A rather love-Leigh photography exhibit
"I'll go home. And I'll think of some way to get him back. After all ... tomorrow is another day." (Scarlett O'Hara)
One of the most famous casting searches in history rocketed British stage actress Vivien Leigh into Hollywood stardom as the wilful, irresistible Scarlett in Gone with the Wind. This was an Oscar award-winning role for her and she went on to win a second Oscar for her role as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).
In terms of her personal life, Leigh was strongly identified with her husband Laurence Olivier, to whom she was married from 1940 to 1960. Leigh and Olivier starred together in many stage productions. Sadly for much of her adult life, she suffered from bipolar disorder. She also endured chronic tuberculosis, which ultimately claimed her life at the age of 53.
She was born on November 5, 1913 and centenary celebrations have been under way this year. The National Portrait Gallery in London has just opened an exhibition entitled 'Starring Vivien Leigh: A Centenary Celebration'. It features more than 50 portraits of Leigh, including rare vintage photographs. Many of the photographs in the display have not be exhibited in the gallery before, and the exhibition includes leading photographers such as Cecil Beaton, Angus McBean, Norman Parkinson, Sasha, Laszlo Willinger and Madame Yevonde.
It includes a previously unseen photograph (pictured above) of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. Terence Pepper, Head of Photographs Collection at The Portrait Gallery, told me that the photograph was taken in May 1949 by British photojournalist Larry Burrows. It shows Leigh and Olivier at a theatrical garden party held in London and Leigh is speaking through a megaphone to a delighted crowd.
Terence refers to them as the 'Posh 'n' Becks' of their time. "They were so adored by the British public who didn't know about the stormy side of their relationship. What's so nice about the picture is that they are in the centre and looking at the people around them, it's like a social history of the time."
The pictures in this exhibition centre mainly on Leigh's screen roles and are exhibited chronologically. "We start off in 1935, we found a great picture of her first film role in Things are looking Up where she wasn't actually credited but we found a press photograph," Terrence told me.
He is as interested in the stories behind the photographers who took the pictures as much as Vivien Leigh's own story.
This exhibition will appeal to fans of the star as well as avid photographers. The information attached to each photograph gives a context for the photograph as well as information regarding the person responsible for taking the photograph.
Terence Pepper worked on a Marilyn Monroe exhibition last year and next year will be putting together a collection of photographs of Audrey Hepburn. All beautiful women, but we agree that Vivien Leigh must have been a dream subject for any photographer.
"Yes, she was so photogenic, with wonderful eyes. She really responded to the camera, the camera loved her."
STARRING VIVIEN LEIGH: A CENTENARY CELEBRATION. NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY, LONDON UNTIL JULY 2014. SEE WWW.NPG.ORG.UK
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