Biography of an actress. Vivien Leigh

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Movie has fascinated people since the time it appeared on the screen at the beginning of the XXth century. Many genres have developed since and all of us can say that we enjoy at least one of them.

Actors and actresses, especially from Hollywood, have become icons of movie theatres and TV screen. Some films are just being watched because of their cast and not necessarily because of the plot. Of course, media have done their job in promoting everything to us and making it attractive. But still we admire some actors today due to their work – not their face. Let’s look at them.

I  will accompany you in this journey through the biographies of our favourite actors!


Vivien Leigh, Lady Olivier

(5 November 1913 – 8 July 1967)

vivien leighThe actress we all know and love, if we love Scarlett O’Hara, was born as Vivian Mary Hartley in India to the English parents in 1913.

Her first performance took place when she was only three years old at her mother’s amateur theatre group.

Vivian wanted to become an actress since she was a child and her father enrolled her at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art  when they moved to London.

In 1931 Vivian met a barrister Leigh Holman who later married her, which led to the end of her studies as an actress because her husband disapproved of this profession. Although, Vivian gave birth to their daughter a couple of years later, she did not want to become a housewife and domestic life was always boring to her artistic nature. So, she returned to her dream of being an actress. Her film debut took place in the film “Things are looking up” after which she also changed her name Vivian Holman to Vivien Leigh.

After the play “The mask of virtue” in 1935 Vivien received a very positive review for her artistic talent.

ScarlettLeigh always had difficulties playing in a theatre because her voice was too weak for the audience to listen to for a long time.

Later she learned that David Selznick planned a film adaptation of “Gone with the wind” and decided to play Scarlett O’Hara. She was so determined to do so that no one could stop her and Selznick, who was tired of trying hundreds of actresses for the role of Scarlett and not finding anyone, had chosen Vivien Leigh.

Vivien triumphed. She learned the Southern accent as well as she only could to be able to perform perfectly her desired role and not sounding English. And she became perfect at it. The filming was very hard for her because of the enormous costumes that she had to wear, the heat and the long hours. But Vivien was determined to win this game. Vivien’s behaviour became also very difficult for others to work with because of her manic outbursts. She had a huge difficulty with working with Leslie Howard, who played Ashley.

vivien leighLaurence Olivier was another promising actor of that time. He was also married and their affair with Vivien was kept a secret from the public who did not approve extramarital affairs. Her hard work in “Gone with the wind” was paid off by an international fame, Oscar Award for the Best Actress and a popularity for this role for the rest of her life.

In 1940 Laurence Olivier finally divorced his wife and could marry Vivien who also left her husband Leigh Holman. After they got married both began to star together in common projects: “Waterloo Bridge”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “That Hamilton woman”…

In 1940 she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. That made her more emotional and uncontrollable and her bipolar disorder became fully evident during her violent conflicts with Olivier. After she had suffered a miscarriage in 1945, while filming “Caesar and Cleopatra”, it lead to a severe depression.

In 1947 she officially became Vivien, Lady Olivier, as Laurence Olivier was knighted in Buckingham Palace.

DSCF0044Leigh’s role of Blanche DuBois in “A streetcar named desire” became her another great success and brought her a her second Oscar in 1951. She played her part of a mentally disturbed woman so well and vividly that everyone on the set was truly scared for her own mental well-being.

In 1960 she and Laurence Olivier had to divorce because her outbursts and constant depression were too difficult for him to bear. Her jealousy against him and frequent aggression were impossible for them to stay together. Vivien often did not remembered her violent behaviour and was very embarrassed by it.

In 1967 after recurrence of tuberculosis she died in her bedroom.

Until now Vivien Leigh is being praised for her beauty and for her talent, although, some directors that worked with her did not agree on her talent.

Still, if we remember her and admire her Scarlett it means that she was more than just a beauty. There are many of them around the world but not everyone is being remembered after decades!

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