Vivien Leigh, bio of the protagonist of the film “Gone with the Wind” and one of the most beautiful actresses ever

The cinematographic and theatrical tradition, especially of other times, has given a display of elegance and refinement. Two aspects that are perfectly suited to the figure of the actress Vivien Leigh .

The classic name that will say nothing to young people, but that will say a lot to lovers of so-called black and white cinema for what is given and transmitted. A legendary woman whose myth echoes in the Olympus sphere. Seductive and penetrating like few of her, her high-impact actress gaze inevitably captured the viewer and made them fall in love.


  • The beginnings of Vivien Leigh
  • Vivien Leigh’s climb begins
  • The consecration of Vivien Leigh: Gone with the wind
  • Vivien Leigh from the 1950s onwards
  • Film Vivien Leigh

The beginnings of Vivien Leigh

Vivien Leigh, pseudonym of Vivian Mary Hartley was born in India and more specifically in Darjeeling on November 5, 1913. She was born in India then but from English parents (then India was part of the British Empire). She is the daughter of a British officer, she is only 3 years old and she is already part of an amateur theater group. She is a sign of how she had an out of the ordinary talent of her which, then, will make her enter the history of cinema

A precocity that has always distinguished it at all levels. And her mother to pass on her passion for literature and scripted. At the age of 6, she clearly and unequivocally shows her intent to become a great actress as an adult . And we can say that she did it great.

From this point of view, the proximity to a future diva such as Maureen O’Sullivan directs her a lot towards that path. She finished her studies in Europe and moved to London in 1931 .

Thus he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where he refined his stage techniques. She follows acting courses despite the opposition of the then London lawyer Herbert Leigh Holman, with whom she marries at just 18 years old. Vivien Leigh becomes her mother in 1933 , but this does not prevent her from carrying on with pride and dedication the good intentions on landing on the big screen.

She gets her first jobs as an advertising model before finally being called for the extra role in a movie. It’s called Things are Looking Up. Hence the origin of her pseudonym, precisely Vivien Leigh on the advice of her agent, John Gliddon.

Vivien Leigh’s climb begins

The play The Mask of Virtue, dated 1935 , allows for a further expansion of the reputation on the world stage of the English actress. It is her work that makes her known to the public. Her meeting with British director and actor Laurence Olivier marks the turning point in a growing career . Together they star in the 1937 film Elizabeth of England and cultivate a certain passion even off the set. Both are married, but in spite of everything they still decide to undertake a cohabitation and then marry (after obtaining a divorce from their respective partners).

He plays Ophelia in Olivier’s Hamlet himself and in An American at Oxford he further expands his notoriety beyond the borders of Europe. You go as far as the USA.

However, Leigh does not enjoy a good reputation from a professional point of view as certain abrupt and moody attitudes do not appeal to those who work with her.

Personality problems (Vivian and bipolar), combined with a strong temperament, represent a big obstacle also for his partner, and not only on the working level.

The consecration of Vivien Leigh: Gone with the wind

The film that definitively consecrates her on the world stage is Gone with the Wind . A memorable cinematic work, still considered today among the most famous and exciting in the history of cinema. Initially there is some doubt about the engagement of Vivien Leigh in the role of Rossella O’Hara , the protagonist. The plot of the film by Victor Fleming is based on the book by Margaret Mitchell and tells the story of two rich families of the then United States of America, struggling with the war of independence. Acts alongside her Clark Gable,  one of the most beautiful and acclaimed actors of the time.

The film became blockbuster all over the world so much so that it waited for Avatar in 2010 to find a film that grossed more. The film  brings the good name of Vivien Leigh to the fore. It is no coincidence that she wins two Oscars for best actress.

In 1943 she was diagnosed with left lung tuberculosis after a business trip to North Africa. After a period of hospitalization, followed by convalescence, Vivien returns to shoot scenes in the films Cesare and Cleopatra and Anna Karenina.

It takes some time to return to the levels of the past. 

Vivien Leigh from the 1950s onwards

The 1950s must arrive to be able to see it again on the crest of the wave. She plays the character Blanche Dubois in the 1951 film “A Streetcar Called Desire”, starring with actor Marlon Brando . She earned her second career Academy Award , as well as a prestigious nomination for Best Actress in a Drama.

From that moment on , his psychophysical conditions seem to worsen . Nervous breakdowns, combined with strong stress, begin to become more and more frequent, to the point of having to give up some important parts.

The relationship with Laurence Olivier is in crisis and it is no coincidence that in 1960 the two divorce . She continues to take part in tours around the world, despite everything. The stage sees her particularly active in a musical, Tovarich, where she is elected best actress. The beginning of the decline.

On July 8, 1967, Vivien Leigh was found dead from a collapse. She is cremated at Golders Green Crematorium and her ashes are scattered by her time partner, actor John Merivale, in the pond of Tickerage Mill, the actress’s residence.

Film Vivien Leigh

We leave you to Vivien Leigh’s filmography in chronological order. See you next time with the posts by CineMagazine!

  1. The Village Squire, regia di Reginald Denham (1935)
  2. Look Up and Laugh, regia di Basil Dean (1935)
  3. Things Are Looking Up, regia di Albert de Courville (1935)
  4. Gentlemen’s Agreement, regia di George Pearson (1935)
  5. Fire Over England, directed by William K. Howard (1937)
  6. The Three Spies (Dark Journey), by Victor Saville (1937)
  7. Patrizia e il dictatore (Storm in a Teacup), by Ian Dalrymple and Victor Saville (1937)
  8. Un americano a Oxford (A Yank at Oxford), regia di Jack Conway (1938)
  9. Sidewalks of London, by Tim Whelan (1938)
  10. Via col vento (Gone with the Wind), regia di Victor Fleming (1939)
  11. Fatalita (21 Days), regia di Basil Dean (1940)
  12. Waterloo Bridge, by Mervyn LeRoy (1940)
  13. Lady Hamilton (That Hamilton Woman), regia di Alexander Korda (1941)
  14. Caesar and Cleopatra (Caesar and Cleopatra), directed by Gabriel Pascal (1945)
  15. Anna Karenina (Anna Karenina), regia di Julien Duvivier (1948)
  16. A Streetcar Named Desire (A Streetcar Named Desire), directed by Elia Kazan (1951)
  17. The Deep Blue Sea, directed by Anatole Litvak (1955)
  18. La primavera romana della Signora Stone (The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone), directed by Jose Quintero (1961)
  19. Ship of Fools, directed by Stanley Kramer (1965)