Vivien Leigh, born November 5, 1913, was a force to reckon with in the early entertainment and film industries. Leigh made her first stage appearance at three years old when she recited “Little Bo Peep” courtesy of her mother’s amateur theater group. The highlight of her acting career was her notable role as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind,” released in 1939. Among other works, Leigh is best remembered for her roles in “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951) and “Tovarich” (1963). Join us as we celebrate this legendary actress’ special day right here.
Vivian Mary Hartley
November 5, 1913
July 8, 1967 (age 53)
Vivien Leigh, originally Vivian Mary Hartley at birth, was born on November 5, 1913, in Darjeeling, India. She was the only child born to Ernest R. Hartley and Gertrude M. Frances. Her mother contributed greatly to her success in the film industry, as she nurtured her appreciation of literature by exposing her to the works of the likes of Lewis Carroll and Rudyard Kipling, and stories of Indian folklore. At three years old, Leigh made her first stage appearance where she recited “Little Bo Peep” courtesy of her mother’s budding theater group.
Leigh married her first husband, Herbert Leigh Holman, in 1932. They were blessed with one daughter, Suzanne, in 1933. They later divorced, and Suzanne was left in the custody of Holman. Leigh and her co-star, Laurence Olivier, got romantically involved in 1937 and got married in 1940 in California. Theirs was a love story to behold, albeit with a tragic ending. One of her most famous works is “Gone with the Wind,” which was released in 1939 and in which she played Scarlett O’Hara. In 1938, the symptoms of her bipolar disorder began to prominently manifest in her.
Leigh is most remembered for her appearances in “Gone with the Wind” (1939), “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951), and “Tovarich” (1963). She amassed several accolades in her life, including two Academy Awards for Best Actress. In 1944, Leigh got severely ill with recurrent tuberculosis. And in 1967, she succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 53. Leigh is remembered as an embodiment of strength in weakness who used the challenges she faced as stepping stones to promotion.
Leigh makes her film debut in the comedy “Things Are Looking Up,” although her role is uncredited.
After a two-year search for an ideal actress for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind,” she bags it as her first Oscar performance, beating several top talents in the industry.
Leigh wins Best Actress for “Gone with the Wind.”
This historic landmark publicly acknowledges Leigh’s achievements and contributions to the entertainment industry.
The American Film Institute ranks Leigh as the 16th greatest female movie star in classic Hollywood cinema.
Why We Love Vivien Leigh
She overcame her mood disorder
Leigh had bipolar disorder. However, she defied her condition to achieve great achievements in the entertainment industry.
She was a competitive top-achiever
She outperformed many of Hollywood's finest actors during the two-year quest for the perfect actress to play Scarlett O'Hara in “Gone with the Wind.” Leigh won several awards for this role.
She didn’t despise her humble beginnings
Leigh had her share of humble beginnings. Despite the many accolades, her filming career started when she took a role in “Things Are Looking Up” (1935). This was an uncredited role.
5 Surprising Facts
Her beauty almost impaired her career
Her words “… beauty can be a great handicap” sum up people’s perception that she was too beautiful to be taken seriously in her acting roles.
She was featured in “Time” magazine
At the height of her fame as Scarlett O’Hara, Leigh was featured on the cover of “Time” magazine.
She was deemed difficult to work with
Although this was totally out of her control following her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, other psychological issues could have contributed to this sad reality.
A Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts alumni
Leigh pursued acting at this prestigious institution in London.
She contemplated suicide once
As the most famous love story in Hollywood, she threatened to commit suicide when her marriage to Olivier didn’t work out.
Vivien Leigh FAQs
What happened to Vivien Leigh’s daughter Suzanne?
She died from undisclosed causes in Wiltshire at 81 years old.
What was the cause of Vivien Leigh’s death?
She died from chronic tuberculosis.
Who inherited Vivien Leigh’s estate?
Leigh and Holman’s only daughter, Suzanne Farrington, inherited the estate.
Vivien Leigh’s birthday dates