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Vivien Leigh Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (54) | Personal Quotes (9) | Salary (3)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 5 November 1913Darjeeling, West Bengal, British India. [now India]
Date of Death 8 July 1967Belgravia, London, England, UK  (chronic tuberculosis)
Birth NameVivian Mary Hartley
Nickname Vivling
Height 5' 3½" (1.61 m)

Mini Bio (2)

If a film were made of the life of Vivien Leigh, it would open in India just before World War I, where a successful British businessman could live like a prince. In the mountains above Calcutta, a little princess is born. Because of the outbreak of World War I, she is six years old the first time her parents take her to England. Her mother thinks she should have a proper English upbringing and insists on leaving her in a convent school - even though Vivien is two years younger than any of the other girls at the school. The only comfort for the lonely child is a cat that was in the courtyard of the school that the nuns let her take up to her dormitory. Her first and best friend at the school is an eight-year-old girl, Maureen O'Sullivan who has been transplanted from Ireland. In the bleakness of a convent school, the two girls can recreate in their imaginations the places they have left and places where they would some day like to travel. After Vivien has been at the school for 18 months, her mother comes again from India and takes her to a play in London. In the next six months Vivien will insist on seeing the same play 16 times. In India the British community entertained themselves at amateur theatricals and Vivien's father was a leading man. Pupils at the English convent school are eager to perform in school plays. It's an all-girls school, so some of the girls have to play the male roles. The male roles are so much more adventurous. Vivien's favorite actor is Leslie Howard, and at 19 she marries an English barrister who looks very much like him. The year is 1932. Vivien's best friend from that convent school has gone to California, where she's making movies. Vivien has an opportunity to play a small role in an English film, Things Are Looking Up (1935). She has only one line but the camera keeps returning to her face. The London stage is more exciting than the movies being filmed in England, and the most thrilling actor on that stage is Laurence Olivier. At a party Vivien finds out about a stage role, "The Green Sash", where the only requirement is that the leading lady be beautiful. The play has a very brief run, but now she is a real actress. An English film is going to be made about Elizabeth I. Laurence gets the role of a young favorite of the queen who is sent to Spain. Vivien gets a much smaller role as a lady-in-waiting of the queen who is in love with Laurence's character. In real life, both fall in love while making this film, Fire Over England (1937). In 1938, Hollywood wants Laurence to play Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights (1939). Vivien, who has just recently read Gone with the Wind (1939), thinks that the role of Scarlett O'Hara is the first role for an actress that would be really exciting to bring to the screen. She sails to America for a brief vacation. In New York she gets on a plane for the first time to rush to California to see Laurence. They have dinner with Myron Selznick the night that his brother, David O. Selznick, is burning Atlanta on a backlot of MGM (actually they are burning old sets that go back to the early days of silent films to make room to recreate an Atlanta of the 1860s). Vivien is 26 when Gone with the Wind (1939) makes a sweep of the Oscars in 1939. So let's show 26-year-old Vivien walking up to the stage to accept her Oscar and then as the Oscar is presented the camera focuses on Vivien's face and through the magic of digitally altering images, the 26-year-old face merges into the face of Vivien at age 38 getting her second Best Actress Oscar for portraying Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). She wouldn't have returned to America to make that film had not Laurence been going over there to do a film, Carrie (1952) based on Theodore Dreiser's novel "Sister Carrie". Laurence tells their friends that his motive for going to Hollywood to make films is to get enough money to produce his own plays for the London stage. He even has his own theater there, the St. James. Now Sir Laurence, with a seat in the British House of Lords, is accompanied by Vivien the day the Lords are debating about whether the St James should be torn down. Breaking protocol, Vivien speaks up and is escorted from the House of Lords. The publicity helps raise the funds to save the St. James. Throughout their two-decade marriage Laurence and Vivien were acting together on the stage in London and New York. Vivien was no longer Lady Olivier when she performed her last major film role, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Dale O'Connor < daleoc@worldnet.att.net>

Vivian Mary Hartley was born on November 5, 1913, in Darjeeling, India, a strange place for one of the world's most celebrated actresses to be born. She was to live in this beautiful country for the next six years. Her parents wanted to go home to England but because of World War I they opted to stay in India. At the end of the war the Hartleys headed back to their home country, where Vivien's mother wanted her daughter to have a convent education. She was one of the youngest in attendance, and it was not a happy experience for her. One of the few consolations was her friendship with a classmate who also became a successful actress, Maureen O'Sullivan While there her mother came for a visit and took her to a play on London's legendary West Side. It was there that Vivien decided to become an actress. At the end of her education, she met and married Herbert Leigh in 1932 and together had a child named Suzanne in 1933. Though she enjoyed motherhood, it did not squelch her ambition to be an actress. Her first role in British motion pictures was as Rose Venables in 1935's The Village Squire (1935). That same year Vivien appeared in Things Are Looking Up (1935), Look Up and Laugh (1935) and Gentlemen's Agreement (1935). In 1938, Vivien went to the US to see her lover, Laurence Olivier, who was filming Wuthering Heights (1939) (she had left Herbert Leigh in 1937). While visiting Olivier, Vivien had the good luck to happen upon the Selznick brothers, who were filming the burning of Atlanta for the film, Gone with the Wind (1939), based on Margaret Mitchell's novel. The role of Scarlett O'Hara had yet to be cast and she was invited to take part in a screen test for the role. There had already been much talk in Hollywood about who was to be cast as Scarlett. Some big names had tried out for the part, such as Norma Shearer, Katharine Hepburn and Paulette Goddard. In fact, most in the film industry felt that Goddard was a sure bet for the part. However, four days after the screen test, Vivien was informed that she had landed the coveted slot. Although few remember it now, at the time her casting was controversial, as she was British and many fans of the novel it was based on felt the role should be played by an American. In addition, the shoot wasn't a pleasant one, as she didn't get along with her co-star, Clark Gable. The rest, as they say, is history. The film became one of the most celebrated in the annals of cinema. Not only did it win Best Picture during the Academy Awards, but Vivien won for Best Actress. Already she was a household name. In 1940, she made two films, Waterloo Bridge (1940) and 21 Days Together (1940), though neither approached the magnetism of GWTW. That same year saw Vivien marry Olivier and the next year they appeared together in That Hamilton Woman (1941).

By the time of the filming of Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), her life had begun to unravel. She had suffered two miscarriages, contracted tuberculosis, and was diagnosed as a manic depressive. However, she gave another excellent performance in that film and her public was still enthralled with her, although the film was not a financial success. She rebounded nicely for her role as Blanche DuBois for her second Oscar-winning performance in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) opposite Marlon Brando in 1951. She wasn't heard from much after that. She made a film in 1955 (The Deep Blue Sea (1955)). In 1960, her marriage fell apart, as Olivier left her to marry actress Joan Plowright. She appeared on-screen again until 1961 in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961), co-starring Warren Beatty.

Vivien's final turn on the screen came in Ship of Fools (1965), and that was a small part. She died at the age of 53 after a severe bout of tuberculosis on July 7, 1967.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson

Spouse (2)

Laurence Olivier (31 August 1940 - 6 January 1961) (divorced)
Herbert Leigh Holman (20 December 1932 - 19 February 1940) (divorced) (1 child)

Trade Mark (4)

Cat like smile
Raised right eyebrow
Often plays women who will go to great lengths to achieve their desires
Perhaps best known for her Oscar-winning roles in Gone with the Wind (1939) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Trivia (54)

Ranked #48 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997]
Suffered from manic depression.
Gave birth to her only child at age 19, a daughter Suzanne Farrington on October 12, 1933. Child's father was her 1st ex-husband, Herbert Holman.
Lived with John Merivale from 1959 to her death in 1967.
A heavy smoker, Leigh was smoking almost four packs a day during filming of Gone with the Wind (1939).
Gertrude Hartley, while awaiting the birth of her child in Darjeeling, spent 15 minutes every morning gazing at the Himalayas in the belief that their astonishing beauty would be passed to her unborn child.
After cremation at Golders Green, London, her ashes were scattered on the mill pond at her home, Tickerage Mill, at Blackboys in Sussex.
Scarlett O'Hara might have been played by an actress called 'April Morn', a stage name she briefly considered before settling on Vivien Leigh.
Laurence Olivier's first wife, Jill Esmond, named Vivien as co-respondent in her February 1940 divorce from Olivier on grounds of adultery. Vivien would name Joan Plowright - Olivier's next and last wife - as co-respondent in her 1960 divorce from Olivier, also on grounds of adultery.
The producer of the 1935 play "The Mask of Virtue" suggested to her that she change the 'a' in her first name to an 'e' from "Vivian" to "Vivien."
According to legend, Myron Selznick introduced Vivien to his brother - Gone with the Wind (1939) producer David O. Selznick - with the words, "Hey, genius! Meet your Scarlett."
Married Laurence Olivier at San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara on August 31st, 1940, with Katharine Hepburn as maid of honor; they honeymooned on actor Ronald Colman's yacht.
A lover of cats, especially Siamese.
Claimed that when she tested for Gone with the Wind (1939), the costume was still warm from the actress who preceded her.
Was offered the supporting role of Isabella in Wuthering Heights (1939), but decided to gamble and hold out for the lead role of Cathy. Director William Wyler thought she was crazy to pass up the opportunity, telling her, "You will never get a better part than Isabella for an American debut." Shortly after, she landed the plum role of Scarlett O'Hara.
Pictured on one of four 25¢ US commemorative postage stamps issued 23 March 1990 honoring classic films released in 1939. The stamp features Clark Gable and Leigh as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind (1939). The other films honored were Beau Geste (1939), Stagecoach (1939), and The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Her favorite role was that of Myra Lester, which she played in Waterloo Bridge (1940).
She took her then husband's first name (Leigh) as her last name when she began acting professionally.
Son-in-law's name is Robin Farrington.
Has three grandsons: Neville Farrington (b. December 4 1958), Jonathan Farrington (b. May 13 1961) and Rupert Farrington (b. Aug 31 1962)
Godmother of actress Juliet Mills and Suzanna Leigh.
Reportedly used one of her two Oscars to doorstop her bathroom.
Kept Laurence Olivier's photograph beside her bed and on her dressing table even after they divorced. Until her death she was addressed as "Lady Olivier."
She desperately wanted to play the second Mrs. De Winter in Rebecca (1940) opposite her husband Laurence Olivier, but producer David O. Selznick thought the role would dilute her value as a Scarlett O'Hara type and cast Joan Fontaine instead. His decision severely strained her professional relationship with Selznick; neither she nor Olivier ever appeared in one of his films again. Fontaine won her first Academy Award nomination in the role.
Had an affair with actor Peter Finch that nearly ended her marriage to Laurence Olivier. The movie The V.I.P.s (1963) is based on an incident from Leigh's and Olivier's marriage, when she was about to leave him for Finch but Olivier wooed her back.
Although she was a British subject for her whole life, her ancestry was French and Irish.
Won Broadway's 1963 Tony Award as Best Actress (Musical) for "Tovarich."
Was named #16 Actress on The American Film Institutes 50 Greatest Screen Legends
Is portrayed by Morgan Brittany in The Scarlett O'Hara War (1980) and by Mel Martin in Darlings of the Gods (1989)
She was supposed to star in the Paramount film Elephant Walk (1954) with Peter Finch and Dana Andrews, but after appearing in a few scenes she was replaced by Elizabeth Taylor. The reasons for Leigh's dismissal were rumored to be her difficult nature, having just been diagnosed as a manic-depressive. Further complications may have erupted because of an affair she had with co-star Finch while she was still married to Laurence Olivier, and Leigh and Olivier were still married in 1954.
She has at least 3 great granddaughters: Amy, Sophie and Ashua
Laurence Olivier wrote in his autobiography, "Confessions of an Actor," that sometime after World War II, Leigh announced calmly that she was no longer in love with him, but loved him like a brother. Olivier was emotionally devastated. What he did not know at the time was that Leigh's declaration -- and her subsequent affairs with multiple partners -- was a signal of the bipolar disorder that eventually disrupted her life and career. Leigh had every intention of remaining married to Olivier, but was no longer interested in him romantically. Olivier himself began having affairs (including one with Claire Bloom in the 1950s, according to Bloom's own autobiography) as Leigh's eye and amorous intentions wandered and roamed outside of the marital bedchamber. Olivier had to accompany Leigh to Hollywood in 1950 in order to keep an eye on her and keep her out of trouble, to ensure that her manic-depression did not get out of hand and disrupt the production of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). In order to do so, he accepted a part in William Wyler's Carrie (1952) that was shot at the same time as "Streetcar". The Oliviers were popular with Hollywood's elite, and Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando both liked "Larry" very much (that was the reason that Brando gave in his own autobiography for not sleeping with Leigh, whom he thought had a superior posterior--he couldn't raid Olivier's "chicken coop" as "Larry was such a nice guy".) None of them knew the depths of the anguish he was enduring as the caretaker of his mentally ill wife. Brando said that Leigh was superior to Jessica Tandy -- the original stage Blanche DuBois -- as she WAS Blanche. Ironically, Olivier himself had directed Leigh in the part on the London stage.
Peter Finch was discovered by Laurence Olivier in 1948 when Olivier and his theatrical company, which included wife Leigh, were conducting a tour of Australia, Olivier signed the young Aussie to a personal contract and Finch became part of Olivier's theatrical company. He then proceeded to cuckold his mentor and employer by bedding Leigh. Olivier was personally humiliated but ever the trouper, he kept the talented Finch under contract after having brought him back to England, where Finch flourished as an actor. Finch and Leigh carried on a long affair, and since Leigh was bipolar and her manic-depression frequently manifested itself in nymphomania, some speculate that Olivier subconsciously might have been grateful for Finch as he occupied Leigh's hours and kept her out of worse trouble and Olivier from even worse embarrassment. Their on-again, off-again affair reportedly reached a crisis point on the movie Elephant Walk (1954), when they had renewed their affair. However, the instability of their relationship allegedly triggered a nervous breakdown in Leigh, and Olivier had to step in to take care of her.
Her performance as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939) is ranked #3 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
Eventually, Vivien needed shock therapy to control her manic depression. Sometimes she would go on stage just hours after her treatments, without missing a beat in her performance.
Gave birth to her daughter, Suzanne Farrington, during her marriage to Herbert Leigh Holman.
Was obsessed with hiding her large hands. Gloves were a favorite cover-up, she owned more than 150 pairs. Interestingly enough one of the frequent descriptions of Vivien's most famous character Scarlett O'Hara in the novel of Gone with the Wind (1939) is that she has extremely small hands.
Her father was a full-blooded Englishmen, while her mother was of French and Irish descent.
Despite her legendary stature, Leigh made fewer than twenty films in her career.
Was close friends with Rachel Kempson, the mother of Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave.
Great grandchildren are: Ashua, Amy, Sophie and Tessa. The great grandchildren, the girls in particular, bear a striking resemblance to Suzanne.
Was the first British actress to win an Academy Award. She won the Best Actress Oscar for Gone with the Wind (1939) in February 1940.
As of 2013, she is only one of 6 actors who have a 2-0 winning record when nominated for an acting Oscar. The others are Luise Rainer for The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Good Earth (1937); Helen Hayes for The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931) and Airport (1970); Kevin Spacey for The Usual Suspects (1995) and American Beauty (1999); Hilary Swank for Boys Don't Cry (1999) and Million Dollar Baby (2004); and Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2012).
When making Gone with the Wind (1939), super macho director Victor Fleming wanted Scarlett, for at least once in the film, to look like his hunting buddy Clark Gable's type of woman. So, when wearing the stunning low-cut burgundy velvet dress with rhinestones that Scarlett wears to Ashley Wilkes' birthday party in the second half of the film, to achieve the desired cleavage for Fleming, Walter Plunkett had to tape Vivien Leigh's breasts together.
After Joan Crawford quit filming Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) Leigh was offered her role but she, however, turned it down. Olivia de Havilland, Leigh's co-star in Gone with the Wind (1939) was then offered and accepted the role.
The nickname Vivling was given to her by her father. It's a combination of her name and the word darling.
Was offered the part of Alice Aisgill in Room at the Top (1959), but she turned the role down. Simone Signoret was cast instead and she went on to win a Best Actress Oscar for her performance.
Ex-stepmother of Tarquin Olivier.
Returned to work sixteen months after giving birth to her daughter Suzanne Farrington in order to begin performing in the stage production entitled "The Green Sash".
She died after collapsing at home from complications from an attack of tuberculosis on July 7, 1967. That evening lights of West End theater marquees were kept dark for an hour in her honor.
Became pregnant twice (in 1944 and 1955) during her marriage to Laurence Olivier; she suffered miscarriages on both occasions.
For her performance as Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire", Vivien Leigh won the first British Academy Award for Best Actress at the newly inaugurated BAFTA Awards ceremony in 1953.
Is one of 14 Best Actress Oscar winners to have not accepted their Academy Award in person, Leigh's being for A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). The others are Katharine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Judy Holliday, Anna Magnani, Ingrid Bergman, Sophia Loren, Anne Bancroft, Patricia Neal, Elizabeth Taylor, Maggie Smith, Glenda Jackson and Ellen Burstyn.
Was the 14th actress to receive an Academy Award; she won the Best Actress Oscar for Gone with the Wind (1939) at The 12th Academy Awards on February 29, 1940.

Personal Quotes (9)

[talking to critics about her reviews for "The Mask of Virtue" (1935), her second play on the London stage] It's much easier to make people cry than to make them laugh.
Some critics saw fit to say that I was a great actress. I thought that was a foolish, wicked thing to say because it put such an onus and such a responsibility onto me, which I simply wasn't able to carry.
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.
[when asked to take over Joan Crawford's role in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)] No, thank you. I can just about stand looking at Joan Crawford's face at six o'clock in the morning, but not Bette Davis'.
[on Alexander Korda] Alex was like a father to us - we went to see him with every little problem we had. We usually left convinced that he had solved it - or that we'd got our own way.
All day long you're really leading up to the evening's performance. To time everything correctly, you have to take care of yourself-which is a very difficult thing to do, because it's highly emotional
Am I finished with Hollywood? Good heavens, no! I shall certainly go back there if there is a film to make.
Actresses go on for a long time and there are always marvelous parts to play.
[on Warren Beatty] He has the kind of magnetic sensuality you could light torches with.

Salary (3)

Gone with the Wind (1939) $25,000
Waterloo Bridge (1940) $100,000
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) $100,000

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