Born on November 5, 1913, while her British parents lived in India, Vivien Leigh is best remembered for her Oscar-winning performance as Scarlett O’Hara in the lavish Civil War epic Gone with the Wind (1939). Shortly after completing the film, Leigh returned to England for patriotic reasons due to her home nation’s involvement in World War II. Leigh continued to star in films, including the patriotic ventures Waterloo Bridge (1940) and That Hamilton Woman (1941).
Also an accomplished stage actress, Leigh originated the role of Blanche DuBois in the West End production of Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire. She won her second Academy Award for her performance in the role in the 1951 film adaptation. However, the emotionally charged role is believed to have triggered a worsening of her manic depression, which she struggled with throughout her adult life.
Leigh has been married twice. She earned her stage name and her only child, Suzanne, but her twenty-year romance and marriage to revered actor Laurence Olivier is remembered far more often.
Vivien Leigh died of a recurrence of tuberculosis in 1967. Though divorced from Leigh, Olivier was distraught, even sitting over her dead body for an extended period and helping to make funeral arrangements. London’s West End lights were dimmed in honor of her.