Vivien Leigh


Vivien Leigh (November 5, 1913 – July 8, 1967), born Vivian Mary Hartley and styled as Lady Olivier after 1947, was a British stage and film actress. She won two Academy Awards for Best Actress, for her definitive performances as Scarlett O’Hara in Victor Fleming‘s Gone with the Wind (1939), costarring Clark Gable; and Blanche DuBois in Elia Kazan‘s film version of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), with Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, and Kim Hunter; 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 final film role was in Stanley Kramer‘s Ship of Fools (1965), with Lee Marvin.

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.

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. She earned a reputation for being difficult to work with, and for much of her adult life, she suffered from bipolar disorder, as well as recurrent bouts of chronic tuberculosis, which was first diagnosed in the mid-1940s and ultimately claimed her life at the age of 53. 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.

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(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)

  • The Village Squire (1935) – directed by Reginald Denham
  • Look Up and Laugh (1935) – directed by Basil Dean
  • Gentlemen’s Agreement (1935) – directed by George Pearson
  • Things Are Looking Up (1935) – directed by Albert de Courville – uncredited
  • Fire Over England (1937) – directed by William K. Howard
  • Dark Journey (1937) – directed by Victor Saville
  • Storm in a Teacup (1937) – directed by Ian Dalrymple & Victor Saville
  • A Yank at Oxford (1938) – directed by Jack Conway
  • Sidewalks of London (1938) – directed by Tim Whelan
  • Gone with the Wind (1939)** – directed by Victor Fleming
  • 21 Days Together (1940) – directed by Basil Dean
  • Waterloo Bridge (1940) – directed by Mervyn LeRoy
  • The Hamilton Woman (1941) – directed by Alexander Korda
  • Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) – directed by Gabriel Pascal
  • Anna Karenina (1948) – directed by Julien Duvivier
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) – directed by Elia Kazan
  • The Deep Blue Sea (1955) – directed by Anatole Litvak
  • The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) – directed by José Quintero
  • Ship of Fools (1965) – directed by Stanley Kramer