- NAME: Vivien Leigh
- OCCUPATION: Film Actress
- BIRTH DATE: November 05, 1913
- DEATH DATE: July 08, 1967
- EDUCATION: Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Darjeeling, India
- PLACE OF DEATH: London, England, United Kingdom
- Originally: Vivian Mary Hartley
- AKA: Vivian Hartley
- AKA: Vivien Hartley
- AKA: Vivien Leigh
Best Known For
Vivien Leigh was a British actress who achieved film immortality by playing two of American literature's most celebrated Southern belles, Scarlett O'Hara and Blanche DuBois.
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Gone with the Wind remains one of the most iconic pictures in cinema history.
Finally having secured divorces from their respective spouses, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier married in 1940, cementing their status as a powerhouse couple in the world of show business. The pair continued to co-star in movies and plays, but tried to stay out of the limelight,
often taking breaks of several years between films—this was partly due to the deteriorating state of Leigh's mental health, as increasingly severe bouts of manic depression strained her relationship with Olivier and made it difficult for her to perform.
Tragedy struck in 1944, when Leigh fell during a rehearsal for Anthony and Cleopatra and suffered a miscarriage. Her health took a turn for the worse; she became increasingly unstable while simultaneously battling insomnia, bipolar disorder and a respiratory ailment that was eventually diagnosed as tuberculosis. Hoping for relief, Leigh underwent electroshock therapy, which was very rudimentary at the time and sometimes left her with burn marks on her temples. It wasn't long before she began to drink heavily.
Her increasingly troubled personal life forced Leigh to take occasional breaks from work throughout the 1940s, but she continued to take on many high-profile roles, both on the stage and screen. None could match the critical or commercial success she had won for playing Scarlett O'Hara, however.
That changed in 1949, when Leigh won the part of Blanche Du Bois in a London production of Tennessee Williams's play, A Streetcar Named Desire. After a successful run that lasted nearly a year, Leigh was cast in the same demanding role in Elia Kazan's 1951 Hollywood film adaptation, in which she starred opposite Marlon Brando. Her portrayal of Blanche Du Bois, a character struggling to hide a shattered psyche behind a facade of gentility, may have drawn on Leigh's real-life struggles with mental illness, and perhaps even contributed to them. (The actress later said that the year she spent inside the tortured soul of Blanche Du Bois tipped her "into madness.")
In the judgment of many critics, Leigh's acting in Streetcar surpassed even her star turn in Gone with the Wind; she won a second Best Actress Oscar, as well as a New York Film Critics Award and a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award, for the part.
Soon after, Leigh made theater history by starring alongside Olivier in simultaneous London stage productions of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra and George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra—both of which were critical successes.
Despite these triumphs, bipolar disorder continued to take a heavy toll on Vivien Leigh. After another miscarriage, she had a breakdown in 1953, forcing her to withdraw from the filming of Elephant Walk and earning her a reputation for being difficult to work with. Additionally, her relationship with Olivier became more and more tumultuous; in 1960, their troubled marriage ended in divorce.
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