Vivien Leigh: The Beauty Who Materialized Fiction Through Her Iconic Performances

Kasturi Goswami
3 min readAug 8, 2022

Vivien Leigh defines acting. She created a name for herself, one that dedicated its root to British theatre and motion picture. She was a dazzler in the entertainment industry. The bright star with a perfect reel-life, yet an emotionally exhausting real-life.

Initial Stage

Vivien Leigh was born in Darjeeling, India to a Yorkshire stockbroker and his wife. Growing up, she was attracted to conjure ways to be in the limelight, to be the center of attraction. She craved the stage, the art. In 1932, she joined the Royal School Of Dramatic Art. The same year, she got married to British barrister Herbert Leigh Holman.

When I come into the theatre, I get a sense of security. I love an audience. I love people, and I act because I like trying to give pleasure to people.

~Vivien Leigh, British Actress (5th November 1913- 8th July 1967)

Career Kickstart

Leigh made her film debut with Things Are Looking Up (1934), while her stage debut was with The Green Sash (1935). During the next few years, she started getting recognized for her work. It was during one such stage performance that she got acquainted with Laurence Olivier, the leading man in the British motion picture industry.

Acquaintance With Laurence Oliver

Leigh never imagined that their little acquaintance would develop into love and they would eventually marry. The tragic love tale of Leigh and Olivier has been one that serves as a remembrance of a canvas thread with passion, romance, betrayal, and heartbreak. The couple co-starred in several successful films and stage productions. After an explicit steamy affair, Leigh and Olivier got divorced from their respective partners and tied the knot in 1940. Their initial years of marriage were blissful and some would even say enviable until problems started knocking on their door.

#colourfulingrey: Leigh and Oliver
Leigh and Olivier in The Hamilton Women (1941)

Undiagnosed Bipolar And Last Moments

A few years into their marriage and Leigh started exhibiting symptoms of bipolar disorder. Her condition was aggravated for it was left undiagnosed and untreated. Furthermore, Leigh contracted chronic tuberculosis in 1943. With her increasingly severe breakdowns, she faced problems with keeping a stable married life. Desperate, she found solace in infidelity. Leigh’s affair with Australian actor Peter Finch ended her marriage in 1960. Post-divorce, Leigh married British theatre actor Jack Merivale. In 1967, Leigh died suffering from recurrent bouts of tuberculosis.

Acting Career Honors

Leigh enjoyed outstanding success on stage and on the silver screen. She had dedicated her entire life to acting, immortalizing many characters through her performances. She won two Academy Awards (1940 and 1952) for her portrayal of the fictional literary characters, Scarlett O’ Hara, in Gone with the wind (1939) and Blanche DuBois in A streetcar named desire (1949). Besides the Academy awards, Leigh has a BAFTA award (1953), two NYFCC awards (1939 & 1951), an NBR award (1940), a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star (1960), and several other awards in her name.

The day Leigh passed away, the lights of every theatre in Central London were extinguished for an hour in her respect. In 1968, she became the first actress honored in the U.S. by The Friends of the Libraries at the University of Southern California. Vivien Leigh Was A Remarkable Actress Of International Accolade And Died Doing What She Truly Loved: Acting On Stage.



Kasturi Goswami

I head the content team of a digital transformation startup. Medium is an outlet for my itch to write something that isn't part of my job.