It is apparent, now, though, that her career is based on great talent and great beauty rather than on the supposed break she got when she was picked to play the most popular heroine of our day. Actually Gone With The Wind was extremely lucky to have her in it. Any film, or any stage work for that matter, is blessed by her participation. For here is an actress who combines all of the sorcery of a vivid personality with brilliant acting execution." - Howard Barnes, writing about Waterloo Bridge, New York Herald Tribune
Vivien followed Waterloo Bridge with Romeo and Juliet on stage in New York with Olivier directing and co-starring. This was thought to have a good potential for profit - neither of them having made much money with their recent film roles. However, Romeo and Juliet on Broadway didn't do well, and it ended up running for only 35 performances. After a brief summer holiday, Vivien returned to Hollywood and began preparing for her new role as Lady Hamilton, a film that was thought as a suitable propaganda vehicle for US-Britain. Enough time had passed, and as soon as both their divorces became absolute, Vivien and Olivier could finally marry. The ceremony took place at the San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara on August 31st, 1940, with Katharine Hepburn as the maid of honour and a subsequent honeymoon on actor Ronald Colman's yacht.
In September, the new "Mr and Mrs Olivier" began working together on the set of That Hamilton Woman. It was difficult to receive a production code of approval with a story that involved a man living in sin with another man's wife, but after several changes in the script, That Hamilton Woman (Lady Hamilton) was released in America in July 1941. Vivien's name appears above Olivier's on the opening titles, notably because of her success in Gone With the Wind. This unfortunately would be the last time the Olivier's made a film together.
Despite poor reviews, That Hamilton Woman became a box office success as well as a favorite film of Winston Churchill's. Vivien's daughter during this time was placed in a new school, and living in Vancouver, Canada, with her grandmother, Gertrude. The Oliviers returned home to Britain at Christmas and by this point, America had gotten involved in the war. She had plans to join the Old Vic Theatre company, but instead began work on The Doctor's Dilemma which would tour for half and year before opening in London in March of 1942. It ran successfully for a year with over 450 performances, ending on April 25th, 1943.
The war was in full swing by now, so Vivien joined several other actors in a review that would tour North Africa to help with the war effort. As they left England, she heard the tragic news that Leslie Howard, her co-star from Gone With The Wind, had been shot down in a plane flying from Lisbon. The review went on, and there were several performances a day taking place on ships, aircraft carriers, and in hospitals, to help the men in action stationed overseas. Vivien took part wearing a Scarlett O'Hara style costume performing various skits and reciting poems and parts of popular plays. At the end of August, she returned to England and met up with Laurence Olivier, who was hard at work on his film version of Henry V. Not wanting to return to America, she signed onto a film version of George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra, which didn't begin shooting until June of 1944. Production was very difficult with the war occurring on every side and sets were large and expensive, causing delays. The dialogue made things worse with co-stars not performing up to standard since Shaw's script was very complex in comparison to costume and Hollywood dramas of the time. In September, Vivien fell badly on the set and suffered a miscarriage shortly afterwards. This period was also the beginning of noticeable swings into manic depression - a disease that was both misinterpreted and difficult to control at the time.
After the lengthy production of Caesar and Cleopatra finished, Vivien chose her next project to be on stage, again in England. This caused David O. Selznick to press charges to force her to return to Hollywood to fulfill her studio contract which had been 'put aside' for over 4 years (due to war and her intense dislike for the contract and Hollywood itself). Vivien won the court battle and as a result, she was freed of her contract. She was now was finally able to work in her home country without the burden of being part of the Hollywood system. This decision not only affected the rest of her film career, but it also changed Hollywood history. There would have been 4 more films in the early 1940's with Vivien under age 30, that were unfortunately never made.
As a result of the tiring production of Caesar and Cleopatra, doctors requested Vivien to retreat to a sanitarium to improve her reoccurring battle with tuberculosis. She however, wanted to return to the stage and very much wanted the role of Sabina in the ambitious play The Skin of Our Teeth. It was this desire to push herself and continue acting that not only demonstrated once again her will power to achieve whatever she set out to do, but it would also re-confirm her ability as a maturing and professional actress.
The Skin of Our Teeth opened in May of 1945 to outstanding reviews and high acclaim for Vivien's portrayal of Sabina. It was considered her finest role on stage, and her contemporaries acknowledged her as a gifted actress on stage and screen. After 78 performances, the play ended due to Vivien's continued fatigue and reoccurring illness. Vivien was diagnosed with a tubercular patch on her left lung and was asked to stop working and rest. After a much needed 9 month holiday, Vivien went with Olivier on his Broadway tour which would won him a best actor award and put him on the top of the acting world, now considered the finest actor of his generation. Financial problems came up due to numerous production costs as well as maintaining several homes, so it was decided that Vivien would revive her recent success in The Skin of Our Teeth while Olivier would produce King Lear. She returned to the stage on September 11th, 1946 and performed in 109 shows, ending at Christmas.
The new year arrived, and Vivien began work on Anna Karenina at Shepperton Studios, a return to cinema after 2 years, play a role she very much desired. By mid-summer, filming had ended and Vivien accompanied Laurence Olivier to Buckingham Palace where he was dubbed a Knight by King George VI - the youngest stage actor ever to receive this title. Although the filming of Anna Karenina was not pleasant, and there were reoccurring bouts of depression, Vivien enjoyed playing the part of Anna. She knew that her performance would be compared to Greta Garbo's earlier infamous role, so she not only played the character differently, but with her own personal approach to the book; causing some critics to praise her skill, while others said she was a skillful actor presenting a completely unsentimental and un-true character. In the end, the film was a disappointment, 'a beautiful failure', which added to Vivien affliction.
Another year passed and by November 1948, both Laurence and Vivien joined the Old VicTheatre Company for a tour of Australia and New Zealand showcasing The School for Scandal, Richard III, and another brief reprise of The Skin of Our Teeth. They experienced a renewed success on stage during this period and performed to sold out shows and successful reviews everywhere they went. Vivien continued to show much stamina in everything she did, working long hours and always the first awake at dawn with a seeming endless energy - until once again fatigue or a bad cold would force her to rest.
On their return to England, several more months were spent on stage in Antigone, The School for Scandal, and Richard III, all impressive performances with new critical acclaim for Vivien's improving work with her voice. Soon after this return, Vivien announced to Olivier that she didn't love him any more, perhaps spoken during a phase of severe depression. Regardless of how it was said, he took it as truth, and it became a blow that effected their personal life from then on, but was kept well hidden to the fans and public that continued to witness sold out shows.
The summer of 1949 was spent on holiday with a brief time taking care of Suzanne in England. During this time, Vivien learned to paint, inspired by Winston Churchill's book, Painting as a Pastime, and her interest to use 'a different part of the brain'. When the autumn arrived, Vivien began work on yet another play, this time by a popular new playwright, Tennessee Williams, called A Streetcar Named Desire. For many, it is Vivien's most powerful and moving performance, realistically showing the disturbing journey of a woman's disintegration into madness. The play ran for 326 performances, each leaving Vivien shaking and tense afterward.
"Vivien was too much affected by the parts she played…it had a great deal to do with playing Blanche DuBois being ill in the same way." - Laurence Olivier
In the summer of 1950, Vivien left England to return to Hollywood after nearly a decade absence, and began work on the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire. Shooting started August 14th and Warner Brothers paid Vivien $100,000 for her 3 months of work. Karl Malden and Kim Hunter reprised their stage roles of Mitch and Stella from the Broadway production that had starred Marlon Brando. The play itself was changed significantly to pass studio production codes at the time - so the rape was only hinted at on screen. (Later in 1992, a "director's cut" of the film was released, placing key scenes and dialogue back into the film).
Vivien purposely made her self look older and unflattering for the film - using heavy makeup, wigs, and drastic lighting which would hide her still beautiful features. Audiences in the autumn of 1951 were stunned to see such a different person, barely recognizing the actress that played Scarlett so exquisitely a decade earlier.The resulting film in 1951 was still powerful, perhaps Vivien's finest achievement, winning her a second best actress Oscar, as well as best actress awards from the New York critics and BAFTA.
Returning home in December 1950, Vivien co-starred with Olivier on stage in Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra and Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra - alternating the two plays on different nights. This ran successfully for 4 months until September 1951, and was then transferred to Broadway for another successful run at Christmas. Vivien continued to go through states, having good and bad days, and others would find her shivering before going on stage. She began to get psychiatric help at this point - with the insistence of Olivier - because her manic depression would continue to return. Her particular case made things much more confusing because of her ability to act roles and feelings - a skilled use of deception. She became severely depressed during the winter, and further doctors and psychiatrists could not help. Following the Cleopatras in April 1952, this illness progressed into a nervous breakdown. She took an extended break at home in England and much of the time she was unfortunately mentally and physically unwell.
After further rest and what seemed a return to health, Vivien agreed to play the lead in the film Elephant Walk opposite Peter Finch. Olivier was originally planned for the role but he decline and it was taken over by Finch, a long time friend and co-actor on stage with the Oliviers. In February 1953, shortly after filming began, Vivien's health deteriorated rapidly and the film's producer feared she would be unsuitable to continue work. She became emotionally uncontrollable and began recounting passages from her earlier film. In March, the studio realized that they could no longer keep her in the film and she was put into hospital care. Her part in Elephant Walk was taken over by Elizabeth Taylor and the film itself was not commercially successful once released. Vivien was taken back to England with Olivier's help, having to be heavily sedated because of severe mood swings. She was taken to Netherne Hospital in Surrey and received shock treatment after being sedated for several weeks for solid rest.
While Vivien was in the hospital receiving treatment, her home was broken into and her A Streetcar Named Desire Oscar along with personal items and much of her jewelry was stolen, never to be recovered. Once she awoke from the treatment, she seemed changed in personality and Olivier found her almost a stranger. A few months passed and her heath improved dramatically. Things once again seemed to be looking up - the recent years of plays had been far too grueling and this time off was much needed. She even hoped to return to Hollywood to film again in the future. On her 40th birthday in November of 1953, Vivien returned to work in the play, The Sleeping Prince opposite Olivier. Critics and the press were amazed at what seemed to be a complete recovery, with no signs of her previous illness. After the play ended, she began filming The Deep Blue Sea, a role she was eventually criticized as being miscast in. The film was not successful at the box office, though her performance was as professional as always.
Life went on, and the 1955 season arrived at Stratford. In Olivier's version of Macbeth, Vivien excelled as Lady Macbeth and there was talk of a film version. This sadly never took place due to the death of Alexander Korda, Vivien's long time film producer. Unfortunately the Olivier's personal life was also in a worst state: "Their life together is really hideous and here they are trapped by public acclaim, scrabbling about in the cold ashes of a physical passion that burnt itself out years ago…They are eminent, successful, envied and adored, and most wretchedly unhappy."5 By the end of the theatrical season, Vivien was once again unwell and started to become physically worse with reoccurring bouts of depression combined with her tuberculosis. Much of the next year was spent resting as Olivier continued his stage and screen appearances.
"I think it was terribly unfair. People would say to Larry: "You are the greatest actor in the world" and they would turn to Vivien and say: "You are the most beautiful woman in the world". They never said those words she longed to hear: "You are the greatest actress in the world". She wasn't the greatest actress in the world but it's very difficult to nominate a person who is. She was stupendous in her way - as well as being beautiful... She didn't always have the vocal power to reach the back of the gallery. But she did develop her voice and she had intelligence. Larry has always had an actor's intelligence. He could go to the heart of the play, the heart of a part and dig it out. She had to work much harder at it.. Vivien didn't have that instinct. She had to acquire it. The saddest thing is that we didn't realize that she had an illness during later years. We all thought she was just behaving badly." - Maxine Audley
To everyone's surprise, Vivien found out she was pregnant in the summer of 1956, now in her 43rd year. The baby was expected for late December and hoped for a girl to be named Katherine. Most unfortunately, she suffered a miscarriage on August 12th. The following months were spent quietly at home while Olivier worked on The Entertainer, and The Prince and The Showgirl with Marilyn Monroe. A European tour began in 1957, showcasing Titus Andronicus, and Vivien's illness once again returned. While in France as part of the tour, she received the Legion of Honour from the Minister of Cultural Relations.
The Oliviers returned once again to England on June 22nd once Titus Andronicus had completed its run. After trying to rescue their local St. James's Theatre from demolition, and failing, Vivien and Olivier got into a severe fight during one of her 'attacks'. Both hit each other and when Vivien appeared shortly afterwards in public, she had a patch above her right eye from this incident. It was a moment that would be a drastic turning point in their personal lives - and in the professional lives they performed for the very last time together on stage. This however, was not the end of Vivien's career. A new interest in stage and screen was just emerging...
During the early part of 1957, there began rumours in the press that the Oliviers were separating. He had begun an affair with Joan Plowright, his co-star in The Entertainer and Vivien had had an on and off relationship with Peter Finch. Vivien's daughter Suzanne, had recently become engaged, and Vivien took some time off and traveled with her father in Ireland, revisited her first husband Leigh. On Vivien's 44th birthday, she was in Glasgow visiting Olivier's performance of The Entertainer. Suzanne's wedding took place on December 6th, and both Vivien and Olivier attended. Suzanne had been fortunate to have her grandmother Gertrude care for her during the many years Vivien was away in Hollywood and on stage tours. Returning to acting in mid 1958, Vivien performed in Duel of Angels and toured the UK, while Olivier was overseas in America having a huge success with The Entertainer. There were further plans to film Macbeth, but this ended again and permanently, when Mike Todd, their new producer (creator of Todd-Ao) was killed in an accident. Vivien suffered severe bursts of anxiety during the fall of 1958 while still able to perform to good reviews in Duel of Angels. On her 45th birthday, Vivien and Olivier met for dinner and he explained to her that they must go their separate ways. The play Skin of Our Teeth, was shot for BBC television during this time, and was shown on March 17th 1959, resulting in a rare TV performance by Vivien - one that she disliked immensely. After performing on stage in New York in Look After Lulu, Vivien's father fell ill and died on December 18th at age 76 during a time when the Olivier marriage was over in all but name. Laurence Olivier started live anew at this point, away from Vivien and her misunderstood illness, and began a family with Joan Plowright.
"The marriage to Vivien had to be justified in every possible way. They had to have total success so that the world could say 'it's so wonderful.' I believe Larry wanted to justify it as far as he could to appease his own conscience and took whatever Vivien threw at him in her extremis with the most fantastic forbearance. It was only when she had really gone that he turned to the total contrast - from champagne to Guinness, from mink to mackintosh and to youth of course. Also, very much, to have another family." - actor Michael Denison
Vivien left for America to star in a another reprisal of in Duel of Angels. It was here she met and began a relationship with fellow stage actor, John Merivale. They had met previously only briefly during A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1937. Their affair was initially secret but was constantly questioned by the press and news coverage. The reviews of Duel of Angels were very good and again Vivien was on top form on stage. Her therapy with shock treatment had been very successful in keeping her from harsh mood swings. She received an unwelcome telegram from Olivier asking for divorce, but in her heart, she always believed that he would come back to her. She made an announcement to the press that Olivier wished to divorce her in order to marry Joan Plowright. Vivien drank severely during this period and was diagnosed with cyclic manic-depressive psychosis, receiving 6 shock treatments during 1960 and early 1961, while still performing successfully on stage. She moved in with John Merivale and lived for a time in Hollywood, revisiting old friends and peers while Duel of Angels toured the west. There was strong press and public interest in the divorce settlement between Vivien and Olivier at the time, and it was finalized on December 2nd, 1960.
Vivien began work on a new film, the first in 5 years, written by Tennessee Williams called The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. It was about an aging actress who forsakes her career to take care of her ill husband. After he dies, the widow is left in Rome and is taken advantage of by a young gigolo. Her co-star was a very youthful Warren Beatty, and Vivien wore a graying light blonde wig for her role. Reviews of the film were positive, and Vivien had returned to the screen in a new and impressive light. In the summer of that year, she flew to Atlanta to be part of a Civil War Centenary and present a reprisal of Gone With The Wind. She arrived with Olivia de Havilland, her only surviving co-star from 20 years earlier. Clark Gable had unfortunately died a few short months before, as a result of a heart attack. After this special occasion, Vivien took a holiday in Jamaica and seemed much recovered from the results of her recent shock treatments. She appeared briefly in the film The Valiant Years, a documentary on Winston Churchill.
A new tour was set to begin, returning to Australia with the Old Vic company. Her mother Gertrude, still maintaining her own beauty business, suffered a heart attack in the fall of 1961, though recovered successfully. Vivien was proposed to by an aged Australian multi-millionaire named Sir Ernest Davis during the new tour of Australia, which she politely declined. He, however, left her some valuable shares in his will. The tour continued across South America where she addressed the audiences in Spanish, and returned to London in May of 1962. Her voice was used in audio recordings of several Beatrix Potter children stories including The Flopsy Bunnies, Squirrel and Nutkin, and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, all popular with young children at the time.
Taking on the task of a musical comedy Tovarich, she took singing and dancing lessons for several hours a day during rehearsals. Her efforts paid off, and she received much critical acclaim as well as a Tony award in 1963 for best musical comedy performance by an actress. Her illness returned due to new stress and lengthy performances without a much needed holiday, so her temperament became impossible to control. It was suggested that she return to England to receive a new series of shock treatments. She asked her companion John Merivale to marry her and come with her to London, but he declined and this strongly effected their relationship afterwards. She was placed in the Avenue Nursing Home as a result of nervous exhaustion and was monitored 24 hours a day so that she would rest and not try to leave on her own, having reoccurring hallucinations. She was eventually allowed to rest at her own home in London, where she was monitored by a nurse and spent many sleepless nights - one of the many unfortunate side effects of tuberculosis. Laurence Olivier visited her briefly and they spent some time together talking and taking walks by a nearby lake. In June of 1964, Vivien had recovered enough so that she could leave England once again, this time to return to Hollywood to make what would be her final film, Ship of Fools.
The novel Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter had been a successful best-seller and David O. Selznick had lost out in getting the film rights when United Artists bought it shortly after it was published. It is best known for Vivien's Charleston dance alone on the ship's deck. Having several more shock treatments in July, she was able to complete the film without many incidents, though her physical condition had worsened. Vivien remained a close friend with Katharine Hepburn during this time, and returned home to England, leaving Hollywood at the end of August when filming was finished. She spent several quite months in London before planning a trip to India, having a desire to return to the land she was born.
After a brief return to the stage in Newcastle, and further rest in 1965, Vivien did her final play with John Gielgud in his production of Ivanov. After touring America and her last ever stage performance in March, she spent several months vacationing in France and Greece. Vivien was awarded the French equivalent of the Oscar for her role in Ship of Fools during this trip, and spent a lot of time, mainly alone, reading scripts that held little promise.
"What's happening is that roles come few and far between when an actress gets older. In the past and particularly in London, producers, playwrights and directors would think nothing of casting a woman in her 40's or 50's to portray a heroine in her 20's. These days age has become such a factor." - Vivien in 1967, at age 53
After considering several new film ideas and plays, Vivien did a reading at Oxford which would become her last public appearance. In May, she became very ill and refused to be admitted to a hospital. Her tuberculosis had returned with a severe patch on her left lung. In June, her illness was released to the public and a new play, A Delicate Balance was postponed. She continued to rehearse daily in her home with Michael Redgrave, trying to recover. Olivier at the time, was in the hospital receiving treatment for prostate cancer. She continued to smoke and entertain her many friends and visitors, preferring to live as she always had. Vivien once wrote, 'I would rather have lived a short life with Larry than face a long one without him.'7 On Friday July 7th, John Merivale found her asleep in her room at 11pm when he arrived home from the theatre (having finished acting in The Last of Mrs. Cheyney). Returning to the bedroom a short time later, he found her lying on the floor and attempted to resuscitate her. Vivien Leigh died from complications resulting from chronic pulmonary tuberculosis.
A private funeral was held on Wednesday the 12th at St. Mary's surrounded by hundreds of flower arrangements with tributes from family and peers. All of London's theatres switched off their marquees at 10pm for an hour of respect and requiem masses were arranged in New York. A memorial service was held at St Martin's in the Fields on August 14th, attended by her many friends and famous stars. Many felt, for her to die while she was still performing and beautiful, was how she would have wished it. Her ashes were scattered at Lake Tickerage on October 8th.
Who I'd like to meet:
- Status: Divorced
- Here for: Friends
- Orientation: Straight
- Body type: 5' 3" / Slim / Slender
- Ethnicity: White / Caucasian
- Zodiac Sign: Scorpio
- Children: Proud parent
- Education: College graduate