Vivien Leigh

Definition

Theater

  • (Vivian Mary Hartley; 1913 - 67) British stage and filmactress, born in India, who made her stage debut in 1935 in AshleyDukes's The mask of Virtue. In 1937 Leigh played Ophelia toOlivier's Hamlet in an Old Vic production at Elsinore. Twoyears later she married Olivier and costarred with him in a New Yorkproduction of Romeo and Juliet. By this time her popular famehad eclipsed her husband's, owing to her performance as Scarlett O'Harain the film Gone With the Wind, for which she won an AcademyAward.

    In 1949 Leigh starred as the neurotic Blanche Dubois in theLondon production of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire,which was directed by Olivier: Leigh won much acclaim for this performanceand her reputation as a stage actress was greatly enhanced. She recreatedher role for the 1951 film version, for which she won a second AcademyAward. In that same year Leigh and Olivier played opposite each otherin both Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra and Shakespeare's Antonyand Cleopatra. Leigh won further praise for her performance asPaola in Christopher Fry's translation of Giraudoux's Duel ofAngels. Despite these sucesses, her later years were cloudedby depressive illness. In 1960 her marriage to Olivier was dissolved.Following a tour of Australia in 1962, she made her musical debutin New York in Tovarich (1963); her final performance was ina New York production of Chekhov's Ivanov in 1966.

    On Leigh's death from tuberculosis a year later the exteriorlights of West End theaters were dimmed for an hour as a mark of respect.

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