Book 6 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from January 16 - 18
Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait by Kendra Bean
Summary (via the book jacket)
Vivien Leigh's mystique was a combination of staggering beauty, glamour, romance, and genuine talent displayed in her Oscar-winning performances in Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire. For more than thirty years, her name alone sold out theaters and cinemas the world over, and she inspired many of the greatest visionaries of her time: Laurence Olivier loved her; Winston Churchill praised her; Christian Dior dressed her.
Through both an in-depth narrative and a stunning array of photos, Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait presents the personal story of one of the most celebrated women of the twentieth century, an engrossing tale of success, struggles, and triumphs. It chronicles Leigh's journey from her birth in India to prominence in British film, winning the most-coveted role in Hollywood history, her celebrated love affair with Laurence Olivier, through to her untimely death at age fifty-three in 1967.
Author Kendra Bean is the first Vivien Leigh biographer to delve into the Laurence Olivier Archives, where an invaluable collection of personal letters and documents ranging from interview transcripts to film contracts to medical records shed new insight on Leigh's story. Illustrated by hundreds of rare and never-before-published images, including those by Leigh's "official" photographer, Angus McBean, Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait is the first illustrated biography to closely examine the fascinating, troubled, and often misunderstood life of Vivien Leigh: the woman, the actress, the legend.
Something I'd read in a previous book peaked my interest in Vivien Leigh and I sought this book out because it looked like a good way for me to learn more about her interesting life. It didn't quite satisfy though; the pictures were excellent and the information was all new to me but I don't feel like I know any more about her after reading this than when I started, other than her list of movies and plays. I wanted to know more about her relationship with her daughter and more about her mental struggles; I don't know if that information is out there but this book seemed like it would deliver but unfortunately didn't.
I'd also heard about Clark Gable having bad breath during Gone With the Wind, which this book seems to refute, and it made me sad to think about how people are remembered and that sometimes the facts don't always apply.
A Few Quotes from the Book
"Whether clawing her way back to the top as civilization crumbled around her in Gone With the Wind or fighting and ultimately succumbing to harsh realities in A Streetcar Named Desire, Vivien had the unique power of immediacy which has kept her performances fresh - and thus helped keep her in the spotlight - long after many stars of her generation have faded from memory."
"In 1999, the American Film Institute named Vivian on of the twenty-five greatest actresses to have ever graced the silver screen. Compared to many of the other women on the list - Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Elizabeth Taylor - Vivien's filmography is small. Yet her contribution to cinematic culture was anything but."