Vivian Mary Hartley, later known as Vivien Leigh (5 November 1913 – 8 July 1967), was an English stage and film actress. She won two Academy Awards forBest Actress for her performances as "Southern belle" Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939) and Blanche DuBois in the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire(1951), a role she had also played on stage in London's West End in 1949. She also won a Tony Award for her work in the Broadway version of Tovarich (1963).
After her drama school education, Leigh appeared in small roles in four films in 1935 and progressed to the role of heroine in Fire Over England (1937). Lauded for her beauty, Leigh felt that it sometimes prevented her from being taken seriously as an actress. Despite her fame as a screen actress, Leigh was primarily a stage performer. During her 30-year stage career, she played roles ranging from the heroines of Noël Coward and George Bernard Shaw comedies to classicShakespearean characters such as Ophelia, Cleopatra, Juliet and Lady Macbeth. Later in life, she played character roles in a few films.she was married to lawrence olivier
Leigh's last screen appearance in Ship of Fools was both a triumph and emblematic of her illnesses taking root. Producer and director Stanley Kramer who ended up with the film, planned to star Leigh but was initially unaware of the fragile mental and physical health of his star.[Note 5] In later recounting her work, Kramer remembered her courage in taking on the difficult role, "She was ill, and the courage to go ahead, the courage to make the film – was almost unbelievable." Leigh's performance was tinged by paranoia and resulted in outbursts that marred her relationship with other actors, although bothSimone Signoret and Lee Marvin were sympathetic and understanding. In one unusual instance during the attempted rape scene, Leigh became distraught and hit Marvin so hard with a spiked shoe, that it marked his face.
Leigh won the L'Étoile de Cristal for her performance in a leading role in Ship of Fools.[Note 6]
In May 1967 Leigh was rehearsing to appear with Michael Redgrave in Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance when her tuberculosis recurred. Following several weeks of rest, she seemed to recover. On the night of 7 July 1967, Merivale left her as usual at their Eaton Square flat, to perform in a play, and returned home just before midnight to find her asleep. About 30 minutes later, he returned to the bedroom and discovered her body on the floor. She had been attempting to walk to the bathroom and, as her lungs filled with liquid, they collapsed and she suffocated. Merivale first contacted her family and the next day, was able to reach Olivier, who was receiving treatment for prostate cancer in a nearby hospital. In his autobiography, Olivier described his "grievous anguish" as he immediately travelled to Leigh's residence, to find that Merivale had moved her body onto the bed. Olivier paid his respects, and "stood and prayed for forgiveness for all the evils that had sprung up between us", before helping Merivale make funeral arrangements; Olivier stayed until her body was removed from the flat