Biography of Vivien Leigh (1913-1967)

Vivien Leigh

British actress born in Darjeeling (India) on November 5, 1913 and died in London (England) on July 7, 1967. His real name was Vivian Mary Hartley.

His father, born in Yorkshire, had emigrated to the India when he was twenty-two years in search of adventure. His mother, although descended from Irish, was also born in the India.

Fond of reading since childhood, Vivian had Rudyard Kipling and Lewis Carroll among their favorite writers. When the age of six, his family moved to England, and future actress would only return to his native country on a trip in the 1960s.

Leigh was educated at the convent of the sacred heart, in Roehampton, for eight years, where grew the interpretation thanks to plays that were organized at the College. He studied cello, piano and ballet, and was tested at the Royal Academy of music when he was a teenager. It was fascinated by the history of Egypt and the languages (he spoke French fluently). He studied at schools of the Italian Riviera and Paris, and in 1932 he met Leigh Holman, thirteen years older than her, whom he married that same year in London. By then he had already begun to study at the Royal Academy of dramatic art in London (RADA); studies continued after honeymoon. In 1933 she gave birth to their first daughter.

It seemed that his life would be home since then, but in 1934 he took part in his first three films. In December of that year saw Laurence Olivier in a play and said that this would be the man with whom he was to marry, although both were already married at that time. The husband of Leigh thought that his interest in acting would be passed, and that he would play the role of wife and mother. Nothing further from the truth. In 1935, when Leigh was a play entitled The Mask of Virtue, Alexander Korda was fixed in it and offered him a contract for five years to make ten films in England, something that did not comply because in 1938, he moved to Hollywood. Meanwhile, it was brought to his idol, with whom he began a love affair shortly after. Titles from this period would be the woman enigma (1937), Victor Saville, or a Yankee in Oxford (1938), Jack Conway. In 1937, after starring in Hamlet alongside Olivier theater, Vivian left her husband and moved to Chelsea with the actor.

From the moment that began the search for the protagonist of what wind of led, Vivien Leigh was sure that she would be the protagonist. Of course, he got the role, and performed an interpretation of Scarlett O'Hara, which has gone down in history of cinema as one of the most memorable and epic, along with the equally splendid of Clark Gable, partner in a scene that became one of the most classic icons of Hollywood. However, Leigh was not comfortable there; as soon as he finished filming, Leigh was presented to the selection of Cardigan, Alfred Hitchcock, tests, but the role would be to Joan Fontaine. Your next degree of success would be, however, Waterloo (1948) bridge, Mervyn LeRoy, adaptation of the play by Robert e. Sherwood. This title is part of its new contract with Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

Vivien Leigh in the wind.

In 1940 Leigh and Olivier were married at last, with Katharine Hepburn as maid of honor. They staged three films together: fire over England (1937), William K. Howard; 21 days together (1938), Basil Dean; and Lady Hamilton (1941), Alexander Korda.

During the war, he participated in a tour with other British actors by North Africa, interpreting poems and fragments of his films. When he returned, he decided to not return to Hollywood and stay in England doing theater. However, the producer or ' Selznick tried to press it to make it comply with a contract that had been postponed for four years. The battle ended in the courts, and Leigh won. At the end of César and Cleopatra (1945), with Claude Reins and Stewart Granger, Leigh had to be entered. His recurrent tuberculosis had re-emerged by exhaustion.

His next title, Anna Karenina (1948), Julien Duvivier, was a paper that had always wanted to interpret. At that time his dedication to theatre was greater than the film (intervened in works such as Romeo and Juliet, The Doctor's Dilemma, The School for Scandal, The Skin of Our Teeth, or Ricardo III). The 1950s began with a streetcar named desire (1951), Elia Kazan, work that gave him the Oscar for best actress. Leigh suffered, as well as tuberculosis, split personality, which later would become more difficult that you differentiate your real-life of his character in the film: Blanche DuBois. The film meant, however, his Hollywood return after a decade's absence.

In September 1951, his mental illness suffered a relapse and had to be interned. The ability to be able to interpret different personalities was even more difficult recovery, but after a surprising improvement, he starred in The Deep Blue Sea (1955), Anatole Litvak, which did not succeed at the box office. A year later, aged 43, she was pregnant, although pregnancy miscarried.

The theatre, together with Olivier, continued to be its biggest incentive. In 1957 they began however rumors of separation, because Olivier had begun a romance with the actress Joan Plowright (with whom he later married). In 1961 Leigh starred in, back in Hollywood, the Roman spring of Mrs Stone, of José Quintero, adaptation of the play by Tenesee Williams that is Manor in the first film of the actress after five years away from the screen. The ship of fools (1965), of Stanley Kramer, with Simone Signoret, José Ferrer and Lee Marvin, was his last work, year in which also starred in his last play, alongside John Gielgud: Ivanov.

Leigh lived with actor John Merivale from 1959 until his death in 1967.


1934: Thing Are Looking Up. 1935: The Village Squire; Look Up And Laugh; Gentlemen's Agreement. 1936: Fire Over England. 1937: The enigma woman; Storm in a Teacup; 21 days together... 1938: A Connecticut Yankee in Oxford; Dead end. 1939: what the wind 1940: Waterloo Bridge. 1941: lady Hamilton. 1945: César and Cleopatra. 1948: Anna Karenina. 1951: A streetcar named desire. 1955: The Deep Blue Sea. 1961: The Roman spring of Mrs. Stone. 1965: The ship of fools.


OLIVIER, l.: Confessions of an actor. Barcelona: Planeta, 1983.