Vivien: The Life of Vivien Leigh

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Grove Press, 1994 - Biography & Autobiography - 342 pages
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"My birth sign is Scorpio and they eat themselves up and burn themselves out. I swing between happiness and misery. I am part prude and part non-conformist. I say what I think and I don’t pretend and I am prepared to accept the consequences of my actions.”--Vivien Leigh

When Vivien Leigh died in 1967, headlines around the world proclaimed, "Scarlett O’Hara is Dead!” Perhaps more than any of her contemporaries, Vivien Leigh became the very embodiment of the roles she made famous, from Gone With the Wind’s immortal heroine to her harrowing portrayal of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Vivien’s beauty, determination, and enormous charisma were her triumph, whether it was a matter of charming George Bernard Shaw in order to become his personal choice for the part of Scarlett--or winning the then-married Laurence Olivier as her husband. Her twenty-years’ partnership with Olivier, both onstage and off, made them the "royal couple” of the theater, and garnered unparalleled critical and popular acclaim.

But the achievement had its darker side, for Vivien became so immersed in her roles that she began to take on their characteristics in real life--often at enormous cost: playing Blanche DuBois actually "tipped her into madness”; and while filming Ship of Fools, she found herself hammering co-star Lee Marvin’s face with very real--and painful--blows of her spiked heel. The public glamour of her fairy tale marriage to Olivier--so desperately important to them both--hid a private nightmare of violence and frequent infidelity. She was consumed by devastating battles against tuberculosis, to which she finally succumbed, and manic-depression, which she sought to keep at bay through a voracious sexual appetite, having affair after affair--sometimes serious, as with Peter Finch, sometimes with whichever taxi driver happened to bring her home.

Based on previously unpublished interviews with her friends, family, and colleagues, as well as with Vivien Leigh herself, Vivien is an extraordinary picture of a unique and complex woman, as willful as she was beautiful, who knew what she wanted--whether the coveted role of Scarlett or that, equally coveted, of Lady Olivier--and got it. With its telling anecdotes, fascinating insights, and unforgettable glimpses into Hollywood’s heyday, it is sure to stand as the definitive portrait of one of the most talented and tormented actresses of all time.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Misses_London - LibraryThing

I've read this book twice, but the second time was a few years ago. I'm a long time GWTW fan so naturally anything about Vivien Leigh interests me. I enjoyed this book clearly although I'm aware since ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - ejj1955 - LibraryThing

I've read this at a leisurely pace, but it's pretty straightforwardly chronological, so easy enough to read this way. I have, of course, seen Leigh's major roles: Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind ... Read full review

Contents

Foreword and Acknowledgments
3
Notley Abbey
9
LEIGH
21
I wont sing Ill recite
23
You deserve to be kissed
30
Had a baby a girl
40
I will not be ignored
51
What a virile performance
64
Walking corpses
185
I dont love you any more
197
Why not Peter Finch?
206
I thought you were my friend
212
But darling the godparents have been chosen
220
Eva Peron was lucky she died at thirtythree
232
JACK
243
I love you every day of the year
245

Were in love
77
I shall play Scarlett OHara
86
LARRY
99
Ill only be gone a few days
101
Please do not tell anybody about this
112
I shall never be happy here
123
Send back the wine
136
Perhaps I saw you as a danger
149
Time is very precious to us all
159
I have everything at Notley including Larry
174
Warren shall we dance?
257
What time is it in London?
269
Does Larry know?
277
My love will be keeping you company
287
Tickerage
298
Chronology
307
Bibliography
314
Source Notes
316
Index
333
Copyright

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Page v - Husband, I come: Now to that name my courage prove my title! I am fire and air; my other elements I give to baser life.

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About the author (1994)

Alexander Walker is the author of over twenty books.

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