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Vivien Leigh

Real name: Vivian Mary Hartley
Birthdate: November 5, 1913
Status: N/A
Partner: N/A

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Leigh was born Vivian Mary Hartley in Darjeeling, West Bengal, British India, to Ernest Hartley, a British Officer in the Indian Cavalry, and Gertrude Robinson Yackje, whose heritage is in question. She claimed to be of Irish descent, but it is likely that she also had Armenian-Parsee Indian ancestry. They were married in Kensington, London in 1912. In 1917, Ernest Hartley was relocated to Bangalore, while Gertrude and Vivian stayed in Ootacamund. Vivian Hartley made her first stage appearance at the age of three, reciting "Little Bo Peep" for her mother's amateur theatre group. Gertrude Hartley tried to instill in her daughter an appreciation of literature, and introduced her to the works of Hans Christian Andersen, Lewis Carroll and Rudyard Kipling, as well as stories of Greek mythology. An only child, Vivian Hartley was sent to the "Convent of the Sacred Heart" in Roehampton in England, in 1920. Her closest friend at the convent was the future actress Maureen O'Sullivan, to whom she expressed her desire to become "a great actress".

Gone with the Wind brought Leigh immediate attention and fame, but she was quoted as saying, "I'm not a film star – I'm an actress. Being a film star – just a film star – is such a false life, lived for fake values and for publicity. Actresses go on for a long time and there are always marvellous parts to play." Among the ten Academy Awards won by Gone with the Wind was a Best Actress award for Leigh, who also won a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress.

She and Olivier mounted a stage production of Romeo and Juliet for Broadway. The New York press discussed the adulterous nature that had marked the beginning of Olivier and Leigh's relationship, and questioned their ethics in not returning to England to help with the war effort, and the critics were hostile in their assessment of the production. Brooks Atkinson for the New York Times wrote, "Although Miss Leigh and Mr Olivier are handsome young people they hardly act their parts at all." While most of the blame was attributed to Olivier's acting and direction, Leigh was also criticised, with Bernard Grebanier commenting on the "thin, shopgirl quality of Miss Leigh's voice." The couple had invested almost their entire savings into the project, and its failure was a financial disaster for them.

They filmed That Hamilton Woman (1941) with Olivier as Horatio Nelson and Leigh as Emma Hamilton. With Britain engaged in World War II, it was one of several Hollywood films made with the aim of arousing a pro-British sentiment among American audiences. The film was popular in the United States, but was an outstanding success in the Soviet Union. Winston Churchill arranged a screening for a party which included Franklin D. Roosevelt and, on its conclusion, addressed the group, saying, "Gentlemen, I thought this film would interest you, showing great events similar to those in which you have just been taking part." The Oliviers remained favourites of Churchill, attending dinners and occasions at his request for the rest of his life, and of Leigh he was quoted as saying, "By Jove, she's a clinker."


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