Vivien Leigh was famous for many different reasons, her 2 Oscar-winning performances in Gone With The Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire, her great beauty, her tempestuous private life, her struggles with depression and her marriage to Laurence Olivier.
The Victoria and Albert Museum has today announced that it has acquired Vivien Leigh’s archive of movie scripts, photos, letters, diaries, awards and many other personal items. The collection was previously in the hands of Leigh’s grandchildren and it features many items about the actress’s professional and private life that have never been seen in public before.
She was a great letter writer and amongst the large archive are around 7.5k letters sent to her and Olivier from a hugely diverse group of people including Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Winston Churchill and Marilyn Monroe. She was clearly a very organised person as she actually catalogued each of the letters in her collection.
One item that is sure to be of great interest to movie fans when the collection goes on display is the visitors book for the Olivier/Leigh family home at Notley Abbey in Haddenham, Buckinghamshire. This contains the signatures of many of the biggest movie stars of the age who visited the couple’s home including Judy Garland, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Orson Welles.
The actress in almost as well-known for her personal life as she is for her movie career. A number of biographies in recent years have referred to her habit of stripping her clothes off in front of people as well as her many one-night stands, a liking for “rough trade” and also several lesbian affairs.
Her marriage to Olivier was under great strain from her outrageous behaviour with the actor said to have come home to find his wife sliding naked down the bannisters. The marriage did not seem destined to last with Leigh apparently taunting her husband with talk of her affairs with other leading men including Rex Harrison and Marlon Brando and increasing bouts of manic depression.
The newly acquired Vivien Leigh archive collection will go on view at London’s V&A form this autumn with a number of digitized items available online at the V&A‘s website.