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The Life Of Vivien Leigh, Gone With The Wind Actress

Updated on June 19, 2013

Vivien Leigh is one of the best known actresses of all time, and quite possibly one of the most beautiful. She also played in what could be called the best picture ever made ( Gone With The Wind), and she played that role like it was written just for her. I could never imagine anyone but her portraying Scarlett O’Hara, and I don’t think it would have been such a hit if someone else had tried. With all of her success you would think that she would have led a pretty happy life, but that was not the case. Vivien Leigh suffered with bipolar disorder, tuberculosis, miscarriages, and two failed marriages. Below is a short biography of Vivien Leigh's short life.

Vivian Mary Hartley was born on November 5, 1913 in India. Her father was English and her mother was Irish. They wanted to return to England but because of World War 1 they stayed. Finally at 6 years of age Vivian’s family returned to England. Vivien attended schools in England, France, Germany, and Italy. This is probably why she was fluent in both French and Italian.

At 19 Vivian married her first husband, Leigh Holman. They had one daughter together whom they named Suzanne. Vivian enjoyed motherhood but could not ignore her dreams of acting. Around this time is when Vivian Hartley became Vivien Leigh, a more glamorous stage name in her opinion.

Vivien made her first onstage debut in 1935 in “The Bash”. The play wasn't a hit, but Vivien was. Later that year she starred in her first movie called “Things are Looking Up”. Leigh’s career was on the up and up. While filming “Fire Over England” in 1937 she met Lawrence Oliver. Both Leigh and Oliver were married, but they fell deeply in love and enjoyed quite the love affair.

“Gone With The Wind” was fated to be a hit before it even started production. Vivien beat out some of Hollywood’s top actresses at the time for the part, including Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis. The movie received 13 Academy Award nominations including a nomination for best actress for Leigh. Gone with the wind was and still remains one of the best pictures ever made, Leigh could not have asked for a better part.

In 1940 Vivien and Oliver finally married but their happiness was short lived. In 1944 Vivien suffered a miscarriage while in rehearsal which worsened her already unstable mental condition. Leigh was bipolar and also battled tuberculosis which caused her to turn to alcohol to get her through her days. Needless to say this strained their marriage.

She did go on to do movies and plays that did well but nothing could match her role as Scarlett O’Hara, until she was cast as Blanche Du Bois in A Streetcar called Desire. She won many awards for this role and it catapulted her star even higher.

After her role in “A Streetcar Called Desire” she starred in many roles that were very successful. But, after suffering another miscarriage Vivien found it harder and harder to control her episodes of mania and depression brought on by bipolar disorder. In 1960 Leigh and Oliver divorced.

Oliver remarried and started a family and Leigh became involved with a new love interest and started taking on new projects again. Everything was looking up for her until she suddenly fell ill and at the age of 53, on July 8, 1967, she lost her battle with tuberculosis.

Vivien Leigh was the very essence of what a Hollywood star should be. I doubt we will ever see anyone like her again. Thankfully she will live on in films such as "Gone With The Wind", which I personally can never watch too many times.

Vivien Leigh Accepts Her Oscar For Gone With The Wind

Most Famous Scene From Gone With The Wind

Do You Count "Gone With The Wind" As One Of Your Favorite Movies?

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    • LisaMarie724 profile image

      Lisa Stover 5 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      James Watkins- She is so stunning, and an amazing actress. You can almost believe that Scarlett was a real person in history, she played her so well.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you for this beautiful Hub. I enjoyed it very much. To me, Vivien Leigh is the most gorgeous woman who has ever been. And I am a connoisseur of beauty and women. :-)

      Like you, "I could never imagine anyone but her portraying Scarlett O’Hara." And I surely agree with you that "'Gone with the Wind' was and still remains one of the best pictures ever made"


    • LisaMarie724 profile image

      Lisa Stover 5 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      Thanks, she's completely fascinating.

    • KristenHead profile image

      Kristen Dyrr 5 years ago

      Very interesting. I had never leaned much about her, and you highlighted all the best parts of her life in a captivating way. Thanks!

    • LisaMarie724 profile image

      Lisa Stover 5 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      I've always loved this movie and thought she was outstanding in it. I thought it would be an interesting read because not many people knew she suffered with bipolar and tuberculosis throughout her life.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I had no idea she was born in India. Interesting. I learned a lot about Vivien from your hub!

    • Gypsy48 profile image

      Gypsy48 5 years ago

      Vivien was such a beautiful woman. I wish her private life would have been happier and that she would have made more movies. Nice article.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

      Beautiful! That´s what she was. I have never heard much of the private life of Vivien Leigh. Gone With The Wind was one of the awesome film. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and more;-)

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      Fascinating. I have only ever heard snippets about Vivien Leigh's life, and they were never very flattering. I had no idea she had a daughter and that she died from tuberculosis. Up, interesting and shared. In my book, she played the all time great character Scarlet. Thanks for this.