The Vivien Leigh FAQ
|Q||When was Vivien Leigh born?|
|A||Wednesday November 5th 1913, at 7pm in her parents home in
She would be 84 if she was alive today.
|Q||How did Vivien Leigh die?|
|A||She died as a result of chronic pulmonary tuberculosis in her home in London on the evening of Friday July 7th 1967, at the age of 53.|
|Q||What was Vivien's real name?|
|A||Vivian Mary Hartley.
Vivien's original spelling was Vivian, a common unisex name of Latin/French origin that means "alive, lively, full of life". The spelling was changed to vivien at age 21, after her first success on stage in The Mask of Virtue.
She took on the stage name 'Vivien Leigh' instead of Vivien Hartley (nee) or Vivien Holman, her married name. She also considered using 'Susan Stanley', and 'Averill Maugham' as stage names.
Leigh is pronounced 'lee'.
|Q||What did her father do?|
|A||Born in England, Ernest Hartley was involved in trading, and worked and lived in India from the age of 22. His favourite pastimes were hunting and horseracing.|
|Q||What did her mother do?|
|A||Born in India, Gertrude Yackjee was an active housewife and traveller. Her favourite pastime was playing golf. Once the Hartley family fortune ran out, she created a beauty business 'The Academy of Beauty Culture' in 1934, which she continued to run for three decades.|
|Q||Did Vivien have any siblings?|
|A||Her mother gave birth to twins when Vivien was still an infant, neither survived.|
|Q||Did Vivien act as a child?|
|A||Not officially, but she appeared on stage in plays while growing up in Darjeeling,
She also acted on stage in school at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in England between the ages of 7 and 14, primarily in works of Shakespeare.
|Q||Did Vivien have any childhood idols?|
|A||Her acting idol was theatre star George Robey.
She liked to read and enjoyed Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, and Hans Christian Anderson.
Stage/screen actor Laurence Olivier remained her mentor, idol, and love of her life from the age of 22 on.
|Q||Did she know anyone famous as a child?|
|A||She went to school with Maureen O'Sullivan, also an actress in Hollywood films of the 1930's on - later the mother of Mia Farrow. The two school friends acted together once in 1938 in the film A Yank at Oxford.|
|Q||Did Vivien have any nicknames?|
|A||"Viv" is a common nickname for Vivien .
Close friends and family called her "Vivling".
|Q||What colour were Vivien's eyes?|
|A||Blue-green (violet). Which is why, if you look carefully
at her films, her eyes change from blue to green in different scenes, appearing as if they
match the dress or mood she's in.
This is the result of their natural colour, the film stock, as well as lens filters that enhance specific shades on screen. In the case of Gone With the Wind - these filters are used to bring out set details and costumes, but they also pick up and enhance eye colour. Since Vivien's eyes were naturally violet, either the colour blue or green could become more prominant depending on the surrounding colours or the outfit she wore.
|Q||Did she train professionally to become an actress?|
|A||Yes. At RADA (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) in London beginning at age 19.|
|Q||Did Vivien have talents beyond acting on stage and screen?|
|A||She spoke both French and German, allowing her to dub her own films when they were
translated to foreign markets.
One of her greatest acting skills was crying on cue. She could do this repeatedly for many takes, shedding real tears for the camera.
|Q||What were Vivien's hobbies/favourite pastimes?|
Other favorites included mahjong, canasta, chinese checkers, jigsaw puzzles, and studying languages (French, German, Russian).
She enjoyed reading - one of her favorite authors as an adult was Charles Dickens.
In later years she was devoted to gardening.
|Q||What were Vivien's likes/dislikes?|
|Q||Who was Vivien married to?|
|A||Vivien married Leigh Holman, a barrister, in 1932 at the age of 19.
He was 32 at the time - 13 years older than her. They were married for 8 years until 1940.
Leigh looked coincidentally like Leslie
Howard/Ashley Wilkes - the one man Scarlett O'Hara couldn't have. Leigh Holman remained
her friend for life after their divorce and they continued to corespond once she became
involved with Laurence Olivier. She took the name 'Leigh' from him for her stage name of
'Vivien Leigh' in 1935, although up to this time her married name was Mrs.Vivian Leigh
Vivien married Laurence Oliver on August 31st, 1940 at the age of 26. He was 33 at the time - 7 years her elder. They were married for 20 years until 1960. Olivier was the love of her life, and in terms of Hollywood couples, they were the talk of the town - both nominated for academy awards in 1939. They had many good years as well as difficult times, never successfully having children as a couple. At the end of both their lives, each claimed that their marriage and relationship was the most valued.
|Q||Did she have any contact with royalty?|
|A||Vivien was presented at court to King George V and Queen Mary in June of 1934 at the age of 20, several months before her first screen test. Several stage performances by the Oliviers were attended by royals in numerous countries.|
|Q||Did Vivien have any children?|
|A||Yes. A daughter named Suzanne - now in her 60's - who was from her
marriage with Leigh Holman. Suzanne was born October 10th 1933, shortly before
Vivien's 20th birthday.
Vivien suffered two miscarriages while married to Laurence Olivier.
In 1942, David O. Selznick considered the publicity value of casting Suzanne as the young Jane in Jane Eyre staring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine, it went to Peggy Ann Garner instead. Suzanne also trained at RADA when she was 18, though she only appeared on stage briefly.
Vivien has 3 grandsons, Neville, Jonathan, and Rupert, born early 1960's.
Vivien also has at least 3 great-grand-daughters; Amy, Ashua, and Sophie.
|Q||How did Vivien become famous?|
|A||She appeared in the costume play, The Mask of Virtue, at age
21 in London and became an overnight success.
Vivien had appeared in 3 minor British films by this point in 1935.
6 months later, she signed a contract with Alexander Korda for 50 thousand pounds - with the expectation to make 2 films a year for 5 years.
|Q||What is Vivien Leigh most remembered for?|
|A||Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind.
Consider by many as the most coveted roll in Hollywood history. Now - as it was then - it's hard to imagine the film with anyone else playing Scarlett (even after numerous actresses tried for the part including Irene Dunne, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, Lucille Ball, Loretta Young, and Katherine Hepburn).
The search for Scarlett became one of the most publicized talent searches in film history. Casting directors were sent around America, testing over 1000 unknowns.
Vivien's portrayal of Scarlett still today, 60 years later, has countless devoted fans. She seemed born to play that role, and ended up turning Scarlett into screen legend. Vivien received a salary of 25 thousand and no royalties, so playing Scarlett did not make Vivien a fortune. It did however allowed her more control of her later projects.
Blanche Dubois is the other role that Vivien is most remembered for. She excelled in A Streetcar Named Desire both on stage and on screen in 1951.
|Q||How did Vivien get the role of Scarlett in Gone With the Wind?|
|A||David O. Selznick, the film's producer, 'discovered' Scarlett during the first night of filming (the burning of Atlanta) on December 10th, 1938, when she visited the set, introduced to him by Laurence Olivier and her casting agent. He was struck by what he felt was the 'ideal look' of how he envisioned Scarlett. Screen tests and rehearsals took place the next week and Vivien was told she had won the role on Christmas day at a dinner party at Selznick's home. She practicing a Southern accent for four hours a day during the first weeks of production and her role starting shooting January 1939, taking 122 work days to complete, ending on June 27th. She was 26 years old at the time.|
|Q||What was Vivien's first film?|
|A||Things Are Looking Up in 1934 at the age of 21. (released
theatrically in 1935)
She played a school girl and had one line of dialogue which was cut from the film:
"If you are not made headmistress, I shan't come back next term."
|Q||What was Vivien's last film?|
|A||Ship of Fools in 1964 at the age of 51. (released theatrically in
She played an aging Southern divorcee on a ship of refugees leaving Mexico.
Her later roles were commonly about a rejected, fading beauty, victimized by the men she loved. Many felt she played variations on an aging Scarlett - as if Scarlett had lived in a different time or place.
|Q||What was Vivien's favorite of her own films?|
|A||You would think Gone With the Wind, but Vivien resented type-casting as a result of her performance as Scarlett. She felt that the role of Myra in Waterloo Bridge was closer to her heart.|
|Q||How many films did Vivien Leigh make?|
|Q||How many Academy Awards did she win?|
|A||Two Best Actress Oscars - one for playing Scarlett
in Gone With the Wind in 1939, and one for playing Blanche in A
Streetcar Named Desire in 1951.
The only other actresses with two Best Actress Oscars are Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Luise Rainer, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jodie Foster.
Vivien also received a Tony on Broadway for 'best musical comedy performance' in April 1963, for her role in Tovarich.
|Q||Can I get Vivien Leigh films - even the early ones - on video tape?|
|A||Yes. Most of her films have been released on video.
The FILMS section mentions if individual films are current available.
The LINKS section has information where to find her videos.
|Q||How many stage productions did Vivien perform in?|
|Q||Were there any films or plays that didn't go past initial planning?|
|A||Cyrano (1937) with Charles Laughton as Cyrano de Bergerac,
Vivien as Roxanne.
Hamlet (1938) on stage in London acting opposite Leslie Howard.
Wuthering Heights (1939) playing Isabella, co-starring Laurence Olivier.
(Vivien wanted the role of Cathy but didn't get it - she made GWTW instead).
Rebecca (1939) directed by Alfred Hitchcock, co-starring Laurence Olivier - a role Vivien regretted not getting. Her screen tests for Hitchcock still exist.
Union Pacific (1939) directed by Cecille B. de Mille, co-starring Joel McCrea.
Caesar and Cleopatra (December 1940) opposite Cedric Hardwicke on stage.
Henry V (1943) Olivier's impressive film, which he also starred and produced. Vivien was to play the small role of Katharine, but was not allowed due to her contract with David O. Selznick.
Cyrano de Bergerac (1947) a film version with Vivien and Olivier.
Elephant Walk (1953) partially shot, then replaced with Elizabeth Taylor due to illness. You can still see Vivien in several long shots in the finished film.
Macbeth (1955) with Vivien as Lady Mabeth - a role she excelled in on stage at Stratford.
Tiny Alice and A Delicate Balance (1967) both plays by Edward Albee - planned the year she died.
Tchaikovsky (1967) a biographical film with Vivien as Nadezhda von Meck, a coresspondent of Tchaikovsky's.
Cakes and Ale (1967) by Somerset Maugham, as Rosie Driffield.
Far from the Madding Crowd (1967) as Bathsheba Everdene.
|Q||Are there any Vivien Leigh collectibles?|
|A||There are many, many Gone With the Wind collectables that have Scarlett
all over them, enough to fill a warehouse, plus you can buy Vivien Leigh's autograph and
the ocassional personal item at auctions. There are also posters, photographs and
postcards - not to mention several books on her life as well as the video tapes of her
The LINKS section mentions other things as well.
|Q||Do you have any collectibles?|
|A||I have some films and books.|
|Q||Would you like more Vivien Leigh material?|
|A||I would like to hear from people that have studio or candid photos of Vivien - as well as articles or additional material. It would also be nice to hear from the Farrington's.|
|Q||What is the most valuable Vivien Leigh collectable?|
|A||Perhaps Vivien's Oscar that she received for
portraying Scarlett O'Hara.
Sotheby's in New York sold it to a private collector in December of 1993 for five hundred and sixty three thousand dollars US ($563,000). Costumes and accessories from Gone With the Wind and her other films are of great collector value.
Autographed photos commonly sell for several hundred dollars.
|Q||Why did you create The Vivien Leigh Pages?|
|A||For the challenge of putting everything together.
It is dedicated to her life's work and memory.
|Suggestions for additions or information are welcome.|
|The Vivien Leigh Pages
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