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Vivien Leigh ( 1913 - 1967 )  Category ( Actor_Actress ) [suggest a correction]
 

Vivien Leigh

Vivian Hartley was born on 5 November 1913 in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India to Ernest and Gertrude Robinson Yackje Hartley. Her parents returned to London, where they were married, when Vivian was a child. Gertrude tried to instill a love for literature in her daughter, who was sent to the Convent of the Sacred Heart (now Woldingham School) in 1920 at age six. Vivian's closest friend at school was the future actress Maureen O'Sullivan.

After Vivian finished her education, she approached her parents about becoming an actress. They were supportive of her and her father helped to enroll her at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. But, in late 1931, Vivian met Herbert Leigh Holman, a barrister thirteen years her senior. They were married on 20 December 1932 and Vivian gave birth to a daughter on 12 October 1933. Feeling stifled by domestic life, Vivian tried out for a small part in the film, Things Are Looking Up, an event that led her to change her name to Vivian Leigh. She did not get the part.

It was on the stage where Leigh received her first excellent reviews. She appeared in The Mask of Virtue in 1935, a play that launched her film career. Her name changed again to Viven Leigh, and her film career began with Laurence Olivier in Fire Over England (1937). She began an affair with Olivier, although she was not granted a divorce from her husband - and Olivier from his wife - until 1940. At that time they married at a ceremony attended only by their witnesses Katharine Hepburn and Gason Kanin.

Leigh and Olivier were together for twenty years. During that time, Leigh won an Academy Award as Best Actress in Gone with the Wind (Scarlett O'Hara) and a second Academy Award for Best Actress, a BAFTA Award and a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress for her part as Blanche Dubois opposite Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire. She also played opposite her husband in theater, lost two children by miscarriage, and developed a bipolar disorder. Additionally, while performing for troops in North Africa in 1943, Leigh developed tuberculosis in her left lung.

By 1960, after years of dealing with Leigh's bipolar disorder and frequent outbursts, Olivier and Leigh divorced. Leigh married actor Jack Merival, who proved to be a stabilizing influence in her life. In 1967, however, after battling a recurring bout of tuberculosis, Merivale found her on the bedroom floor, dying, as her lungs filled with fluid. Olivier helped Merivale with her funeral arrangements, and she was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium and her ashes were scattered on the lake at her home near Blackboys, East Sussex, England.

Vivien Leigh was considered one of the most beautiful actresses of her day. Her husband, Olivier, was knighted, and after their divorce, Leigh still was honored as "Vivien, Lady Olivier." Although Leigh appeared in many plays and films, she will be remembered most, perhaps, for her portrayal of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind.

Image: Vivian Leigh from the film Fire Over England (1937).


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