Archive for the ‘Vivien Leigh’ Category

Here’s another new article for VIVIEN-LEIGH.COM. I hope Vivien found some sort of paradise during her lifetime.

Noted actress Vivien Leigh wants to find ‘an island paradise’

Written By: Unknown

Published In: Herald (Melbourne, Australia) on July 3, 1961

Vivien enjoying the Gold Coast

She’s combing the Pacific- on paper at the moment- for an island where she can relax.

She’s even prepared to “go native” to get her perfect holiday and live in a hut.

She said today: “I don’t care how isolated the island is. I’ll get there somehow.”

But it must be off the tourist routes, be good for swimming and it must have a sandy beach, not coral.


Eight weeks ago she bought a ‘Queen Anne’ house in Sussex with its own mill stream, lake and river, and a whole hillside of daffodils.

At week ends she leaves her theatre life to work in the country garden.

During the next size months she’ll have two 10 day breaks and will spend each away from the cities- one at the Barrier Reef and the other “out of Perth.”

Melbourne people will see her in three totally different roles- as the wicked woman in “Duel of Angels,” the tragic Marguerite in “The Lady of the Camellias,” and Viola in “Twelfth Night.”

The first general rehearsal will be on Wednesday.

The rest of the 37-strong company will arrive late today.

Here are the details of the company’s Melbourne season:

July 12-22: “Duel of Angels”

July 25-August 5: “Twelfth Night”

August 8-26: “Lady of the Camellias”

The company will tour Brisbane, Sydney, Adelside and Perth later. It is due to open in New Zealand January 24, 1962.


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I just received in the mail today an early Christmas gift (to myself) –and it’s simply adorable. It’s a miniature book titled Two Letters, by Vivien Leigh. Apparently it was privately published in 1985 and only 300 copies were printed. The book contains the content of two letters written by Vivien Leigh- one to George Cukor and one to Clark Gable’s wife– followed by an Appreciation by Charles H. Williamson. I’d love to know the story behind this little book… it seems rather peculiar. If you’d like to snag this collector’s piece, check out Abebooks.com. They have 3 available for purchase. I’d like to share with you this latest addition to my collection.

truly a mini book

title page

The first letter, to George Cukor, reads:

Dear Mr. Cukor,

I, in fact all of us, found your wonderful direction such a great help in our work; & we have found ourselves unable to give our full attention, as it was in your case, to any director since.


Vivien Leigh

The second letter is written to Kay Williams, Gable’s 5th wife.

the 2nd letter

The Appreciation by Charles H. Williamson reads:

Vivien Leigh was born Vivian Mary Hartley in Darjeeling, India on November 5, 1913, the daughter of Gertrude and Earnest Hartley. Shortly before her seventh birthday she was taken to England and enrolled in Roehampton’s Convent of the Sacred Heart. Later, she entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, but her marriage at the age of eighteen to Leigh Holman, a lawyer, and the birth of their daughter, Suzanne, in 1935, caused her to drop out of that famed school.

In 1934, however, she began to act professionally and within a year had delighted London with a display of her beauty and talent in Ashley Duke’s costume drama, “The Mask of Virtue.” Signed to a five year contract by Alexander Korda, she made several films in England–among them, “Fire Over England”, in which she played opposite Laurence Olivier, who was also married. They fell in love, and in 1938 she visited him in Hollywood where he was making “Wuthering Heights.” At that time the much publicized search for an actress to play Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s best selling novel, “Gone with the Wind”, had been going on for over a year. The film’s producer, David O. Selznick, has yielded to the public demand that Clark Gable play Rhett Butler. To obtain Gable, Selznick was forced to give Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which had him under contract, exclusive distribution rights and half-share of the film’s profits.

In December, with Scarlett still uncast, production commenced on the film under George Cukor’s direction. It was on the night that the burning of Atlanta was being shot that Myron Selznick, Olivier’s agent and David’s brother, brought his client and the visiting Vivien to the Selznick studios in Culver City to witness the spectacular event. During a break Selznick and Cukor came over to the three visitors and Myron Selznick said, half-jokingly, “David, I’d like you to meet Scarlett O’Hara.” Selznick, taken by the young girl’s beauty, suggested that Cukor test her. The race had narrowed down to three actresses–Jean Arthur, Paulette Goddard, and Joan Bennett, but once Selznick and Cukor saw Leigh in two test scenes, there was no doubt in their minds that she was their Scarlett.

There was an immediate rapport between Leigh and Cukor, a mutual admiration and affection that deepened and lasted until the actress’ death on July 7, 1967. When the director was removed from the film and replaced by one of Gable’s favorites, Victor Fleming, Leigh was bereft. She pleaded with Selznick to keep Cukor but he refused. She always maintained that the inital confidence Cukor gave her helped her throughout the shooting of the entire picture. Also, unknown to Selznick and Fleming, she visited Cukor’s home every Sunday during shooting and he coached her for the forthcoming week’s work.

“Gone with the Wind” was the only film Vivien Leigh made with Clark Gable. Although they had a satisfactory working relationship, she never became a close friend, preferring instead, along with Olivier, the company of George Cukor and the distinguished group with which he always surrounded himself.

When “Gone with the Wind” opened in Atlanta on December 15, 1939, and soon thereafter in New York, the relatively unknown English girl united the North and the South in approval of her performance. For her portrayal of Scarlett, Hollywood awarded her the first Academy Award of her career, while Gable, although nominated for best actor, lost to Englishman Robert Donat for his performance in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.”

Although Leigh never met Kay Gable, it is interesting to note that it was her old friend and mentor, George Cukor, who gave the future Mrs. Gable, then known as Kay Williams, her first important film role- Hazel Dawn in the screen adaptation of Ruth Gordon’s play, “Years Ago”, released by Metro in 1953 as “The Actress.” Although in a small part, the beautiful young woman made a striking impression.

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Do you think Vivien Leigh’s spirit still resides at Tickerage Mill? As you may know, Vivien Leigh lived at Tickerage Mill (her country home located in Uckfield, Sussex) in her final years. She loved it there so it’s no surprise that her ashes were scattered on the pond at Tickerage by her mother, daughter and boyfriend Jack Merivale. Vivien’s friend, Radie Harris, describes Tickerage: “It was hidden in the valley of the River Uck, with ninety acres of woodlands, meadows, and gardens. It was much smaller than Notley Abbey, but Vivien fell in love with it at first sight . . . Her stamp was everywhere- in her utterly feminine blue bedroom and dressing room; her library of well-stacked and well-thumbed books; her beautifully appointed drawing room with her silver framed photographs of friends from all over the world; her collection of snuff boxes and Staffordshire and Spode china. It was in her garden that she found her happiest moments and relaxation from many tensions. No matter how late she went to bed, she was up at 6 o’clock in the morning planting or replanting shrubs, flowers, and plants.”

A gentleman contact me recently and told me about his late father’s oil painting. The painting measures 29″ x 19″ and is by artist Richard Wyndham. The painting is entitled ‘Willow Stream’ and is depicts the mill water near Tickerage. Richard Wyndham lived at Tickerage Mill and like Vivien Leigh, he was captured by its beauty. Tickerage was his muse. To learn more about Tickerage Mill, visit Vivien-Leigh.com. The painting is currently up for sale. If interested, please contact Paul at paul.dickens@blueyonder.co.uk

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Those of you who plan to attend the Marietta GWTW Event this November and are interested in meeting up for a Vivien-Leigh.com/Vivien Leigh get together of some sort, please comment here or email me at webmaster@vivien-leigh.com so that I can add your name & email address to my list. As we get closer to the event, I’ll send out an email about the plans. I have a couple things ‘up my sleeve’ so I do hope many of you can come. Tickets are selling fast!

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Fellow Vivien fans, I highly recommend you watch the two videos below. I would like to thank Alexandra & Tanguy for their time and effort– the videos are fantastic! I’m sure the creators would appreciate your feedback, so feel free to leave a comment here or on youtube. Thanks, guys!

The Faces of Vivien Leigh- made by Alexandra

The Glorious Years- made by Tanguy

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Vivien is brought onboard a plane by stretcher. Her face is covered to hide her identity from the press (but they all knew who it was)

Vivien is brought onboard a plane by stretcher following her breakdown during the filming of Elephant Walk. Her face is covered to hide her identity from the press (but they all knew who it was).

The article below is from the Mental Health Abuse.org, a website that reports on psychiatric misdiagnosis and abuse. Thanks to John-Michael for bringing it to my attention. I’m posting it here as a conversation starter. I believe that many of Vivien’s choices led to her deteriorated health. She smoked, drank, and partied too hard. She put her career in front of her health, working long hours and needing only a little rest and sleep. She disobeyed the doctor’s orders and sometimes did not seek treatment at all. If she had known that her behavior would ultimately cause her death, would she have continued?  I’m not familiar with Isoniazid, but with all medicines there is some risk. And I firmly believe that any medicine she was given, it was given with the best intentions and in hopes of curing/treating her. Thoughts?

Of the stars that fell victim to psychiatric misdiagnosis and violent treatment, perhaps none is better known all over the world than Vivien Leigh. The star of “Gone with the Wind” and “A Streetcar Named Desire,” she received best actress Oscars for both films. Ironically, Leigh’s life was a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.

Her troubles began in 1945. While performing on stage in “The Skin of Our Teeth, ” Leigh experienced attacks of hysteria, alternated with bouts of exhaustion and exhilaration. Diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB), she continued performing until closing night. After six weeks of treatment in a hospital the TB showed signs of abating and she recuperated at home over the following year.

Bouts of hysteria, however, continued, exacerbated because she mixed alcohol with her TB medication. Isoniazid, one of the drugs prescribed at the time for TB, had side effects that included mental confusion and toxic psychosis.

In the early 1950s, Leigh began seeing a psychiatrist. Typically, psychiatrists do not check for drug-induced mental behavior. While filming “Elephant Walk” in Ceylon, Leigh began having hallucinations, making it impossible to film. Desperately concerned, her husband, renowned classical actor Sir Lawrence Olivier, capitulated in light of psychiatric advice. She was flown to her native England, where she was admitted to a psychiatric facility.

Here, she was brutally packed in ice as part of her “treatment” and subjected to repeated electroshocks. It was the first of many terrors, and one that would affect her permanently. One time she even suffered burn marks to her head from the electric shock. Olivier was devastated by the change in his wife’s personality following the shocks: “I can only describe them by saying that she was not, now that she had been given the treatment, the same girl that I had fallen in love with. … She was now more of a stranger to me than I could ever have imagined possible. Something had happened to her, very hard to describe, but unquestionably evident.” Then ECT was temporarily abandoned and replaced by powerful psychotropic drugs—especially dangerous as they were combined with her TB medication.

In May 1967, Leigh’s medical doctor informed her that the TB had spread to both lungs and her condition was critical. Her strength destroyed by years of electroshocks and psychiatric drugs, Leigh was unable to fight off the disease. She succumbed to it less than two months later. Psychiatry’s brutal treatments progressively denied Leigh her sanity, her marriage, her career and ultimately her life.

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As we all know, Karl Malden, Vivien’s costar in Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire, passed away earlier this month from natural causes. He was 97 years old. What you may NOT know is that Malden did not like Vivien Leigh very much. Earlier this year, I wrote to the aging actor and requested that he take a trip down memory lane. I asked him about his experience with Vivien Leigh and what her impact was on the film version of Streetcar. All the major actors in the film came from the NY theater production, except for Vivien. She came from the London production. Well, Malden was kind enough to write back almost immediately, but I found his Vivien answer to be rather short and curt. All is had to say about Vivien was this (I can’t translate 2 words… “Jessie” obviously refers to Jessica Tandy, who played Blanche with Marlon Brando and Karl Malden on Broadway:

can you translate?

can you translate? click to enlarge

To further investigate the situation, I went to the library and checked out his autobiography, When Do I Start? Vivien is mentioned on 2 pages, and Malden’s anecdote is not a glowing one. Here is what he says:

I was destined to have another Blanche in my future. About a year later, we were all called together again to shoot the film. All except Jessica.

I know that it broke Jessica’s heart when she was not hired to do the film version of Streetcar. There was, of course, no question that Marlon would be in the film, but at that time, he had no screen recognition.

… Marlon did not yet have what they call “marquee value.”  Vivien Leigh, however, was a major star, still so powerful because of Gone with the Wind that she could carry all of us nobodies, including Marlon Brando.

It was a wonderful experience for me to be able to come back to the role of Mitch after two years, having done other things in between, with a fresh perspective. After the play had closed, I was plagued by the usual ideas about things I could have done differently with Mitch. Thoughts that (often in the middle of the night) come with the territory. Doing the film presented me with a unique opportunity to try all those ideas out. Some worked. Some didn’t.

Oddly enough, I believe the truer interpretation of the play ended up being the movie’s. Marlon was so powerfuk on stage, so compelling, that through nothing other than his own presence, he distorted the play. When Marlon stepped onto that stage, it became a play about Stanley Kowalski. You held your breath until he came back. It was no longer a play about Blanche DuBois. No matter what Jessica did on stage, or what any actress could have done, she could not overcome his force. The movie gave Kazan the chance to keep the focus when Tennessee Williams intended it, on Blanche. He could manipulate the focus in the editing room.

Vivien Leigh had played Blanche in the London production, which her husband, Laurence Olivier had directed. She had a very different take on the play.

I recall the moment when Mitch lifts Blanche to see if he can guess how much she weighs. I had always raised Jessica straight into the air like a ballerina and then brough her down, vertically, close to my body. That worked for me, because the next moment Mitch is trying to kiss her. That move helped to make a smooth transition from a playful impulse to a sexual one. Vivien wanted me to pick her up as though I were lifting her over a threshold. That’s the way Olivier had directed that action in London, but it made the moment awkward for me because I had to put her down on the ground, then bend down to try to kiss her. It didn’t seem to flow as well, but we did it her way. Kazan made a point of wanting us to try to accommodate Vivien since she was the outsider.

Unlike Jessica who was a gracious and well-grounded a human being as you could hope to meet, Vivien was more like Blanche herself. She had a more tenuous relationship with reality.

I remember that when we had finished shooting, Vivien and Olivier invited Mona and me to a party. Although Mona and I are chronically early, we happened to arrive late because we were unfamiliar with Los Angeles and had gotten lost. Everyone was already seated around their tables. I was called over to a table and left Mona stranded for a moment. She finally ended up sitting on a swing by the pool all by herself. Who should come along but John Buckmaster, an English actor, and Vivien Leigh. They sat down on either side of Mona. Mona told me later about how they literally, and figuratively, talked over her head. Vivien and Buckmaster traded bizarre non sequiturs as Mona sat there, utterly baffled. Never once did they acknowledge that another person was even there, let alone sitting between them. Vivien didn’t have to be polite, or even civil; after all, she was Scarlett O’Hara.

Several months later, we read in the paper that Buckmaster had been spotted running down Fifth Avenue stark naked, brandishing a knife. Mona was actually relieved by the news; it assured her she had not  been the crazy one sitting on that swing after all.

Interesting, huh? Perhaps Vivien was experiencing symptoms of her manic phase? Maybe they were intoxicated or playing a joke on Malden’s wife? John Merivale told Hugo Vickers that John Buckmaster was the first man Vivien had an affair with after her marriage to Leigh Holman in the 1930s– so I can only guess what the ex-lovers were discussing.  We’ll never know. I’d love to hear your comments.

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