Here is a tribute to legendary actress Vivien Leigh.
Vivien Leigh (born Vivian Mary Hartley in Darjeeling, India; 1913 – 1967) was an English stage and film actress. She won two Academy Awards for Best Actress, for her iconic performances as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939) and Blanche DuBois in the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), a role she had also played on stage in London's West End in 1949. She also won a Tony Award for her work in the Broadway musical version of Tovarich (1963).
Her mother tried to instill an appreciation of literature in her daughter and introduced her to the works of Hans Christian Andersen, Lewis Carroll and Rudyard Kipling, as well as stories of Greek mythology and Indian folklore.
At the age of six, Vivian was sent by her mother to the Convent of the Sacred Heart (now Woldingham School) then situated in Roehampton, southwest London. One of her friends there was future actress Maureen O'Sullivan, two years her senior, to whom Vivian expressed her desire to become "a great actress".
After completing her drama school education, Leigh appeared in small roles in four films in 1935 and progressed to the role of heroine in Fire Over England (1937). Lauded for her beauty, Leigh felt that her physical attributes sometimes prevented her from being taken seriously as an actress. Despite her fame as a screen actress, Leigh was primarily a stage performer. During her 30-year career, she played roles ranging from the heroines of Noël Coward and George Bernard Shaw comedies to classic Shakespearean characters such as Ophelia, Cleopatra, Juliet, and Lady Macbeth. Later in life, she performed as a character actress in a few films. She namely appeared in the films The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) and Ship of Fools (1965).
Leigh's last screen appearance in Ship of Fools was both a triumph and emblematic of her illnesses that were taking root. Producer and director Stanley Kramer, who ended up with the film, planned to star Leigh but was initially unaware of her fragile mental and physical state. Later recounting her work, Kramer remembered her courage in taking on the difficult role, "She was ill, and the courage to go ahead, the courage to make the film – was almost unbelievable." Leigh's performance was tinged by paranoia and resulted in outbursts that marred her relationship with other actors, although both Simone Signoret and Lee Marvin were sympathetic and understanding. In one unusual instance during the attempted rape scene, Leigh became distraught and hit Marvin so hard with a spiked shoe, that it marked his face. Leigh won the L'Étoile de Cristal for her performance in a leading role in Ship of Fools.
Quoted in a 2006 biography of Olivier, Olivia de Havilland defended Leigh against claims of her manic behaviour during the filming of Gone with the Wind: "Vivien was impeccably professional, impeccably disciplined on Gone with the Wind. She had two great concerns: doing her best work in an extremely difficult role and being separated from Larry [Olivier], who was in New York."
Gone with the Wind brought Leigh immediate attention and fame; but she was quoted as saying, "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 marvellous parts to play." The film won 10 Academy Awards including a Best Actress award for Leigh, who also won a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress.
At the time, the public strongly identified Leigh with her second husband Laurence Olivier, who was her spouse from 1940 to 1960. Leigh and Olivier starred together in many stage productions, with Olivier often directing, and in three films. Although her career had periods of inactivity, in 1999 the American Film Institute ranked Leigh as the 16th greatest female movie star of classic Hollywood cinema.
Leigh was considered to be one of the most beautiful actresses of her day, and her directors emphasised this in most of her films. When asked if she believed her beauty had been an impediment to being taken seriously as an actress, she said, "People think that if you look fairly reasonable, you can't possibly act, and as I only care about acting, I think beauty can be a great handicap, if you really want to look like the part you're playing, which isn't necessarily like you."
Director George Cukor described Leigh as a "consummate actress, hampered by beauty", and Laurence Olivier said that critics should "give her credit for being an actress and not go on forever letting their judgments be distorted by her great beauty."
Garson Kanin shared their viewpoint and described Leigh as "a stunner whose ravishing beauty often tended to obscure her staggering achievements as an actress. Great beauties are infrequently great actresses – simply because they don't need to be. Vivien was different; ambitious, persevering, serious, often inspired."
Leigh explained that she played "as many different parts as possible" in an attempt to learn her craft and to dispel prejudice about her abilities. She believed that comedy was more difficult to play than drama because it required more precise timing and said that more emphasis should be placed upon comedy as part of an actor's training. Nearing the end of her career, which ranged from Noël Coward comedies to Shakespearean tragedies, she observed, "It's much easier to make people cry than to make them laugh."
In 1969 a plaque to Leigh was placed in the Actors' Church, St Paul's, Covent Garden, London. In 1985 a portrait of her was included in a series of United Kingdom postage stamps, along with Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Sir Charlie Chaplin, Peter Sellers and David Niven to commemorate "British Film Year".
Enjoy Vivien Leigh's fabulous beauty!
Trailer of Gone with the wind
Trailer of Ship of fools