Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait
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Through both an in-depth narrative and a stunning array of photos, Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait presents the personal story of one of the most celebrated women of the twentieth century, an engrossing tale of success, struggles, and triumphs. It chronicles Leigh’s journey from her birth in India to prominence in British film, winning the most-coveted role in Hollywood history, her celebrated love affair with Laurence Olivier, through to her untimely death at age fifty-three in 1967.
Author Kendra Bean is the first Vivien Leigh biographer to delve into the Laurence Olivier Archives, where an invaluable collection of personal letters and documents ranging from interview transcripts to film contracts to medical records shed new insight on Leigh’s story. Illustrated by hundreds of rare and never-before-published images, including those by Leigh’s “official” photographer, Angus McBean, Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait is the first illustrated biography to closely examine the fascinating, troubled, and often misunderstood life of Vivien Leigh: the woman, the actress, the legend.
something to talk about by publicly announcing their engagement. On April 17, Vivien told Selznick she was pregnant but reported a false alarm after the producer arranged for an abortion. A few weeks later, Olivier informed her that he was considering staying on for an extended run of No Time for Comedy. Distraught and exhausted, Vivien took an overdose of sleeping pills that same night. After receiving an anxious early-morning phone call from Sunny, Olivier frantically intervened from across
the international press caught wind of Vivien’s crisis. Harrowing photographs of her blanket-covered body being loaded into the back of an ambulance while Olivier and David Niven anxiously supervised were splashed across the front pages. The Los Angeles Times reported that at the airport, the anguished actor broke down under the strain of the situation and sobbed in Niven’s arms. In New York, Olivier and Danny Kaye had to restrain Vivien while she was sedated for the overseas flight. Terrified
postwar austerity. That they appeared to be an exception to the typical, short-lived Hollywood marriage only elevated their stature in the eyes of their admirers. Although there had been speculation of a breakup for many years, the demise of show business’s most revered couple sent shock waves around the world. Though fraught with turbulence in private, the marriage had seemed, to many on the outside, to be “eternal and unchanging.” Vivien mourned for what she and Olivier once had, rather than
overproduced production.” For her efforts, Vivien was awarded Broadway’s highest honor, a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. She continued to keep Tovarich afloat until October 1963, when a recurrence of mania forced her to bow out and return to London for treatment. Vivien spent some time recovering in a nursing home in St. John’s Wood and at her flat in Eaton Square before retreating to Tickerage Mill, the picturesque Queen Anne-style house she had purchased
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