11/5/1914 to 7/7/1967
Born Vivian Mary Hartley, she lived in Darjeeling, India until she was six. Her parents wanted to go home to England but because of World War I they opted to stay in India. At the end of the war the Hartleys headed back to their home country, where Vivien’s mother wanted her daughter to have a convent education. She was one of the youngest in attendance, and it was not a happy experience for her. One of the few consolations was her friendship with a classmate who also became a successful actress, Maureen O'Sullivan While there her mother came for a visit and took her to a play on London's legendary West Side. It was there that Vivien decided to become an actress.
She met and married Herbert Leigh in 1932 and together had a child named Suzanne in 1933. Though she enjoyed motherhood, it did not stop her ambition to be an actress. Her first role in British motion pictures was as Rose Venables in 1935's The Village Squire, she made several more in the thirties.
In 1938, Vivien went to the US to see her lover, Laurence Olivier, who was filming Wuthering Heights (1939) (she had left Herbert Leigh in 1937). While visiting Olivier, Vivien had the good luck to happen upon the Selznick brothers, who were filming the burning of Atlanta for the film, Gone with the Wind (1939). The role of Scarlett O'Hara had yet to be cast and she was invited to take part in a screen test for the role. Some big names had tried out for the part, such as Norma Shearer, Katharine Hepburn and Paulette Goddard.
However, four days after the screen test, Vivien was informed that she had landed the coveted slot. The shoot wasn't a pleasant one, as she didn't get along with her co-star, Clark Gable. The film became one of the most celebrated in the annals of cinema. It won Best Picture during the Academy Awards, and Vivien won Best Actress. In 1940, she made two more films, though neither approached the magnetism of GWTW. That same year she married Olivier and the next year they appeared together in That Hamilton Woman (1941).
By the time of the filming of Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), her life had begun to unravel. She had suffered two miscarriages, contracted tuberculosis, and was diagnosed as a manic depressive. However, she gave another excellent performance in that film and her public was still enthralled with her, although the film was not a financial success. She rebounded nicely for her role as Blanche DuBois for her second Oscar-winning performance in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) opposite Marlon Brando in 1951. She wasn't heard from much after that. In 1960, her marriage fell apart, as Olivier left her to marry actress Joan Plowright.
Vivien's final turn on the screen came in Ship of Fools (1965), and that was a small part. She died at the age of 53 after a severe bout of tuberculosis on July 7, 1967.