Documentary on the life and career of Vivien Leigh who made 19 films in her 30 year career and won 2 Academy Awards as Best Actress (for A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Gone with the Wind (1939) ). She was born in India in 1913, the daughter of a prosperous stock broker. She was bundled off to boarding school in England at age 6 and her parents only re-settled there when she was 15. Her first marriage, to wealthy barrister Leigh Holman, lasted for several years until she met Laurence Olivier. Once they each obtained divorces from their respective spouses they were married in 1940. After starring in A Yank at Oxford (1938) she received the role that would define her in the public's mind, Scarlett O'Hara. By the early 1950s, her relationship with Olivier began to unravel as her mood swings became more pronounced. She was distraught at the break-up of her marriage and at the dwindling number of roles available to her. Her last film was Ship of Fools (1965). She died in 1967 in London... Written by
For her performance in "A Streetcar Named Desire" Vivien won her second Academy Award as Best Actress. It had been a triumph. In Blanche she explored aspects of herself she had never shown before on screen or stage: her fragility, sudden dips into despair and desperation tht in the future would become more and more difficult.
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Not quite enough on her Selznick stardom in GWTW...shown on the new GWTW DVD...
What's really surprising about VIVIEN LEIGH is that she was chosen to play Scarlett O'Hara after what was really an unimpressive and veddy British appearance in A YANK AT OXFORD, sporting pencil thin eyebrows of the period and wearing unflattering hairdo and dowdy clothes. Nothing in that performance could have induced anyone into thinking she could be transformed a year later into Scarlett O'Hara. Selznick himself confesses that he was not even sure after seeing her in the costume epic, FIRE OVER ENGLAND.
And as the narrator so rightly observes, she began her British film career as "a not very successful actress." The remark is fully understood when clips are shown of her first British films.
Of course, all that changed once she did GWTW and WATERLOO BRIDGE, but by then she had been given the Hollywood glamor treatment that successfully made over her looks, a credit to the studio make-up artists as well as the astute Hollywood cameramen who photographed her. It's almost as if the Vivien Leigh of Great Britain left her British look and manner behind when she turned to tinsel town. Perhaps she was already a split personality in the making.
Not exactly the sort of in-depth biography Miss Leigh deserves and on that score it is unsatisfying. It is superficial at best.
But then, she was a very complex person and her life became a constant struggle with inner demons brought on by drugs to combat her illnesses. Some day, hopefully, a fuller, more truthful examination of her faults and virtues will become available to give us a better understanding of this fragile British actress who had her most famous roles playing Southern American women. Too bad Olivia de Havilland wasn't contacted to add something to the backstory of GWTW. De Havilland has been known to say that Vivien was "very much like Scarlett" in real life. Her secretary, Sunny Lash, said the same thing. Like Scarlett, Vivien could be "very cunning and always got her own way".
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