Vivien Leigh, between courage and madness

Although she was British, her unforgettable Scarlet O’Hara made her go down in history as the embodiment of the tragic and impetuous beauty of the American South, qualities that also marked the real life of Vivien Leigh, who would have turned 100 tomorrow.

As unfortunate as the fate of that southern heroine was the future of the actress, several times subjected to electroshock treatments for a misdiagnosed bipolar disorder, and died of tuberculosis at the age of 54, according to José Madrid in the biography Vivien Leigh, the Scarlett O’Hara tragedy. The stubbornness and rebellion that he shared with the character helped him to land that role, which he discovered at the age of 23 when, resting after a ski accident, he devoured the Margaret Mitchell novel that had revolutionized the United States in the summer of 1936.

When he learned that, on the other side of the Atlantic, David O. Selznick was looking to put a face to the capricious Scarlet, he found an agent in the United States and did not stop until he got an appointment with the producer, who had already started filming his epic delusion. . The actress was so clear that she would be Scarlet, a role that earned her her first Oscar, that at the beginning of her American adventure she refused to be under the direction of Cecil B. de Mille in Union Pacific and a contract with Paramount for four films, only to be available.

The same effort that the young and married Leigh put in pursuing Laurence Olivier. He, too, was married when the then promising theater actress appeared, simulating a chance meeting, at the hotel in Capri where he was spending a vacation with his wife. Thus began a long and not always easy love story, which would eventually darken with mutual infidelities and which ended up falling apart weeks after the Sir of the British scene gave him a blue Rolls Royce for his 45th birthday.

Leigh also demonstrated character when in 1957 he led a protest to save the Saint James Theater from demolition, for a project to build apartments; He even screamed into the House of Lords, prompting Churchill to write him a letter admiring his courage and disapproving of his manner.

But it was not only Scarlet who bore similarities to his life. The heartbreaking Blanche Dubois, her controversial sexual tendencies and her mental imbalance in Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire, were a dark omen. Pimp Scotty Bowers counts on Full Service. The secret sex lives of Hollywood stars, that both Leigh and Olivier were bisexual and that both used their services frequently. «She was a very sexual woman. Putting it to work demanded complete satisfaction. That night we fucked as if the survival of the planet depended on it, ”Bowers writes. That role with Marlon Brando, gave him his second Oscar, but also exacerbated his crises. In her next shoot, The Elephant Trail, she was replaced by Elizabeth Taylor, after several attacks of hysteria and forgetfulness of the script.

Leigh’s complete filmography has around twenty titles, such as The Deep Blue Sea (1955) or Ana Karenina (1948). The green-eyed performer never left the theater. The reward came, albeit late, in the form of a Tony for best actress for the musical Tovarich (1963).

After a notorious divorce that was a national affair, the last years of her life were spent with fellow actor John Merivale, never losing contact with her first husband, Leigh Holman, and the father of her daughter.

One hundred years after his birth in British India, Leigh’s legacy remains in the form of indelible phrases that are among the most legendary such as “I take God as my witness that I will never starve again” or “I’ll think about it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow will be another day.

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Vivien Leigh, between courage and madness