If there was ever a flawed masterpiece, it was Vivien. - Peter Finch
English film and stage actress, 1913-1967.
Vivien Makes Her Debut
Vivian Mary Hartley was born in Darjeeling, India, to Ernest Hartley and Gertrude Yackjee on Wednesday, November 5th, 1913. Her father, who had been born in England, moved to India when he was twenty-two, and spent his time working as a stockbroker, racing horses, and acting in The Calcutta Dramatic Society; her mother was born in India and possessed the same striking looks Vivien would become famous for. Vivien was born a year after her parents married, and when she was six years old her parents decided to return to England.
Vivien was so tiny and delicately made, with wonderful large blue eyes and chestnut wavy hair nearly to her waist, the tiny retrousse nose, the only complexion I have ever seen that really was like a peach, almost downy as a peach is. -
Patsy Quinn, family friend
In September of 1920, Vivien was sent to the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton, England, where she would remain for the next eight years. She took ballet and played both the cello and the piano, and became fluent in French.
Her first appearances on the stage took place here; she played the fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Miranda in The Tempest. She also stayed at an affiliated convent of the Sacred Heart in San Remo, Italy during 1928 and 1929. When Vivien was fifteen years old, she went to Paris, France and attended a finishing school that was located in Auteuil. At Christmastime in 1929, Vivien was picked to play the heroine of the school play. The schoolmistress there urged her to further develop her acting skills and work on her diction, which sparked her interest in pursuing a career on the stage. Vivien concluded her education with two years at another finishing school, in the Bavarian Alps. While there, she became interested in visual arts and studied the French and German languages. Vivien would later describe her "erratic education" as "a great help afterwards":
Apart from the fact that I learnt to speak several languages more or less fluently, and had an opportunity of studying diction and the theatre in many countries, I met people of all types and nationalities. They gave me that flexibility of mind which is so necessary to an artist, and taught me, I hope, understanding. Through knowing them I have always been able to recognize the characters I play, and love them.
Her education was not the only thing that was erratic. Vivien was already displaying signs of the manic depression that would become more and more apparent as the years went by. According to a biography of Laurence Olivier by Thomas Kiernan, a school friend of Vivien's recalled that:
Vivien would get along fine for a few weeks, a few months - be perfectly normal and friendly and involved in her activities. Then, suddenly, a complete turnaround. Sometimes it would last only a few hours, other times a day or more. But when it happened, we'd see a completely different girl - moody, silent, petulant, rude, often hysterical...a disturbed young girl, disturbed in some way she had no control over.
Is That All There Is?
Vivien met Leigh Holman, a Cambridge-educated barrister, in January 1932 while visiting her aunt in Teignmouth, England. Despite being thirteen years older than Vivien, his intelligence and charisma appealed to her, and the two soon began seeing one another. In May, Vivien began attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. At the end of the year, Vivien married Holman, and because he didn't care for "theatrical people," she stopped attending the Academy; however, after their honeymoon, she began going again. About a year later, Vivien gave birth to her only child, Suzanne, on October 10th, 1933. She was not at all impressed with the act of giving birth, declaring: "That was a very messy business. I don't think I'll do it again in a hurry."
Her ambivalence towards her child was evident in a letter to a friend where she jokingly remarked that she would call her "Toosoon" and found the thought of breastfeeding the baby "depressing." She concluded, "Radiant motherhood (if there really is such a thing) hasn't descended on me yet."
Joyful acceptance of domesticity hadn't descended on her yet either; in fact, she was starting to feel suffocated by it. An acquaintance remarked that Vivien not only "had no feeling for the child" but also found Leigh "a bore."
Unsurprisingly, when she was recommended for a role in a film called Things Are Looking Up, she gladly took it. Her only line would later be cut out, but the film still contained footage of her.
I was not cast in the mold of serenity and in any case, although you may succeed in being kind at twenty you cannot be calm, with all your life still before you, and your ambitions unfulfilled. I loved my baby as every mother does, but with the clear-cut sincerity of youth I realized that I could not abandon all thought of a career on the stage. Some force within myself would not be denied expression. I took the problem to my husband and asked his advice. He was many years older than I was, a deeply kind and wise man, with that rare quality of imagination that implies tolerance and unselfishness. We decided that I should continue my studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. We took a tiny house in Little Stanhope Street and got a good nanny for the baby.
The agent Vivien hired, John Gliddon, didn't think her current name of "Vivian Holman" was a good name for an actress, and offered "April Morn," which she refused. She settled on "Vivian Leigh." Along with the name change, another important event took place around this time: in September of 1934 Vivien saw a play, Theatre Royal*, which starred Laurence Olivier, an up-and-coming stage actor. Despite the fact that she and Olivier were both married, she declared, "That's the man I'm going to marry:"
People who are beautiful make their own laws.
Vivien continued to pursue acting, acquiring bit parts in theater and films: she appeared in two small films: The Village Squire and Gentleman's Agreement, and her first play, The Green Sash, in 1935. That same year, Vivien landed a role in Look Up and Laugh, a comedy that starred Gracie Fields. Vivien also had her first extramarital affair that year, according to John Merivale, and would go on to have a few more before her affair with Olivier. She also tried out for a part in a play called The Mask of Virtue, which she won. The play ended up being a smash hit and garnered Vivien a lot of recognition. A well-known film producer, Alexander Korda, saw the play on opening night and offered her a five-year contract with London Films that would bring her around £38,000. (At this point, her name was changed from "Vivian" to "Vivien.") She still worked on the play, but it soon closed after it was moved to a bigger theater, for her voice was not strong enough to carry through the new theater. It was a problem that would plague her for many years.
It was a romantic first night. I had a part that was both good and decorative, and I was helped by the entire cast, with that wonderful loyalty and generosity of the theatre world towards a newcomer. The fact that I was young and unknown caught the imagination of the audience. The roar of applause when the final curtain fell told me that the miracle had happened. I had arrived.
Larry Boy and the Vivling: The Beginning of an Epic Romance
She appeared in a couple more plays the next year: Richard II, The Happy Hypocrite, and Henry VIII, but nothing was as successful as The Mask of Virtue. She was, however, introduced to Laurence Olivier while dining in London at the Savoy Grill. Olivier and Leigh began working on a film together in 1936, called Fire Over England. Shooting the film allowed them a lot of time to spend together, and soon their relationship turned serious.
It was natural she would fall for him
and it was even more natural that he would fall for her. It was a couple made in heaven, I think, at that particular time...Their romance grew to unbelievable fiery tension. A romance of classic proportions. - Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
After Vivien completed Fire Over England, she immediately began another film, Shooting Dark Journey.
When that film wrapped, Vivien filmed Storm in a Teacup with Rex Harrison, which she finished in January of 1937. She had two more stage roles in February and March, in Because We Must and Bats in the Belfry, respectively.
Vivien began to read a lot during this time; one of the things she read several times, despite its length, was a novel that would captivate the nation: Gone with the Wind.
The infamous search for Scarlett O'Hara had begun in Hollywood, and her agent suggested her, getting a somewhat terse reply from the producer, David O' Selznick:
I have no enthusiasm for Vivien Leigh. Maybe I will have, but as yet have never even seen photograph of her. I will be seeing Fire Over England shortly, at which time will of course see Leigh.
Vivien's next project would be another film with Olivier, Twenty-One Days, shot in 1937. She would also share the stage with him in Hamlet during this time. Olivier's first exposure to one of Vivien's manic depressive episodes happened before going onstage one evening, leaving him puzzled and concerned. Vivien finally separated from Leigh, and went to live with Olivier at Durham Cottage in Chelsea, London, though she would not be officially divorced until years later. During a conversation on the set of Twenty-One Days, Gone with the Wind was discussed:
Somebody turned to Olivier and said, "Larry, you'd be marvelous as Rhett Butler." He laughed it off, but the suggestion was not too preposterous...Discussion of the casting went on in a desultory fashion, until the new girl, Vivien Leigh, brought it to a sudden stop. She drew herself up on the rain-swept deck, all five feet nothing of her, pulled a coat round her shoulders and stunned us with the sibylline utterance: "Larry won't play Rhett Butler, but I shall play Scarlett O'Hara. Wait and see..." - Caroline Lejeune, film reporter/critic
The Most Coveted Film Role in History
In the fall of 1937, MGM wanted Vivien for a role in the film A Yank at Oxford, so she was "loaned" to their studio temporarily. Her behavior during shooting prompted Korda to tell Vivien's agent that her option wasn't going to be renewed if she continued being "difficult". After she finished filming for that movie, she began work on St. Martin's Lane in January of 1938. Vivien had planned to perform in A Midsummer Night's Dream in late 1938, but Olivier was about to start work in Wuthering Heights in Hollywood, so she went to visit him instead. Vivien had been offered the role of Isabella, but she had wanted to play Cathy and refused, opting instead to start work on a play, Serena Blandish. William Wyler, the director of the film, was a big name in Hollywood at that time and felt she was making a mistake in turning down the opportunity:
Look, Vivien, you're not yet known in the states. You may become a big star. But for a first role in an American film you'll never do better than Isabella in Wuthering Heights.
He would soon be proven wrong.
During a two-week trip to Hollywood in late November and early December, Vivien visited Olivier but also had other things planned. She met up with Olivier's agent, who happened to be David O. Selznick's brother Myron. He thought that Vivien was exactly the person David was looking for to play Scarlett O' Hara. Vivien went with him and Olivier to the set of GWTW, where they were filming the burning of Atlanta, and introduced her with, "Hey genius, meet your Scarlett O'Hara."** The next day, Vivien read a scene from the film for David O. Selznick and was given a screen test. Up to that point, the frontrunner to play Scarlett O' Hara had been Paulette Goddard, but George Cukor, the director, and David O. Selznick finally decided on Vivien.
Vivien, who had been so thrilled about winning the part of Scarlett, found the actual making of the movie less enchanting. Her day consisted of voice lessons in order to perfect her Georgia accent, wardrobe fittings for thirty-one
costumes, three hours of rehearsing with George Cukor, make-up and costume tests, and two additional hours of elocution.
She was fond of George Cukor, but another director, Victor Fleming, who she did not get along with, replaced him shortly after filming began. Vivien liked Olivia de Havilland and Clark Gable, but disliked Leslie Howard, who she had a lot of scenes with. The sometimes seven-day work week, combined with the fact that Olivier had left to go to New York, made her miserable. She found Hollywood and film acting extremely unappealing, especially the label of "movie star":
I'm not a film star – I'm an actress. Being a film star – just a film star – is such a false life, lived for fake values and for publicity. Actresses go on for a long time and there are always marvelous parts to play.
The American filmmaking crew was somewhat surprised at some of the foul language Vivien used; it was still considered by some to be taboo for a woman to speak that way. Even Clark Gable was shocked by her swearing; she'd agreed to meet up with him and was late, prompting him to declare that he'd walk out on the film if he had to work with "a dame like that." She was arriving just as the words left his mouth and agreed, saying: "If I were a man, I'd tell Vivien Leigh to go back to England and fuck herself."
The use of expletives was not as strange as another method Vivien used to let off steam: playing a game called Ways To Kill a Baby, in which players had to pantomime unusual ways of getting rid of unwanted children. This game so disturbed Selznick that he pulled strings to get Olivier a break from his play, as he thought a visit from him might ease Vivien's nerves. She expressed her gratitude in her characteristic frank manner:
Larry met me in the hotel lobby and we went upstairs and we fucked and we fucked and we fucked the whole weekend.
After she was through filming GWTW, Vivien was given a screen test for Rebecca, but wasn't chosen for the film, although Olivier would be cast in it. Her next role would be in a film called Waterloo Bridge. Although Olivier had the choice of being with her in Waterloo Bridge or starring in Pride and Prejudice, he ended up deciding on Pride and Prejudice. GWTW opened in Atlanta around this time, to spectacular critical and commercial success. Vivien was catapulted to stardom instantly.
Things Are Looking Up, Indeed
In 1940, Vivien's husband filed for divorce; Vivien could marry Olivier six months after the divorce was final. They attended the Academy Awards together that year, where Vivien won the best actress Oscar for GWTW. Waterloo Bridge was released a few months later, which also got good reviews:
It is apparent, now, though, that her career is based on great talent and great beauty rather than on the supposed break she got when she was picked to play the most popular heroine of our day. Actually, Gone With The Wind was extremely lucky to have her in it. Any film, or any stage work for that matter, is blessed by her participation. For here is an actress who combines all of the sorcery of a vivid personality with brilliant acting execution.
- Howard Barnes, writing about Waterloo Bridge, New York Herald Tribune
Vivien returned to the stage with her next project, a Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet
, which Olivier also starred in and directed. They were slammed by the press for their actions both on and offstage: the New York Times
, while conceding that they were "handsome young people
," denounced them as "hardly act(ing) their parts at all." Vivien's voice was described by another critic as having a "thin, shopgirl quality" as well. The couple was also criticized for their allegedly immoral relationship
and their failure to go back to England and assist in the war effort. The play, which both thought would be a success, closed after only 35 performances.
The six months had finally gone by, and Vivien and Olivier were now free to marry and end their "two years of furtive life, lying life," as described by Olivier. He felt far more guilt about their liaison than Vivien did; she was once heard saying, "Of course we're living in sin," then laughing at the idea. They got married on August 31st, 1940, in Santa Barbara, California; Katherine Hepburn was their maid of honor. Despite her intense aversion to Hollywood, Vivien returned in September to star as Lady Hamilton in That Hamilton Woman. It was a critical failure but a commercial success; it was even one of Winston Churchill's favorite movies. Around this time, Vivien's daughter, Suzanne, who had been living with Leigh Holman, went to live with Vivien's mother in Canada.
Vivien and Olivier went back to Britain during Christmastime, at which point the war had already started. She started work on a new play, The Doctor's Dilemma, which ended up running for more than a year, ending in April 1943. Vivien, along with several other actors, toured in support of the war effort in North Africa, reviving her role of Scarlett in small plays and recitals for the troops. In August of that year, she went back to England to be with Olivier, who was then filming Henry V. The couple purchased a new home in the Buckinghamshire countryside that winter. Notley Abbey had been built in the twelfth or thirteenth century, endowed by the king, and used as a church and hospice. Despite this illustrious history, the condition of the estate had deteriorated considerably and required a lot of renovation before it could even be moved into. Nonetheless, Olivier had his heart set on it and while Vivien was not quite convinced, she gave in and it became their summer home in 1945.
She decided to sign onto a film of George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra, although it didn't begin filming until June 1944. Various problems plagued the film, and things were made worse when Vivien, who had been pregnant, had an accident on the set which resulted in a miscarriage.
At this point in time, Vivien began to exhibit the first signs of manic depression that were visible to others.
After Caesar and Cleopatra, Vivien wanted to do another play in England, much to the displeasure of David O. Selznick, with whom she had a film contract that required her to make four additional films in Hollywood. He sued her, but Vivien somehow won in court and didn't have to fulfill the rest of the terms of her contract. She wouldn't have to work in Hollywood again unless she specifically chose to.
Acclaim as a Stage Actress
Vivien's doctors wanted her to spend time at a sanitarium after the exhausting ordeal she had to go through with Caesar and Cleopatra, but she had the opportunity to play Sabina in The Skin of Our Teeth, which she chose. The play opened in May of 1945 to excellent reviews - it was considered her best work to date and Vivien was recognized by her peers as a fine actress who could succeed both onstage and in film. Vivien had to end the play after only 78 performances because her health was again faltering; doctors wanted her to take a break from acting after a patch of tuberculosis was found on her left lung. She took nine months off and then went with Olivier to America for a tour on Broadway. The couple were now struggling financially so Vivien decided to have another go at playing Sabina in The Skin of Our Teeth, which began in September 1946 and lasted until Christmas.
At the beginning of the new year, Vivien started shooting her first film in two years, a version of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Although she had a few incidences of depression, overall the filming was uneventful. She finished work on the film by the summer and joined Olivier on a trip to Buckingham Palace, where he became the youngest actor ever to be knighted. Anna Karenina opened to mixed reviews; some thought she took a fresh approach to the role, but other critics felt she took too many liberties.
In November 1948, Vivien and Olivier participated in a tour of Australia and New Zealand put on by the Old Vic Theatre Company. The tour consisted of The School for Scandal, Richard III, and The Skin of Our Teeth, and was a success both financially and artistically. The Oliviers went back to England and did more work on the stage, reviving The School for Scandal and Richard III,and starting another play, Antigone, all of which were received rather well.
For some reason, Vivien decided to tell Olivier that she no longer loved him, or that she loved him like a brother; her mental state was unclear at the time and whatever the context was in which it was said, Olivier accepted it as true and their relationship would never be the same. They continued to put on a display of happiness for the public; early in their relationship both Vivien and Olivier had envisioned themselves being a "theatre couple" like the Lunts, but now that they were, it was a strain to keep up the image.
In the summer of 1949, Vivien rested for a while, during a rare instance of taking care of Suzanne in England. In the fall, she began a new play by a new playwright, Tennessee Williams; the play was A Streetcar Named Desire. Vivien was stunning in the role of Blanche DuBois, which brought her endless accolades and critical acclaim. She transformed into Blanche, perhaps too much; each of the play's 326 performances left Vivien "shaking and tense:"
Vivien was too much affected by the parts she played…it had a great deal to do with playing Blanche DuBois being ill in the same way. - Laurence Olivier
A Return to Hollywood
After being away from Hollywood for almost ten years, Vivien returned to be in the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire in August 1950. The town was eager to see what would happen when Vivien and Marlon Brando were paired up. She could have been offended at his impersonation of Olivier's Henry IV, which was accurate but not quite complimentary. Instead, she was delighted and they mostly got along well. She managed to upstage him at a press conference where a reporter referred to her as Lady Olivier (she had been less than thrilled when Olivier was knighted and did not grow to like her title until later in her life), remarking that "Her Ladyship is fucking bored with such formality and prefers to be called Vivien Leigh."
The film differed greatly from the play because of the strict Hays Code that was still in effect for movies - the scene containing the rape could only be suggested, as was the mention of homosexuality. For the role, Vivien used thick make-up, matronly wigs and harsh, unflattering lighting in order to look the part of the aging, faded beauty; she was only thirty-seven at the time and still quite beautiful. Her work in the film was every bit as incredible as it had been in the stage version, and garnered her another best actress Oscar, and best actress awards from the New York critics and BAFTA.
In May of 1951, Vivien and Olivier mounted their own productions of Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra and Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, which they did for four months. Vivien continued to have bouts of depression and Olivier insisted she see a psychiatrist, which she did. Her health did not get better; indeed, it deteriorated significantly until she had a complete nervous breakdown in April 1952. She went back to England to recuperate.
In the beginning of 1953, after recovering, or at least appearing to, Vivien was set to have a leading role in the film Elephant Walk. Initially, Olivier was going to have a part in the film as well, but ultimately decided against it. Filming had only just started when Vivien began to worry the producer of the film with her erratic behavior, reciting lines from past films and becoming out of control. The studio decided to replace Vivien with Elizabeth Taylor in March. Vivien returned to England, where she would tell Olivier she had an affair with Peter Finch, under sedation to diffuse her unstable moods, and stayed at Netherne Hospital in Surrey, where she was given shock treatment.
The Olivier's home was burglarized during her stay in the hospital, and a substantial amount of jewelry and other items, including the Oscar she had received for A Streetcar Named Desire, were taken. After her respite in Netherne Hospital, she seemed to Olivier an entirely different person, but after a couple of months her health showed much improvement. Vivien started another play, The Sleeping Prince, with Olivier in November 1953, on her fortieth birthday. She stunned the press and the critics with her apparent total recovery. Vivien filmed The Deep Blue Sea immediately following the end of the play's run, but it was not a success commercially or critically.
The Seemingly Perfect Marriage Falters
In 1955 Vivien played in Olivier's stagings of Twelfth Night, Macbeth, and Titus Andronicus, to excellent reviews. A film version of Macbeth was planned but never came to fruition as Vivien's producer, Alexander Korda, passed away that year. The Oliviers were going through a difficult time at that point:
Their life together is really hideous and here they are trapped by public acclaim, scrabbling about in the cold ashes of a physical passion that burnt itself out years ago…They are eminent, successful, envied and adored, and most wretchedly unhappy. - Noel Coward
After the season for the theatre had ended , Vivien's health lapsed again, and she suffered depression along with her tuberculosis. She spent most of the next year resting.
Vivien's next project was a Noel Coward play called The South Sea Bubble. During the summer of 1956, at the age of 43, Vivien became pregnant but had a miscarriage soon after. She spent most of her time alone at her home after that; Olivier was busy with other projects, including The Prince and The Showgirl, which he did with Marilyn Monroe. In 1957, she began a European tour of Titus Andronicus, but she became ill again. She did, however, receive the Legion of Honour from the Minister of Cultural Relations when she went through France. Vivien and Olivier went back to England in June of 1957 and during one of her more violent mood swings, physically assaulted one another. They had reached the end of their time together, and were together onstage only once more after that.
Rumors had begun circulating in 1957 that Vivien and Olivier were about to be separated. Both of them were having affairs; Olivier with actress Joan Plowright, Vivien with actor Peter Finch. In 1958, Vivien began another play in the UK, Duel of Angels, and while she still had the occasional episode, she was able to continue working on the play, to good reviews. For Vivien’s 45th birthday, she and her husband went to dinner, only for him to inform her that he thought they should split up. She went to New York for a new play, Look After Lulu, in 1959. Vivien was dealt another blow in December of that year, when her father died. By that time, Olivier had begun a new life with Joan Plowright.
The Show Must Go On
During a visit to the United States to reprise her role in Duel of Angels, Vivien developed a relationship with another actor, John Merivale, and their affair soon became tabloid news. Olivier sent Vivien a telegram requesting a divorce, ending all hope of a reconciliation. She then made a blunt statement to the press, saying that Olivier wanted a divorce so he would be able to marry Joan Plowright. She flew back to London to see if she could change his mind, but her attempt was unsuccessful. She had started drinking heavily and after years of misunderstanding about her behavior, was told she had cyclic manic-depressive psychosis. Between 1960 and 1961, she received six sessions of shock treatment. Vivien lived with John Merivale in Hollywood for a while, still appearing in Duel of Angels. Her divorce from Olivier became final on December 2nd, 1960.
Vivien’s first film in half a decade would be a Tennessee Williams play adapted into a film:The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. The film got favorable reviews and once again brought Vivien into the public eye. That summer, a Civil War centenary was held in Atlanta and Vivien, along with GWTW co-star Olivia de Havilland, attended. She vacationed in Jamaica for a bit, then participated in a documentary about Winston Churchill.
Vivien went to Australia in 1961 to tour with the Old Vic Theatre Company again. While there, she received a proposal of marriage from a man named Sir Ernest Davis, but turned it down. The tour continued on to South America and ended in London in May 1962. During this time, Vivien’s voice was used for many Beatrix Potter books on tape.
The next project Vivien would embark on was Tovarich, a musical comedy. As it was the first time she’d done a musical, she invested a lot of time with singing coaches and dance instructors. She was rewarded with fantastic reviews and a Tony award in 1963. However, performing in such a physically demanding role caused her health to decline again, and shock treatments were recommended. She wanted John Merivale to join her in London and marry, but he refused. Vivien then spent some time in the Avenue Nursing Home, where she was watched around the clock to prevent her from leaving, as she had begun hallucinating. After a while she was allowed to go home, where she was accompanied by a nurse. Olivier came to see her and his visit was pleasant; there were no fights or incidents. Vivien went back to Hollywood in June 1964 to make Ship of Fools, which ended up being her last film.
The filming went smoothly but Vivien's condition did not get better, despite shock treatments in July. She went back to England in August and made plans to visit India, which she did for the first time since her childhood. She appeared onstage in La Contessa and rested in 1965. Vivien's last play would be Ivanov in 1966. She toured America, then vacationed in Greece and France, where she won the French version of the Oscar for Ship of Fools. She read several scripts, but found, like many actresses, that as she got older, she wasn't being offered good parts anymore.
A reading at Oxford would be Vivien's final public appearance. Doctors discovered a large patch of tuberculosis on her left lung, causing her to postpone working on a new play, A Delicate Balance. Vivien refused to go to the hospital; instead, she recuperated at home, although she still rehearsed the play. Despite her own illness, she was more concerned that Olivier was in the hospital suffering from prostate cancer. She still cared for and missed him immensely, but at the same time had remarked, "I would rather have lived a short life with Larry than face a long one without him."
John Merivale, who had been her constant companion for the last several years of her life, returned
to their home one night to find Vivien sprawled across the floor of the bedroom. As a result of the tuberculosis, her lungs had filled with fluid and she had died of suffocation. She was only fifty-three years old.
It was only after Vivien's death that critics discussed the fact that her beauty was a constant hindrance to her acting career, preventing her from being taken as seriously as she might have been. However, her beauty was not the only disadvantage she had to contend with. Just as her beauty overshadowed her talent, Olivier's extraordinary talent made her own seem small in comparison and she always felt inferior to him. While that was certainly a factor in the demise of their legendary relationship, it was not the only one: her tragically misunderstood illness eventually drove Olivier away, as he was convinced he could not properly take care of Vivien while at the same time having the kind of life and career that he wanted. Sadly, Vivien's need to keep up with her husband professionally may indeed have played a part in her undoing. Many critics felt that when she performed onstage with Olivier, he toned down his greatness, and they often reacted harshly, unjustly lambasting her performance. These reviews often triggered episodes of her bipolar disorder. In any case, Vivien’s career in films and on the stage, which spanned thirty years, provided countless examples of her remarkable acting ability, and had her life not ended so early, she would have certainly gone on acting for a long time, playing the marvelous parts she knew were out there.
This, this was love. This was the real thing. - Olivier in 1986, watching an old film of Vivien's on television.
*Other sources say the play was Bees on the Boatdeck.
**There are several accounts of what was actually said; others included, "David, meet your Scarlett" and "I want you to meet your Scarlett O'Hara."
Vickers, Hugo. Vivien Leigh: A Biography. United States, 1988.
Walker, Alexander. Vivien: The Life of Vivien Leigh. Great Britain: Wiedenfeld and Nicolson, 1987.
The Vivien Leigh Pages. http://www.dycks.com/vivienleigh/
Vivien Leigh. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivien_Leigh