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Author Topic: Vivien Leigh: personal life, acting career and tuberculosis  (Read 98 times)

Description: Life history of Vivien Leigh, her acting career and tuberculosis


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Vivien Leigh: personal life, acting career and tuberculosis
« on: November 05, 2016, 12:48:56 PM »

Vivien Leigh (November 5, 1913  July 8, 1967) was an English actress who achieved outstanding success in theatre and cinema.
Although her film appearances were relatively few, she twice won the Academy Award for Best Actress playing "Southern belles", Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939) and Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), a role she had also played in London's West End.
She was a prolific stage performer, frequently in collaboration with her husband, Laurence Olivier, who directed her in several of her roles.
During her thirty-year stage career, she aimed to demonstrate her versatility as an actress, playing parts that ranged from the heroines of Noel Coward and George Bernard Shaw comedies to classic Shakespearean characters such as Ophelia, Cleopatra, Juliet and Lady Macbeth.

Lauded for her beauty, Leigh felt that it sometimes prevented her from being taken seriously as an actress, a viewpoint shared by some of her contemporaries, but ill health proved to be her greatest obstacle.
]Affected by bipolar disorder for most of her adult life, Leigh's extreme moods were often misunderstood, and as she gained a reputation for being difficult, her career went through periods of decline.
She was further weakened by recurrent bouts of tuberculosis, which was first diagnosed in the mid-1940s. She and Olivier divorced in 1960, and Leigh worked sporadically in film and theatre until her sudden death from tuberculosis.

Early life and acting career
She was born Vivian Mary Hartley in Darjeeling in India, to Ernest Hartley, an officer in the Indian Cavalry who was of English
parentage, and Gertrude Robinson Yackje, who was of French-Irish descent.
The family relocated to Bangalore, where Vivian Hartley made her first stage appearance at the age of three, reciting "Little Bo Beep" for her mother's amateur theatre group.
Gertrude Hartley tried to instil in her daughter an appreciation of literature, and introduced her to the works of Hans Christian Anderson, Lewis Carroll and Rudyard Kipling, as well as stories of Greek mythology.
An only child, Vivian Hartley was sent to the "Convent of the Sacred Heart" in Roehampton in England, in 1920.
Her closest friend at the convent was the future actress Maureen O'Sullivan , to whom she expressed her ambitions to become "a great actress".

Vivian Hartley completed her later education in Europe, returning to her parents in England in 1931. She discovered that one of Maureen O'Sullivan's films was playing in London's West End and told her parents of her ambitions to become an actress.

Both were highly supportive, and her father helped her enrol at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.

In late 1931 she met Herbert Leigh Holman, known as Leigh, a barrister thirteen years her senior.

Despite his disapproval of "theatrical people", they were married on December 20, 1932, and upon their marriage she terminated her studies at RADA.

On October 12, 1933, she gave birth to a daughter, Suzanne, but felt stifled by her domestic life.

Her friends recommended her for a small part in the film Things Are Looking Up, which marked her film debut.

She engaged an agent, John Gliddon, who felt that the name "Vivian Holman" was not suitable for an actress, and after rejecting his suggestion, "April Morn", she took "Vivian Leigh" as her professional name.

Gliddon recommended her to Alexander Korda as a possible film actress, but Korda rejected her as lacking potential.

Cast in the play The Mask of Virtue in 1935, Leigh received excellent reviews followed by interviews and n ewspaper articles, among them one from the Daily Express in which the interviewer noted "a lightning change came over her face", which was the first public mention of the rapid changes in mood that became characteristic of her.

John Betjeman, the future Poet Laureate, also wrote about her, describing her as "the essence of English girlhood".

Korda, who attended her opening-night performance, admitted his error and signed her to a film contract, with the spelling of her name revised to "Vivien Leigh".

She continued with the play, but when Korda moved it to a larger theatre, Leigh was found to be unable to project her voice adequately, or to hold the attention of so large an audience, and the play folded soon after.

In 1960 Leigh recalled her ambivalence towards her first experience of critical acclaim and sudden fame, commenting, "some critics saw fit to be as foolish as to say that I was a great actress. And I thought, that was a foolish, wicked thing to say, because it put such an onus and such a responsibility onto me, which I simply wasn't able to carry. And it took me years to learn enough to live up to what they said for those first notices. I find it so stupid. I remember the critic very well, and have never forgiven him."
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article Vivien Leigh; it is used under the GNU Free Documentation License. You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the GFDL.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2016, 16:52:07 PM by auntiebiotic »


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