It’s October, and you know what that means! From the recent acquisition of the Vivien Leigh Archive by the Victoria and Albert Museum, to a BFI film season, and much more, the spotlight will be shining brightly on Vivien’s memory this autumn.
I’ve always thought that Vivien was better appreciated for her contributions to Hollywood films than she has ever been here in her native England, but the fact that so many of these events are happening around London shows that this national treasure hasn’t exactly been forgotten. And she’ll be celebrated in the States, too, although it seems to be more of a nod to the 75th anniversary of Gone With the Wind next year than to Vivien’s 100th birthday. Still, there will be no shortage of opportunities for fans to indulge in their appreciation for Vivien Leigh!
Here is your comprehensive guide to the Vivien Leigh centenary celebrations taking place in the coming months
- October 10 (UK) and 15 (US): Publication of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait. Pre-order your copy on Amazon (US | UK) or support your local bookstore (highly recommended)! You can also order it for Kindle and other tablet devices.
- Until October 31: Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait featured as TCM’s Book Corner Selection for October. You can enter to win a free copy on their website.
- Until October 31: Vivien Leigh: A Century of Fame exhibition at the Topsham Museum, Topsham, Devon. The Topsham Museum in the picturesque county of Devon was the former home of Vivien Leigh’s sister-in-law, Dorothy Holman. They’ve got a permanent display of some of Vivien’s personal items, but this special exhibition focuses on Vivien’s connections to Devon, with items lent by Vivien’s daughter Suzanne and other local archives.
- November 3: Susie Lindeman stars in the one-woman play Letter to Larry. Jermyn Street Theatre, 7 pm.
- November 5: Select items from the newly acquired Vivien Leigh Archive will go on display in the permanent Theatre and Performance exhibit at the V&A. There will also be a free talk and tour given by curator Keith Lodwick that focuses specifically on Vivien. Also on display will be the Christian Dior dress that Vivien wore in the play Duel of Angels, as well as a headdress that Oliver Messel designed for Vivien to wear in Caesar and Cleopatra (1945). Attendees are to meet in the entrance area of the museum. Running time: 30 mins.
- November 5: Centenary celebration at the Actors’ Church, Covent Garden. Actress Susie Lindeman stars as Vivien Leigh in a 45 minute version of her one-woman show Letter To Larry, followed by readings and reminiscences by fellow actors and figures who knew Vivien. I’ll also be there signing copies of Vivien Leigh: A Intimate Portrait. The event starts at 7.15 pm. Ticket price: TBA.
- November 5 – January 1: BFI film season and nationwide Gone With the Wind theatrical release. The BFI Southbank has put together a fantastic program of film screenings and special talks to commemorate Vivien’s 100th birthday. Highlights include 13 of Vivien’s films on the big screen, including illusive titles 21 Days Together (1940) and The Deep Blue Sea (1956), a talk by V&A curator Keith Lodwick about the Vivien Leigh Archive, and a new restoration and nation-wide theatrical release of Gone With the Wind. The BFI is also offering fans of vivandlarry.com a special discount on tickets to all Vivien screenings and associated events during the season (as well as the full run of GWTW). Quote the code “BEAN” while booking online or by phone to claim your discount! Tickets go on sale October 8.
- November 5: Vivien film tribute on TCM. Everyone’s favorite classic movie channel, TCM (US), will be showing Vivien Leigh films all day on November 5 in honor of her birthday.
- November 13: Vivien Leigh: Role Model or Victim Figure? – Lunchtime lecture by University of Huddersfield professor Jayne Sheridan. V&A, Hochauser Auditorium, Sackler Centre, 1 pm. Price: Free.
- November 17: Vivien Leigh fan meet-up in London. I’m planning a casual fan meet-up on November 17 in London to celebrate Vivien’s birthday. We’ll be going to the V&A to see the Archive items on display, attending a screening of Waterloo Bridge at the BFI, and going for an early-ish dinner. Attendees are responsible for booking their own film tickets (see above), and MUST email me to confirm.
- November 19: Cohen Films Collection releases the Vivien Leigh Anniversary Collection on DVD and Blu-ray. Includes all new restorations of Fire Over England, Dark Journey, Storm in a Teacup, and Sidewalks of London, plus a booklet essay written by yours, truly. The restored films will also be screened at the BFI as part of their Vivien Leigh season.
- November 28: Vivien Leigh: A Intimate Portrait – Lunchtime lecture by Kendra Bean. National Portrait Gallery, Ondaatje Wing Theatre, 1.15 pm followed by book signing. Price: Free.
- November 30: Official opening of Starring Vivien Leigh exhibit at NPG. Through a variety of rare photographs and ephemera, this exhibit traces the trajectory of Vivien’s career and image as one of the most famous British women of the 20th century.
- January 16: Starring Vivien Leigh gallery tour. I’ll be leading a Late Shift tour of the Starring Vivien Leigh exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, speaking about some of my favorite items on display. 7.30 pm. Price: TBA.
- February 8 (tentative): Vivien Leigh seminar, V&A (details TBA)
- June 6-8: Gone With the Wind 75th Anniversary Celebration. The Scarlett on the Square Museum in Marietta, Georgia will play host to this three day event commemorating the greatest film of the Hollywood studio era (details TBA).
Hi, everyone! The UK publicist for Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait sent me an advance copy in the post and I’m so excited to finally be holding it in my hands! Five years from idea stage to finished book – it feels surreal! I couldn’t have done this without the support of Vivien’s fans here and elsewhere on the web. To say thanks for helping to build and sustain this great community, I’m teaming with Running Press and Perseus to give away three FREE signed copies! There are several ways to enter, as listed above. The contest is open to entrants worldwide and will end at midnight on October 10, the date of publication in the UK.
So far, advance reception of the book has been really positive. Kirkus Reviews called it “a worthy tribute to this eternally fascinating star.” That’s encouraging! Not long now until it’s in bookstores!
Click map to enlarge
One of the most commonly asked questions that I receive on this site is from people who are travelling to London and want to do some unique sight-seeing. Where can they go to see places related to Vivien Leigh? As we know, Vivien spent the majority of her life in and around London. She worked here, played here, lived here, and died here, so there are quite a lot of locales that were graced with her presence.
Here are 12 locations that I’ve mapped out along a walking route. Most of them are quite close together, but it covers a good bit of ground, so make sure you bring comfortable footwear and carry a bottle of water. Of course, you can always hop on the tube or get a bus, but the best way to see London is definitely by foot. I usually start the journey at Waterloo as it’s closest to where I live.
*Best enjoyed imagining commentary in a posh British accent.
This post is for the Dynamic Duos blogathon currently being hosted by Once Upon a Screen and Classic Movie Hub and I’d highly encourage reading the entries from all the other fabulous bloggers. I apologize in advance if what I wrote below seems a bit disjointed. There is so much to say about the Oliviers that one could literally fill an entire book.
On May 22, 1960, Vivien Leigh released a shocking statement to the press: “Lady Olivier wishes to say that Sir Laurence has asked for a divorce in order to marry Miss Joan Plowright. She will naturally do whatever he wishes.” The reasons behind Olivier’s request remained unknown to the general public until 1977 – ten years after Vivien’s death – when biographer Anne Edwards revealed Vivien’s long-fought battle with manic depression (better known today as bipolar disorder) and Olivier’s inability to cope with the strain of her illness. In 1960, however, it was only clear that one of the most celebrated and respected relationships in show business had come to what seemed like an abrupt end. Many fans were so bowled over by the news that they decided to take matters into their own hands. Olivier’s papers in the British Library contain a multitude of hand-written letters from people around the globe imploring him not to go through with the divorce; they simply couldn’t handle the disillusionment.
VivAndLarry.com is an historical archive and film blog dedicated to preserving the memories of classic screen and stage stars Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, and to the discussion of classic Hollywood and world cinemas. The site is designed and edited by Kendra Bean, a film scholar, writer and photographer living in London. What you'll find here: A cabinet of curiosities brimming with vintage articles, video footage, the largest archive of Vivien Leigh and/or Laurence Olivier photos on the Web, and much, much more.
This site is updated frequently, so pull up a chair and stay a while! Or, subscribe to be notified whenever new posts are made.
The current header was designed and drawn by the brilliant Laura Loveday.
My book, Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait, is now available for purchase at fine book sellers in the US, UK and Canada. You can also order online!
Read Vivien Leigh: Becoming Scarlett by Kendra Bean in issue no. 75 of Bright Lights Film Journal
Read Kendra's article Style Icon: Vivien Leigh at The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower
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