Vivien Leigh

Last updated on the 25 June 2024 by Maeve

Vivien Leigh headshot

Mini Biography

Born: 5 November 1913, Darjeeling, Bengal Presidency, British India. 

Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra
Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra

Vivien Leigh  won two Oscars for her roles as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind and Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. She was also a celebrated stage performer and the wife of Laurence Olivier.

Leigh was born Vivian Mary Hartley in Darjeeling, India, where her father was a British broker. She attended convent schools in England and Europe and developed an interest in acting. She married Herbert Leigh Holman, a barrister, in 1932 and had a daughter, Suzanne, in 1933.

Leigh made her film debut in 1935 and changed her name to Vivien Leigh. She met Olivier, a rising star of the British stage, in 1936 and they began an affair. They divorced their spouses and married in 1940. They became one of the most famous couples in the world, starring in films and plays together, often directed by Olivier.

That Hamilton Woman - Vivien Leigh
That Hamilton Woman – Vivien Leigh

Leigh achieved international fame and acclaim for her portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, which won her the first of her two Academy Awards. She also won a New York Film Critics Circle Award for the same role. She repeated this feat with her performance as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, which she had also played on stage in London. She won another Oscar and another New York Film Critics Circle Award for this role.

Vivien Leigh also starred in other notable films, such as Waterloo Bridge, That Hamilton Woman, Caesar and Cleopatra, and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. She won a Tony Award for her work in the Broadway musical version of Tovarich in 1963.

Vivien Leigh suffered from bipolar disorder and tuberculosis, which affected her health and career. She and Olivier divorced in 1960 and she lived with actor John Merivale until her death. She died of tuberculosis in 1967 at the age of 53. She is regarded as one of the greatest actresses of all time.


BAFTA award


WINNER | Film:  British Actress for A Streetcar Named Desire (1953)


Oscar award


WINNER | Best actress for Gone with the Wind (1939) | Best actress for A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)


Suggested viewing


That Hamilton Woman (1941)

That Hamilton Woman poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.2

Set during the Napoleonic Wars, the film tells the story of Emma Hamilton, a former courtesan who marries Sir William Hamilton, the British ambassador to Naples. Emma soon captures the heart of the renowned naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson and they embark on a passionate affair that shakes the foundations of British society.

Top cast: Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Alan Mowbray, Sara Allgood, Gladys Cooper, Henry Wilcoxon, Heather Angel, Halliwell Hobbes, Gilbert Emery.


St. Martin’s Lane (1938)

St. Martin’s Lane poster

Bftv 8.0 / IMDb 6.9

In the bustling streets of London, street performer Charles Staggers befriends a spirited young pickpocket named Libby. Charles recognises Libby’s hidden talent for dancing and helps her transform her act, attracting the attention of renowned songwriter Harley Prentiss. Libby’s star rises as she becomes a successful stage performer, leaving Charles behind to grapple with his own fading career and the lingering sting of abandonment.

Top cast: Vivien Leigh, Charles Laughton, Rex Harrison, Larry Adler, Tyrone Guthrie, Maire O’Neill, Gus McNaughton, Polly Ward, Basil Gill.


Storm in a Teacup (1937)

Storm in a Teacup poster

Bftv 8.0 / IMDb 6.5

In the quiet Scottish town of Baikie, a new reporter, Frank Burdon, arrives to work for the local newspaper. He soon finds himself at odds with the town’s powerful provost, Sir William Gow, who is notorious for his arrogant and domineering ways. When Frank writes an article exposing Gow’s abuse of power, a minor incident involving a woman who cannot afford to pay her dog tax escalates into a national scandal.

Top cast: Vivien Leigh, Rex Harrison, Cecil Parker, Sara Allgood, Ursula Jeans, Gus McNaughton, Edgar K. Bruce, Robert Hale, Quentin McPhearson.


Fire Over England (1937)

Fire Over England poster

Bftv 8.0 / IMDb 6.5

Set in 1588, Fire Over England is a historical drama centered on the impending invasion of England by Spain. Queen Elizabeth I must face not only the threat from abroad but also a conspiracy to overthrow her throne. With the help of Michael, a young naval officer, she foils the assassination plot and prepares the English fleet for a battle against the Spanish Armada.

Top cast: Flora Robson, Raymond Massey, Leslie Banks, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Morton Selten, Tamara Desni, Lyn Harding, George Thirlwell.


Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)

Caesar and Cleopatra poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 6.2

In 48 BC, Julius Caesar marches on Egypt, a chaotic kingdom ruled by the young and inexperienced Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy. Caesar is embroiled in a power struggle between the siblings, but his main interest lies in Cleopatra’s beauty and intelligence. He takes her under his wing, mentoring her in the ways of ruling and politics.

Top cast: Claude Rains, Vivien Leigh, Stewart Granger, Flora Robson, Francis L. Sullivan, Basil Sydney, Cecil Parker, Raymond Lovell, Anthony Eustrel.


Waterloo Bridge (1940)

Waterloo Bridge poster

Bftv 9.0 / IMDb 7.7

In the midst of World War I, a young ballerina named Myra meets and falls in love with a British Army captain named Roy on Waterloo Bridge. Believing Roy to be killed in action, Myra is forced to turn to prostitution to survive. When Roy returns after the war, he is shocked to discover Myra’s circumstances and the lengths to which she has gone to endure.

Top cast: Vivien Leigh, Robert Taylor, Lucile Watson, Virginia Field, Maria Ouspenskaya, C. Aubrey Smith, Janet Shaw, Janet Waldo, Steffi Duna.


The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone poster

Bftv 8.0 / IMDb 6.4

A faded actress, grappling with aging and the loss of her husband, seeks solace in Rome. There, she enters into a passionate affair with a handsome young man. Blinded by her desire, she deludes herself into believing their connection is genuine, showering him with gifts while conveniently ignoring the transactional nature of their relationship. As reality seeps in, she must confront the harsh truths about aging and the fleeting nature of beauty.

Top cast: Vivien Leigh, Warren Beatty, Coral Browne, Jill St. John, Stella Bonheur, Josephine Brown, Peter Dyneley, Carl Jaffe, Cleo Laine.


Vivien Leigh full filmography @ Wikipedia
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