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Vivien Leigh’s Filmography: List of the British Actress’ Most Successful Films

04.11.2021
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Vivien Leigh’s Filmography

Vivien Leigh was a legendary British actress who reached the pinnacle of the film world.

Educated in England and in other parts of Europe, Leigh was inspired by her school friend Maureen O’Sullivan to pursue an acting career.

She played the roles of two of the most famous Southern beauties of American literature, Scarlett O’Hara and Blanche DuBois.

But who was the real Vivien? What was Vivien Leigh’s original name? And how old was she in the film “Gone with the wind?”. Let’s take a peek into her biography and look at Vivien Leigh’s Life Story and the Significant Films she starred in.

Early Years and the Beginning of Her Career

Vivian Mary Hartley was born on 5 November 1913 in Darjeeling, India.

What nationality was Vivien? Her father, Ernest Hartley, of English descent, was an Indian cavalry officer. Her mother, Gertrude Robinson Yaqui, was of Irish and French descent. The parents were married in Kensington, London, in 1912.

Beginning of Vivien Leigh Career

Vivien had no brother or sister. The girl was an only and beloved child. (Janet Leigh and Vivien Leigh are not related, as you might think. They are two completely different actresses, and they are not related by blood.)

The family returned to England after Vivien Leigh’s sixth birthday. A year later, young Vivien Leigh told classmate Maureen O’Sullivan that she was “going to be famous”. Her plans soon came to fruition, but the girl gained fame under a different name.

As a teenager, Vivian Hartley attended schools in England, France, Italy and Germany. The girl was fluent in French and Italian. The future film star went on to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, but temporarily suspended her career when she married Leigh Holman. Returning to the creative world, Hartley used her husband’s surname to create the more glamorous stage name, beautiful Vivien Leigh.

Life on Stage and in Films

Vivien Leigh first appeared on stage and in movies in 1935. She presented the lead role in the play “The Bash”, which was not so successful, but attracted the producer Sidney Carroll, who invited the talented actress Vivien Leigh to the first London play. In addition, Leigh landed a starring role in the aptly named “Things Go Away” (1935).

Although initially, the actress played the role of a flirtatious coquette, she later sought more serious and dynamic roles. For this, Leigh played Shakespearean plays at the Old Vic Theatre in London. It was there that Vivien Leigh met and fell in love with the then revered actor Laurence Olivier, whom she later married. A very fruitful and inspiring acting relationship soon developed between them, followed by a very public and scandalous affair.

Around the same time, American film director George Ciucor was looking for the ideal actress for the lead role of Scarlett O’Hara in his adaptation of “Gone with the Wind”. The girl, who is suitable for the role, had to be special and have unprecedented charm. For the role of an impressive list of the best actresses in Hollywood: Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis and others. But it was Leigh, who was on a two-week holiday in California, who auditioned for this coveted role.

The casting was very risky for a practically unknown British stage actress. But despite the fact that it was one of the most long-awaited Hollywood pictures of all time-the young beauty pulled it off. A movie starring Vivien broke box-office records, received 13 Oscar nominations and eight wins, including one for the actress for best performance. Vivien Leigh’s“Gone with the Wind” remains one of the most iconic films in cinematic history even today.

Personal Life and Tragedy of a Film Star

Behind Vivien Leigh’s exquisite looks, figure and incredible eye colour was a very complicated life.

Vivien Leigh’s children

What is known about Vivien Leigh’s children and marriage?

As mentioned, at the age of 19, Vivien married lawyer Leigh Holman and had a desirable daughter. But, performing on stage, she found a new romance when she met Laurence Olivier.

When the young people waited for their divorce, Leigh and Olivier married. In Vivien Leigh 1940, having secured their status as a formal relationship by marriage, they were already viewed differently by the world of show business. The couple continued to star in films and plays, but tried to stay out of the limelight, often taking breaks of several years between Vivian Leigh movies.

Vivien Leigh’s marriage

Because of Leigh’s deteriorating mental health and severe bouts of manic depression, her relationship with Olivier deteriorated and her desire to perform on stage disappeared.

In 1944 there was a personal tragedy for the actress when she collapsed during rehearsals for “Caesar and Cleopatra” and suffered a miscarriage. Her health deteriorated and she became increasingly mentally unstable. Leigh struggled with insomnia, bipolar disorder, and a respiratory illness that was eventually diagnosed with tuberculosis. Hoping for a miracle, she underwent electroconvulsive therapy, which at the time was very primitive and sometimes left burn marks on her temples. After that, Vivien soon began a period of binge-drinking with torrid affairs.

An increasingly turbulent and rambunctious personal life forced Leigh to take occasional breaks from work throughout the 1940s, but she continued to star in many high-profile roles, both on stage and on screen. However, none of them could match the success she received for her role as O’Hara.

Long-Awaited Success

Everything changed literally in 1949 when Leigh landed the role of Blanche Du Bois in the London production of Tennessee Williams’ play “A Streetcar Named Desire”. After a successful run of nearly a year, Leigh landed the same challenging role in the 1951 Hollywood adaptation of Elia Kazan. After a successful run of nearly a year, Leigh landed the same challenging role in the 1951 Hollywood adaptation of Elia Kazan. Her portrayal of Du Bois, a character who tried to hide a rickety psyche behind strength and generosity, may have contributed to Leigh’s struggle with mental illness in real life. The actress Vivian Leigh said afterwards that the year sailing inside Du Bois’ tormented soul had thrown her “into a frenzy”.

Vivian Leigh award

According to many critics, the performance in Vivien Leigh “Streetcar” exceeded even her lead role in Gone with the Wind. For this role, she won her second “Oscar” for best actress, as well as the New York Film Critic’s Award and the British Academy academy awards of Film and Television Arts.

Soon afterward, Leigh made theater history by starring alongside Olivier in simultaneous productions of Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” and George Bernard Shaw’s critically acclaimed “Caesar and Cleopatra”.

The Last Years of Vivien Leigh’s Life

Despite her career triumphs and accomplishments, bipolar disorder continued to complicate Leigh’s life. After another miscarriage, she had a nervous breakdown in 1953. This forced the talented Vivienne to withdraw from the filming of ‘Walking with Elephants’ and gave her a reputation for being difficult to work with. In 1960, her once-happy marriage ended in divorce. Unhappy marriages have quite literally haunted Vivien Leigh.

Last Years of Vivien Leigh’s Life

After Vivien Leigh’s husband remarried and started a new family, Leigh moved in with a younger actor named Jack Merivale. The change of scenery, it seems, benefited her, as in 1960, she re-emerged on the screen and took part in some successful performances. In 1963 Vivien Leigh starred in the musical “Tovarich” and won her first Tony Award. Two years later she starred in her last Oscar-winning movie “A Ship of Fools”.

So, what did Vivien Leigh die of?

Not long before the start of rehearsals for the London production of “Delicate Balance” in 1967, Leigh fell gravely ill. A month later, on July 8, 1967, Vivien Leigh passed away permanently from tuberculosis at the age of 53 years in London, England. To mark the unfortunate and premature end of a career that was both tumultuous and triumphant, the London theater district extinguished the lights for a full hour in honor of Leigh’s memory.

Vivian Leigh Filmography

Now let’s look at the top 6 masterpieces in the list of Vivien Leigh films:

Gone with the Wind (1939)

Gone with the Wind (1939)

“Gone with the Wind” is something special in film history, and just as grand in Vivian Leigh’s movie career. It’s a magnificent story told over nearly 4 hours and a shining example of Hollywood filmmaking in all its facets. Something makes this classic stand the test of time, and Leigh’s performance as Scarlett O’Hara, the determined daughter of an Atlanta plantation owner, never fails to delight audiences.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Leigh won her second Oscar among her best movies for a role as the noble and restless Blanche DuBois, who clashes with her gruff grandfather (Marlon Brando) after moving into her sister’s (Kim Hunter) flat in New Orleans. Despite her efforts to start life anew with her new suitor (Karl Malden), Stella’s life quickly falls apart as she desperately tries to extricate herself from her sordid past.

That Hamilton Woman (1941)

That Hamilton Woman (1941)

Leigh made only three movies with her hubby Laurence Olivier, and none of them beat this exquisite romantic drama by Alexander Korda. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, the film tells the story of the controversial affair between a British Royal Navy officer, Lord Horatio Nelson (Olivier), and the dance-hall beauty Emma Lady Hamilton (Leigh). It’s nearly soul-crushing to see this genuine couple, so youthful and enamoured, given the tragic fate that afflicted them both on screen and in life.

Vivien Leigh’s quotes in this film are brilliant.

Ship of Fools (1965)

Ship of Fools (1965)

Vivien Leigh starred for the last time in her filmography in this epic melodrama by Stanley Kramer. “Ship of Fools” follows the lives of various passengers aboard an ocean liner bound for Germany from Mexico in 1933, when World War II looms on the horizon. They include an aging divorcee (Leigh), a ship’s doctor, a lecherous ballplayer, a Spanish activist, a midget, and many others.

Waterloo Bridge (1940)

Waterloo Bridge (1940)

This is a play by Robert E. Sherwood. Waterloo Bridge is set during the First World War, and Leigh plays the role of a young ballerina who falls in love with a British officer. When she learns that he has been killed in action, she abandons her promising career and becomes a prostitute and later kills herself.

Anna Karenina (1948)

Anna Karenina film 1948

This 1948 version of the movie “Anna Karenina” by French director Julian Duvivier is very successful. Vivien Leigh plays the role of the doomed heroine, a Russian housewife who falls in love with a debauched army general while married to a boring aristocrat.

Remembering the Actress

In 2013, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London purchased her private archives, which include diaries and previously unpublished photographs. Museum director Martin Roth said the archive not only reflects Vivien Leigh’s career, but also presents a captivating look at the drama and the social world that surrounded her.

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