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Nice Documentary on Leigh
Michael_Elliott22 December 2011
Vivien Leigh: Scarlet and Beyond (1990)

*** (out of 4)

Good, if not total complete, documentary about the life and career of Vivien Leigh who died at a relatively early age but before that she managed to win two Academy Awards for Best Actress including landing the most sought after role of all time with GONE WITH THE WIND. At 45-minutes we start off learning about Leigh's early life, how she began acting and how she ended up with her name. From here we see some of her parts in England and then learn how she ended up getting the role in GONE WITH THE WIND. From here we see clips from various films including WATERLOO BRIDGE, CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA, ANNA KARENINA, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and SHIP OF FOOLS. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Elizabeth Ashley, Kim Hunter, John Geiland, Garson Kanin and Stanley Kramer are just a few of the people interviewed and they all deliver interesting stories about the actress. A major portion of the film talks about her affair and eventual marriage to Lawrence Olivier and the various problems the couple faced. The second half of the film goes over their divorce and the various mental and physical issues that started to take over Leigh. All in all this is a good little film but there's no question that it's a product of its time and that a fuller, more detailed film would do the actress justice.
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A decent biography that actually made me feel a bit sorry for Olivier.
MartinHafer21 October 2011
I've seen a few biographies about Vivian Leigh and this one made for Turner Classic Movies is probably the best. It isn't perfect, but does a good job of encapsulating her life and career.

The story begins in India--where Vivian was born. I was saddened to hear that at a very early age (I think 6), she was sent off to England for schooling--and was away from her family for about a decade. I know that sort of thing was done back then, but you wonder how much of an impact this had on her--it surely couldn't have been good. And, considering her instability as an adult, perhaps the impact was disastrous. Now I am not blaming Vivian's bipolar disorder on this but you do wonder if it somehow contributed to it or exacerbated it. Sad.

The film then discusses her stage and film successes as well as her tempestuous relationship with Laurence Olivier. Now I have always disliked the pair as people, as they both left spouses in order to move in together. This selfishness was, at times, excused as some great love affair by the folks they interviewed for the film and I guess that's just how show type people are--but it seemed pretty sad. However, when I heard more about how she mistreated Olivier almost from the very beginning, I felt a bit sad for him as well--as well as her announcing (as per IMDb) that she'd been having affairs and wasn't interested in him any more sexually (ouch!!). But this wasn't mentioned in the show--just that she was increasingly unstable. Perhaps the folks making the film just wanted to make her look great and fill the viewer with a sense of awe...but it did seem a bit dishonest. Now I DO understand that folks with bipolar disorders do act this way sometimes--much of it due to the illness. But it would have put the end of their marriage in a much clearer context.

Apart from this, the film is everything you'd expect---interviews, film clips, photos, etc.. I noticed one reviewer commented that Jessica Lange's narration was not especially good. I would agree--though I am sure she's a nice person. It's just that her expressions and speech sometimes didn't seem to match what she was discussing.
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nice bio
blanche-29 September 2010
"Vivien Leigh: Scarlett & Beyond" is a decent 1990 bio of Vivien Leigh, who gave us such a vivid portrayal of Scarlett O'Hara, Blanche DuBois, and appeared with great success in films like "Waterloo Bridge," "That Hamilton Woman," and "Ship of Fools." There are some wonderful clips and photos of the young Leigh, supplied by her daughter Suzanne, as well as home movies of Leigh and Olivier and film clips of early performances. The focus of the bio is her rise to stardom and her love affair and marriage to Laurence Olivier.

Though there are many references to her mental illness, it seems to be downplayed. It isn't clear why - it certainly wasn't the poor woman's fault that she suffered from manic-depression, but the effects of this were not mentioned: her removal from an airplane, her attempt to run away with actor Peter Finch (the inspiration for the film "The VIPS"), and the most stunning effect of all - that she would stand backstage hallucinating and walk onstage and be letter perfect. The pity is that back then, there was nothing to help her.

The effect of Leigh's illness on her marriage is mentioned, but one is left with the impression that Olivier dumped her for a younger woman. He did, but don't tell me this disease, uncontrolled, is easy to live with. Rachel Kempson (Mrs. Redgrave) said "Larry got tired." Tired? An understatement I'm sure.

Vivien Leigh was a tremendous actress and an equally great beauty. Though this is a good documentary, with interviews with the aforementioned Rachel Kempson, Garson Kanin, John Gielgud and others, it could have been more in depth. Yes, she was beautiful, yes, she was fragile, but she was so much more. Narrated and hosted by Jessica Lange, an odd choice, and the result is uneven.
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Best Available Bio on Vivien Leigh
wright770026 January 2006
This biography, produced in 1990, is clearly the best available work on the incomparable Vivien Leigh. Clips are shown from home movies in colonial India (her birthplace) as well as many of her earlier British works. Having seem most of her movies, this sketch catches the best scenes particularly of some of the weaker ones (Anna Karenina, Cleopatra, and Mrs. Stone). True Vivien Leigh fans will know all of the bigger names like Gone With the Wind, Streetcar, and Waterloo Bridge. Certain things were conspicuously left out, probably to appear sympathetic to her medical problems and personal issues.

Jessica Lange hosted this thing, and she seemed sort of flip or sarcastic. Her face is always cocked to one side with an inappropriate smirk. I don't buy Jessica Lange, yankee from Minnesota, as a die-hard fan either, especially with her demeanor here. At any rate, this bio is part of a GWTW Special Edition and well worth the watch.
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Not quite enough on her Selznick stardom in GWTW...shown on the new GWTW DVD...
Neil Doyle17 May 2005
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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