LEIGH, Vivien (1913-1967)
Plaque erected in 1996 by English Heritage at 54 Eaton Square, Belgravia, London, SW1W 9BE, City of Westminster
Theatre and Film
VIVIEN LEIGH 1913-1967 Actress lived here
The actress Vivien Leigh is best remembered for her role as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939). She used Flat D at 54 Eaton Square as her London base from 1958 until her death in 1967.
FAME AND ROMANCE
Born Vivian Hartley in India, Leigh began acting professionally in her 20s, making her screen debut in Things Are Looking Up (1934) and signing a contract with the film director Alexander Korda in the following year. While making Fire Over England (1937), she formed an intense relationship with her co-star, Sir Laurence Olivier, and the pair were married three years later.
Leigh came to international attention for her Oscar-winning portrayal of Scarlett O'Hara in the film Gone with the Wind (1939), a role that has somewhat overshadowed her reputation as an outstanding classical actress.
EATON SQUARE LIFE
At the time she moved to Eaton Square – alone, though she furnished a study for Olivier – she was still one of the most famous actresses in the world, but her private life was darkening. She was suffering from manic depression and her marriage was almost over – she and Olivier were divorced in 1960.
Nonetheless, the last decade of Vivien’s life continued to bring her acclaim as a star of stage and screen, particularly as the heroine of The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone (1961) and the rejected fading beauty in Ship of Fools (1965).
By May 1967, the state of Leigh's health was such that she was rehearsing the Edward Albee play A Delicate Balance from her bed, where Noël Coward found her ‘pale but lovely, and smoking, which she shouldn't have been doing’. She died of tuberculosis here a month later, with her beloved pet cat, Poo Jones, by her side.