Vivien Leigh was born in Darjeeling, India on a Wednesday evening on November 5, 1913. Her father was born in England but he moved to India at the age of 22 in search of a life of adventure. The family moved back to England when Vivien was six years old.

She was educated in the Covenant of the Sacred Heart and showed poise from a young age. Her first appearance was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream on stage.

She later attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Shortly before going to the RADA, she met and began a relationship with Leigh Holman. They married in 1932 and had their first child in 1933.

In September of 1934, Leigh attended a production of Theatre Royal where she saw Laurence Olivier perform for the first time. Leigh was starstruck at once and even remarked to a girlfriend that she would marry him some day. As she continued acting in small roles, Leigh did get the chance to meet Olivier.

They finally had a chance to act together in 1936 in Fire Over England. Their relationship grew as they spent time on and off screen.

During this time, Leigh  heard about the search for an actress to portray Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. She was confident that she would play Scarlett and did in fact win the role and went on to win Best Actress in 1940. The filming of the movie was tempestuous for the actors with a change at director from George Cukor to Victor Fleming. (The switched films, from the Wizard of Oz to Gone with the Wind.) Leigh struggled with the long hours of filming on set and having to spend time away from Olivier.

Leigh is probably best remembered at Scarlett but she starred in several other well-known films. She starred opposite Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and won a Best Actress Oscar for her role as Blanche in 1952.

Another great film of hers is Waterloo Bridge also starring Robert Taylor, as Roy. She plays, Myra, a ballerina who meets a soldier during WWII. They fall in love but he is called to the fight before they are married. When the papers mistakenly list him as KIA, Myra becomes depressed a turns to prostitution. After returning from the front, Roy sees Myra at the bus station as she is trying to pick up soldiers and thinks she is there to greet him. She tries to hide her past from Roy and his family but is consumed with her guilt and throws herself in front of a truck.

Leigh is said to have suffered from bipolar disorder throughout her lifetime. After a short but bright film career, Vivien Leigh died from a bout of tuberculosis at the age of 53.

Leigh was nominated only twice in her career for a major award, but both times she won the Oscar. She was a major part of two of the best films of Hollywood Golden Age with her roles in Streetcar and Gone with the Wind.


Leigh on the set of Gone with the Wind