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LOVE STORY: Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier


In 1930s England was not ready for such a frank impudent challenge. The stormy romance of married Lawrence and married beauty Vivien was discussed for a long time: details were savory, someone justified, someone censured. Then Vivien decides on a very candid interview, after which the tension suddenly subsided. They were blessed.

Laurence Olivier Admiring Vivien Leigh

Every day on stage and on the screen, they trembled in each other's arms. “Flames over England”, “Lady Hamilton” – they were the best theatrical duet and could no longer do without each other behind the scenes and frame. Lawrence was the king of the public, and Vivian has become a national pride, winning two “Oscars” for the role of Scarlett in “Gone with the Wind” and Blanche DuBois in “‘A Streetcar Named’ Desire”.

Entertainment - Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh - Heathrow Airport

Vivien tended to give prophetic predictions. An unknown actress, seeing the magnificent Lawrence Olivier, exclaimed: “He will be my husband!” At that time it seemed absurd. It was said: it was done. She sneaked backstage to Lawrence, and using all the magic of seduction, she will persuade the famous actor to attend the performance with her participation, fastening his words with no less weighty argument – a kiss on the cheek, which Lawrence Olivier recalled in his memoirs. 

Laurence Olivier

Husband, wife and children are quite serious baggage, opposing their passionate love. The categorical refusal of both spouses to divorce, the constant need to be torn between duty and feelings... In the end, they still settled together, and daughter Vivienne Susanne remained with her father. But the scandals were not in vain. The first wake-up calls began: Vivien's nervous breakdowns.


And then Lawrence would go to conquer America, as Vivienne go after him and get to the casting in “Gone with the Wind”, which says: “Larry will not play Rhett Butler, but I will play Scarlett!” – and she will be right again.

The shooting was not easy, for the hot-tempered Vivienne, besides being separated from her beloved, this was a real test. But it was worth it: already in 1939 it was clear that the film had become a classic. Vivien received an Oscar for Best Actress.

Sir Laurence Olivier and wife Lady Olivier (Vivien Leigh)

In August 1940, Olivier and Vivien married in the California town of Santa Barbara. There were two guests: Katherine Hepburn and Garson Kanin. Vivien refused to star in films where Lawrence did not act as her second half.

Things did not always go smoothly. There were quarrels, and after a tour of North Africa, Vivienne picked up tuberculosis. True, she had the strength to play the role of the Egyptian queen in the film Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), but the picture failed at the box office, and Vivien had a miscarriage afterwards.


Her mental illness became more and more obvious: tantrums, fainting, and another disappointing diagnosis – manic-depressive psychosis.


Finally undermined her mental health, the role of Blanche DuBois, who is gradually losing his mind. Then, the film version of “Streetcar” was filmed. The film brought the actress an “Oscar” and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress. But this could no longer save the situation. Unable to withstand another hysteria, Lawrence left her after 17 years of marriage. He married again and safely lived to old age, and Vivien after a divorce for seven years desperately struggling with bouts of hysteria and tuberculosis. One of the most beautiful women of the 20th century, the dream of millions, she died at the age of 53 years.


Text by Tahmina Afandiyeva