In this ground-breaking new biography, Alan Strachan provides a completely new full-life portrait of Leigh, covering both her professional and personal life. Revealing new aspects of her early life as well as providing glimpses behind-the-scenes of the filming of Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire , this book provides the essential and comprehensive life-story of one of the twentieth century's greatest actresses.
PHOTOS AND MORE
List of Plates Acknowledgements Prologue 1. A Child of the Raj 2. Hours Nearer Death 3. Young Wife and Mother 4.
- Vivien Leigh.
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Enter Olivier 5. Altered States 6. Printing a Legend 7. Star-Crossed 8. Wartime Dramas 9.
From Sabina to Anna Down Under The Kindness of Strangers Two on the Nile Crack-Up Avonside At Court They often played iconic lovers — Anthony and Cleopatra, Nelson and Lady Hamilton, Romeo and Juliet — and their private life was just as passionate. Vivien threw lavish parties. She would insist on guests playing croquet after dinner or swimming into the early hours and then cooking them breakfast.
But all was not as it appeared. She had two miscarriages, and the couple was unable to have a child. Little Suzanne, meanwhile, was cared for by her father and maternal grandmother.
She then attended boarding school, seeing her mother only occasionally during her childhood, but she never appeared to resent Leigh. In , Leigh suffered a severe case of tuberculosis and, although she took a year off, it left her vulnerable to a recurrence of the lung disease. But most devastating of all was the suffering caused by bipolar disorder, which saw her mood switch between terrible, crippling depression and dangerously manic phases.
In , when she played the Oscar-winning role of Blanche DuBois in the film A Streetcar Named Desire , art mirrored life as she portrayed madness, vulnerability and mania.
Vivien Leigh - Biography - IMDb
It was almost as if she and Blanche were the same person. She appeared, at a very young age, to turn into a lovely stalk of chalk, and chipping away had begun, and you were there to see the flaking off. Her chronic insomnia worsened and she began to hallucinate. On the flight back to LA, she tried to jump out of the plane. Back in Hollywood, she began screaming lines from Streetcar and refused to come out of her dressing room. Eventually, she was sedated, then flown back to Britain and taken to a psychiatric hospital. It was too much for Olivier to bear.
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After 20 years of marriage, he and Leigh divorced in and he left her for the young actress Joan Plowright. Leigh, too, had begun a new relationship, with the actor John Merivale, who adored her despite knowing the true extent of her mental illness. At 45, Leigh still suffered terrible bipolar episodes but she had also proved herself as an actress and found a new closeness with her daughter, Suzanne, after the birth of her grandchildren.
She continued to work, making 19 films and appearing in almost 40 plays. But in , when she was 53, her tuberculosis returned. On Friday 8 July, she died at home in her London flat as fluid filled her lungs and she could no longer breathe.
Vivien Leigh: A Biography
Merivale tried to revive her, watched by a picture of Olivier on her bedside table. But her legacy goes on. Latest Stories.