Vivien Leigh: A Biography
by Anne Edwards
1978 (1977) Coronet Books
Vivien Leigh, remembered world-wide for her role as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, is enigmatically brought to life in Anne Edwards' intelligent biography of this great actress.
My only regret is that I did not read it sooner! Having sat on my bookshelf for months, I finally picked it up and read it through enthusiastically. Anne Edwards describes the delicious Vivien in compassionate detail. Her childhood, sparkling personality, her first failed marriage, her love for the stage, her 20-year marriage and eternal love for Laurence Olivier, and her tragic struggles with her health are wonderfully covered with the energy they deserve.
I was most captivated by the discussion of her battle with mental illness, which I was not even aware that Vivien Leigh suffered from. She seriously manic-depressive, which resulted in devastating attacks and periods of suffering. Although ashamed of her illness, she battled with it bravely until her death in 1967 from tuberculosis.
For Edwards, Vivien is certainly a tragic heroine. Every aspect her life is romanticised, eternalised as unique and completely capivating. The work, however, does not suffer from this profound sympathy. By contrast, it is an enriching sentiment in any biographer, and Edwards is no exception. Vivien Leigh is framed in a charming portrait displaying both her talent and beauty, but also her frailty and suffering.