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Dark Star: A Biography of Vivien Leigh

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Vivien Leigh was perhaps the most iconic actress of the twentieth-century. As Scarlett O'Hara and Blanche Du Bois she took on some of the most pivotal roles in cinema history. Yet she was also a talented theatre actress with West End and Broadway plaudits to her name. In this ground-breaking new biography, Alan Strachan provides a completely new full-life portrait of Leigh Vivien Leigh was perhaps the most iconic actress of the twentieth-century. As Scarlett O'Hara and Blanche Du Bois she took on some of the most pivotal roles in cinema history. Yet she was also a talented theatre actress with West End and Broadway plaudits to her name. In this ground-breaking new biography, Alan Strachan provides a completely new full-life portrait of Leigh, covering both her professional and personal life. Using previously-unseen sources from her archive, recently acquired by the V&A, he sheds new light on her fractious relationship with Laurence Olivier, based on their letters and diaries, as well as on the bipolar disorder which so affected her later life and work. Revealing new aspects of her early life as well as providing glimpses behind-the-scenes of the filming of "Gone with the Wind" and "A Streetcar Named Desire," this book provides the essential and comprehensive life-story of one of the twentieth century's greatest actresses.


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Vivien Leigh was perhaps the most iconic actress of the twentieth-century. As Scarlett O'Hara and Blanche Du Bois she took on some of the most pivotal roles in cinema history. Yet she was also a talented theatre actress with West End and Broadway plaudits to her name. In this ground-breaking new biography, Alan Strachan provides a completely new full-life portrait of Leigh Vivien Leigh was perhaps the most iconic actress of the twentieth-century. As Scarlett O'Hara and Blanche Du Bois she took on some of the most pivotal roles in cinema history. Yet she was also a talented theatre actress with West End and Broadway plaudits to her name. In this ground-breaking new biography, Alan Strachan provides a completely new full-life portrait of Leigh, covering both her professional and personal life. Using previously-unseen sources from her archive, recently acquired by the V&A, he sheds new light on her fractious relationship with Laurence Olivier, based on their letters and diaries, as well as on the bipolar disorder which so affected her later life and work. Revealing new aspects of her early life as well as providing glimpses behind-the-scenes of the filming of "Gone with the Wind" and "A Streetcar Named Desire," this book provides the essential and comprehensive life-story of one of the twentieth century's greatest actresses.

30 review for Dark Star: A Biography of Vivien Leigh

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carmen Quest

    Biographers have made grave disservices to Vivien Leigh. For a long time, she was lost amidst lies and misinterpretations. Thankfully Alan Strachan, over fifty years after her death, has set the record straight with Dark Star. Strachan dispels persistent myths and presents facts backed with proof. There is no salacious gossip here, although I could have lived without knowing such intimate details about Vivien and Olivier’s sex life (taken from their correspondence, not out of thin air). But that Biographers have made grave disservices to Vivien Leigh. For a long time, she was lost amidst lies and misinterpretations. Thankfully Alan Strachan, over fifty years after her death, has set the record straight with Dark Star. Strachan dispels persistent myths and presents facts backed with proof. There is no salacious gossip here, although I could have lived without knowing such intimate details about Vivien and Olivier’s sex life (taken from their correspondence, not out of thin air). But that is just my personal preference; one cannot write about their relationship without acknowledging their early sexual passion, which ultimately was not enough to keep them together. In a refreshing change, Strachan’s focus is on Vivien’s work as an actress, both onstage and onscreen. As a fledgling actress myself, I found inspiration in her hard work and versatility, as well as her perseverance in the face of mental illness. Her love for acting pulled her through everything, including miscarriages, severe manic episodes, and electroconvulsive therapy. For all her flaws, which Strachan does not gloss over, Vivien remains a role model. On top of that, Vivien was friends with many gay men -John Gielgud, George Cukor, Angus McBean, Cecil Beaton, Tennessee Williams, Noël Coward, to name a few- and championed their work at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain. One of the most touching anecdotes comes as a result of this heinous law (which ironically was overturned the year she died): while Vivien was acting in The Doctor’s Dilemma on the London stage, Angus McBean was imprisoned for “homosexual offences”; she insisted that one of his portraits of her illustrate the program of the play and be used front-of-the-house, prominently crediting his name. Actions speak louder than words, indeed. I was grateful that the author treated her bipolar disorder (then called manic depression) with compassion, which is a rarity even today. I felt, however, that something of Vivien was missing in Dark Star. Strachan almost races across her formative years, as if he were in a hurry to arrive at his destination. Still, this is a commendable book; it made me love Vivien so much that I dreaded the end. That speaks volumes about both Vivien Leigh and Alan Strachan.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    Thanks to her unforgettable roles in Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire, Vivien Leigh is an enduring icon of the twentieth century. Nonetheless, her talent and achievements have often been overshadowed by her extraordinary beauty and charm, and her rather turbulent private life. She also died quite suddenly, and missed out on the honours afforded to other great English actors. This is what the title, 'Dark Star', refers to and attempts to uncover. After Leigh's personal archive was Thanks to her unforgettable roles in Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire, Vivien Leigh is an enduring icon of the twentieth century. Nonetheless, her talent and achievements have often been overshadowed by her extraordinary beauty and charm, and her rather turbulent private life. She also died quite suddenly, and missed out on the honours afforded to other great English actors. This is what the title, 'Dark Star', refers to and attempts to uncover. After Leigh's personal archive was donated to the V&A in 2013, Strachan is the first biographer to have full access to these materials, including her diaries from 1930-67. He is also one of the lucky few to have seen her onstage. A director himself, he places equal emphasis on her distinguished career in the theatre as to her movies. While not glossing over the tribulations of her marriage to Sir Laurence Olivier, and her heartbreaking struggle with manic depression, he also corrects errors made by previous authors and some of the more outlandish rumours that have surfaced in recent years. Not being an expert on the subject, I can't say how much of this book will be new to fans. But for me, the latter part was especially gripping, and gave me a new respect for how Leigh survived the loss of her great love and emotional breakdowns, and managed to get her life and career back on track against daunting odds.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Saturday's Child

    This one was well worth spending my reading time with.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kendra Bean

    I reviewed the book at vivandlarry.com — http://vivandlarry.com/books/book-cor... I reviewed the book at vivandlarry.com — http://vivandlarry.com/books/book-cor...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra the Great

    This book was absolutely fascinating. I spent a lot more time reading it than I had anticipated, but it was just one of those books that I really enjoyed taking my time with and really digesting everything. I enjoyed that there was a lot more focus on her childhood and early years than other biographies I've read (although it did break my heart to read about how devastatingly lonely a childhood it was- she was taken to school at age six and wouldn't see her parents for at least two years) and ho This book was absolutely fascinating. I spent a lot more time reading it than I had anticipated, but it was just one of those books that I really enjoyed taking my time with and really digesting everything. I enjoyed that there was a lot more focus on her childhood and early years than other biographies I've read (although it did break my heart to read about how devastatingly lonely a childhood it was- she was taken to school at age six and wouldn't see her parents for at least two years) and how this affected her for the rest of her life (she suffered from a major abandonment issue and didn't do well when alone). And the more I read about Leigh Holman, the more I like him; he seemed like the nicest guy (and it makes me really happy that he was essentially her best friend throughout her life and had no hard feelings toward her). Same with her daughter Suzanne, who, like her father, never had any ill will toward Vivien (although she'd have been more than justified). In fact, it was staggering to me to read just how much this woman was loved, and it was because she was a genuinely kind person. It absolutely floored me to read that Jill Esmond (the first Mrs. Laurence Olivier who was left with his child once Vivien came into Olivier's life) was in attendance at Vivien's funeral, wanting to wish her godspeed and show there were no hard feelings. (Strachan does mention that while her friendliness and kindness might have developed in school as a way of receiving affection, by all accounts it truly was genuine). Naturally there is a great chunk of the book dedicated to Laurence Olivier and their relationship, personal and professional. I like that it doesn't take any one side as to why their relationship fell apart; it acknowledges that they were the loves of each other's lives, mistakes were made on both their parts, and the whole affair was much more complicated than a lot of people expect. Strachan handles her struggles with Manic Depression respectfully throughout. When he writes about its horrifying manifestations, he does so factually and honestly, but never gossipy or scandalously. Probably my favorite part of the book is Strachan putting to rest any romantic notion that Vivien, post-Olivier, was some sad victim who died of a broken heart. She absolutely got knocked around by life but she was never a victim, ever. She refused to be kept down. She was an absolute lioness. He writes: "To portray Vivien as a doomed romantic heroine with Olivier cast as another dark and riven soul is to blur not only her personality but also a considered focus on a seriously impressive body of work". I love that.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This book Dark Star: A Biography of Vivien Leigh was supposed to have a lot of "new" information with regard to letters between Vivien and Laurence Olivier that had been recently released to the public. There were many quotes throughout the book from them, and many different people associated with the two, and a few from Suzanne Holman, who was Leigh's daughter from her first marriage to Leigh Holman. However, that said, nothing seemed to me to be any new revelation or information that hadn't be This book Dark Star: A Biography of Vivien Leigh was supposed to have a lot of "new" information with regard to letters between Vivien and Laurence Olivier that had been recently released to the public. There were many quotes throughout the book from them, and many different people associated with the two, and a few from Suzanne Holman, who was Leigh's daughter from her first marriage to Leigh Holman. However, that said, nothing seemed to me to be any new revelation or information that hadn't been touched on. The opinions and quotes from the various people in Vivien's life were probably the most interesting part of the book though. One thing I did notice that was different and updated was more of an explanation about Bipolar which Vivien Leigh suffered from. The book doesn't go into as much detail about her episodes as other books that I have read. The author of this book is himself a theater person, so there was a lot of detail about the plays and performances that Leigh, Olivier, and sometimes other actors, performed in, and where. That, for me, got to be a little tedious as I am not a theater person, and was largely unfamiliar with many of the plays. I have some knowledge of who the famous actors and actresses were from that time period, but again, was unfamiliar with many. This made the book a bit of a slog for me because of my lack of knowledge. I was disappointed in how few photographs were included in the book. I have read many books on the life of Vivien Leigh so I was surprised that more photographs weren't included. I found that a book that I own called Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait by Kendra Bean to be a great resource because I could look up photographs of the various time periods in Vivien's life that I was reading about since it has many photos from her entire life.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Irene Xandra

    It is a biography that takes advantage of numerous previously published sources and of the research in the Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier archives. It covers both the professional activity and the personal life, the latter with an emphasis on her manic depression and her relationship to Laurence Olivier, extendedly explained. The author tries to give a larger context of her work, analysing aspects that are normally overlooked like technical details of the films and plays, cinematography, costu It is a biography that takes advantage of numerous previously published sources and of the research in the Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier archives. It covers both the professional activity and the personal life, the latter with an emphasis on her manic depression and her relationship to Laurence Olivier, extendedly explained. The author tries to give a larger context of her work, analysing aspects that are normally overlooked like technical details of the films and plays, cinematography, costumes, decors, etc. Probably as the author is deeply involved in the theatrical world he produced views and opinions of the old plays like a direct witness. For me, it's difficult to assess his comments and the quality of the plays that no one living today has ever had a chance to see. But sometimes the story is overcrowded with many names of people (and their personal history) that are marginal to the main story and make it hard to follow. These are also moments when the writing style, otherwise agreeable, gets lost among too many parentheses. On the other hand there are many things that are missing, like Vivien's views, on her characters, her favourite roles, her ambivalent attitude towards Scarlett, her defending of Blanche, her understanding of Anna Karenina, her approach to acting, etc, opinions of her co-stars, directors, etc. Sometimes the outside view on her career should have given more space to the inside one, voiced by the people directly involved, instead of the "objective" film reviewer perspective. Because of this, some films get less space of development and are treated more superficially, as the author lets it be known that they are not his favourites, for example Roman Spring and Ship of Fools. On the personal life side, the author tried to explain the relationships from their different points of view of the characters involved and their personal history heritage. There are little things that I've read for the first time, a bit of Gertrude and her take on Vivien's illness, a bit of Suzanne and her care and concern for her mother's life. Also reproducing statements from her doctor give a more complete view, as do the fragments from previous drafts of Larry's Confessions. In my opinion, the research didn't exhaust all possible sources and it fails to produce Vivien's personal point of view. Not much of Vivien's voice is heard, since the information from her diaries is of a telegraphic nature (got married - had a baby - left with Larry - lost a baby). Probably a more in-depth view in other people's archives and other sources would have produced better results, like when the author did quote from letters Vivien addressed to Noel Coward and Tarquin Olivier for example, that do state her thoughts and feelings in a less laconic style of writing. And finally, the book shows an odd choice of photographs, as if the author remembered at the last minute before publication that he should include some. Especially intriguing is the fact that among so few photos one of Kenneth Tynan found its place. Otherwise, Tynan's place and his negative role in Vivien's life and career is well proven in the text of the book. I didn't feel the need to put a face on one of Vivien's demons and waste that space on the page. On the whole, it is a good enough book, a serious biography, that incorporates many of the good sources from previously published books, with a few extra things from the new sources available. On the career side, the voice of the film / theatre reviewer is too obvious and overshadows the voice of the people directly involved. On the personal side, the author tries to give more space to the characters, their thoughts, enveloped in pertinent explanations from an outside point of view.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    What are three words that to me best describe Vivien Leigh: Inspirational - in spite of two life hampering illnesses she accomplished so,so much in her short life and career Courageous - no matter what life threw at her, which manic-depressive episode was lying in wait for her, she nearly always bounced back until TB killed her Versatile - Scarlett O'Hara (Oscar), Blanche DuBois (Oscar), Cleopatra, Antigone, Ophelia, Titania, Tatiana (Tony - for Tovarich, a Musical!), Anna Petrova, Marguerite Gauti What are three words that to me best describe Vivien Leigh: Inspirational - in spite of two life hampering illnesses she accomplished so,so much in her short life and career Courageous - no matter what life threw at her, which manic-depressive episode was lying in wait for her, she nearly always bounced back until TB killed her Versatile - Scarlett O'Hara (Oscar), Blanche DuBois (Oscar), Cleopatra, Antigone, Ophelia, Titania, Tatiana (Tony - for Tovarich, a Musical!), Anna Petrova, Marguerite Gautier, Lavinia, Viola, and her Lady MacBeth was said to have been phenomenal! (except not by Kenneth Tynan, of course. What WAS it with him?) BTW TRAGIC is not a word I would use to describe her life after reading this book, unlike many of the other biographies about her I've read or seen. What I would like to do after reading this book is to read it again as soon as possible! That is how enjoyable Strachan's biography is. Edwards, Walker, Lasky Jr., accounts in Kanin & Hepburn books too - this one is the best biography about Vivien Leigh I have ever read. She was a fascinating woman. This book really brings it out. Strachan was the first biographer with full access to her archives through V&A - kudos to them for meticulously compiling everything - but he is an extremely competent writer to boot. Other reviewers have complained about the emphasis on her stage work, well, that stage work is an important part of her career and her life. His knowledge of some of the backstory of British stage enhances the telling of the Olivier part in it. Olivier does not come off here well at all. Strachan attempted to be fair to him, but too much of what Olivier did and said reflected his essential lifelong selfishness. After hurting Leigh multiple times by emphasizing how happy Joan Plowright made him, he later embarked on yet another long-time affair in the 60s which could have ruined that final marriage! Her companion during her last years was more concerned with her health and well-being than Olivier, her ex- in a 20 year marriage - that really was brought out. Olivier seemed largely distracted with his own issues during most of her health-related crises. I understand totally after reading Strachan's book the meaning of Katharine Hepburn's quote, "Large actor, small man." That Olivier dominated Leigh's professional life to such an extent with her compliance makes me wonder what her career would have been like without him. Claire Bloom's quote about Laurence Olivier's influence on her career was spot on. That she voluntarily submitted to EDC or shock treatments to help with her manic depression just blows my mind - she actually felt they helped shake things into place - just wow! And to continue to stretch herself professionally breakdown after breakdown... courageous! Strachan was lucky enough to have seen 3 of her stage performances including her Tony Award winning one in Tovarich. It is a shame her Lady MacBeth performance was not captured for posterity somehow. Finally, on a personal note, Vivien Leigh loved her trips to the US - Chicago and Washington DC were particular favorites which pleases me no end. She found wonderful sounding places to live - Notley Abbey, Tickerage Mill, Italy for multiple long vacations, Greece, etc. She really attracted and appreciated beauty in people, places, plant life, inanimate objects. I really liked this book: well written and edited, a stellar effort. 5 Stars.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

    Well written, thoroughly researched and documented, this biography even has a chapter after the epilogue to explain why certain claims made in other biographies of Vivien Leigh and her longtime husband Laurence Olivier do not appear in the main text. It's fascinating because she seems to have known or worked with everyone, from Noel Coward and Tennessee Williams to Katherine Hepburn and Patrick Stewart. Well written, thoroughly researched and documented, this biography even has a chapter after the epilogue to explain why certain claims made in other biographies of Vivien Leigh and her longtime husband Laurence Olivier do not appear in the main text. It's fascinating because she seems to have known or worked with everyone, from Noel Coward and Tennessee Williams to Katherine Hepburn and Patrick Stewart.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey A. Mallon

    Nothing New A disappointment. Nothing new or revealing. Took me several months to get through it. Certainly not a page turner. Sad.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jarrett Neal

    I don't know how anyone can write a boring biography of Vivien Leigh but Alan Strachan has done it. To be fair, the problem isn't that this book is boring so much as Strachan just doesn't color inside the lines. At times this book is too reportorial and too gossipy. Strachan spends too much time on incidents in Leigh's life that seem insignificant and not enough on those that merit more scrutiny. But the main problem with Dark Star is Laurence Olivier. It is impossible to write a biography of Vi I don't know how anyone can write a boring biography of Vivien Leigh but Alan Strachan has done it. To be fair, the problem isn't that this book is boring so much as Strachan just doesn't color inside the lines. At times this book is too reportorial and too gossipy. Strachan spends too much time on incidents in Leigh's life that seem insignificant and not enough on those that merit more scrutiny. But the main problem with Dark Star is Laurence Olivier. It is impossible to write a biography of Vivien Leigh and leave Olivier completely out of it, yet his presence dominates so much of the book that at times I felt Strachan really wanted to write a dual biography, just as Sam Kashner did with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Furious Love, a truly great book. The fact that Strachan felt the need to add a lengthy appendix to this book to staunchly disclaim rumors that Olivier was bisexual and carried on a long affair with Danny Kaye indicates just how misguided this book is. That was unforgivable and he should have known better. If he wants to write about Olivier he should give him his own book. Still, Dark Star provides at least a cursory look at Vivien Leigh's life and work, and I found out so much more about her than I knew. For work on the stage was largely unknown to me, and I'm grateful to Strachan for giving those sections weight. If nothing else this book makes me pine for the old days of stardom. The Oliviers were complex individuals and a complex, legendary couple who surrounded themselves with equally brilliant artists. For all their faults, and there were many, no one can deny that they were outstanding, sophisticated, erudite, and gifted. I wish celebrities today could be like them.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Isabelle

    oh, my god. it only took me a week or so to read this because it was impossible for me to put this down at any moment! anyway, as someone who has been a fan of vivien leigh for a while, i was initially not sure what to expect from this new biography, but am i glad i bought it. it is one of the best biographies on vivien i have read so far (the other being vivien leigh: an intimate portrait). it is fresh, it is impeccably researched with new information i had not known of before (won't spoil it), oh, my god. it only took me a week or so to read this because it was impossible for me to put this down at any moment! anyway, as someone who has been a fan of vivien leigh for a while, i was initially not sure what to expect from this new biography, but am i glad i bought it. it is one of the best biographies on vivien i have read so far (the other being vivien leigh: an intimate portrait). it is fresh, it is impeccably researched with new information i had not known of before (won't spoil it), it covers vivien leigh's mental illness most thoughtfully and above all it rightfully restores and discusses her incredible talent and achievements, not merely in film but in theatre as well. (personally, i would one day love to see a book dedicated to her theatrical career) some of the (albeit few) criticisms of this biograph is that sometimes the discussion of olivier overshadows that of vivien, and that i agree with, despite the fact he undoubtedly played an important role in her life. however strachan nevertheless presents vivien as an equally - if not more so, in my opinion - proficient actress IN HER OWN RIGHT. i only minorly disagree on the author's opinion of her 1960s film performances (two of her best ever,i believe, but this is just opinion). however overall i highly commend this biography!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gillian

    What a heartening find on the final paragraph--a Robert Louis Stevenson extract that the author says Vivien Leigh quoted in her commonplace book: "'Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind ... strength to encounter that which is to come, that we may be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath, and in all changes of fortune and, down to the gates of death, loyal and loving, one to the other.'" Wise, kind, and timely pleas. What a heartening find on the final paragraph--a Robert Louis Stevenson extract that the author says Vivien Leigh quoted in her commonplace book: "'Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind ... strength to encounter that which is to come, that we may be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath, and in all changes of fortune and, down to the gates of death, loyal and loving, one to the other.'" Wise, kind, and timely pleas.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jola Cora

    I devoured this new biography of my beloved Vivien Leigh. So well researched and finally putting some rumors to rest. One of my biggest wish would be to see her on stage, if only one of those many great productions had been filmed...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    This book should be used as manual "How to write a trashy biography "... Strachans narrative style is so boring that I fell asleep several times while reading the book, but unfortunately that's not the worst part. There were a few things that bug me off: First, if there's something that I completely can not stand in a biography book is when the author uses his own conclusions to wrap up a storyline. Instead of using straight facts. Strachan writes about Vivien feelings like he's been in her head. This book should be used as manual "How to write a trashy biography "... Strachans narrative style is so boring that I fell asleep several times while reading the book, but unfortunately that's not the worst part. There were a few things that bug me off: First, if there's something that I completely can not stand in a biography book is when the author uses his own conclusions to wrap up a storyline. Instead of using straight facts. Strachan writes about Vivien feelings like he's been in her head. I understand the urge of seeking a dramatic effect, but I think there's a thin line that the author should not cross when writes about someone else life. Second, he uses too many fillers, trying to be (in my opinion) desperately relevant and original, but that just didn't work for me. For example he mentioned some famous people names, which have nothing to do with the story, like Donald Trump and George G. R. Martin. Third, Strachan often criticizes many of his colleagues, especially Donald Spoto, but at the same time does not offer real arguments to confirm his version of the "truth". And the final blow for me was the so-called Epilog, where Strachan dedicated a few pages to explore Sir Lawrence Oliver's sexuality, which again was out of context. He again slams Spoto without good reasons. I'm throwing away this book and would be looking for better biography of Vivien Leigh.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    Not sure how this one ended up on my radar. It was definitely interesting at parts but I struggled with pacing of this biography. It had a lot of information about other people and while I can see how those individuals impacted Vivian's life...I just quite frankly wasnt that interested in hearing about them and got bored a lot of the time. The writing style was pretty dry. I never knew about all her mental health struggles and it was sad to hear about her struggle. So all in all...this was fine Not sure how this one ended up on my radar. It was definitely interesting at parts but I struggled with pacing of this biography. It had a lot of information about other people and while I can see how those individuals impacted Vivian's life...I just quite frankly wasnt that interested in hearing about them and got bored a lot of the time. The writing style was pretty dry. I never knew about all her mental health struggles and it was sad to hear about her struggle. So all in all...this was fine but not great.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    A very dry and dull book about an interesting woman. I was a GWTW aficianado after seeing the film for the first time as a teenager. And then I went on to read books by and about all of the people who played a part in that film so I've read a lot about Vivien Leigh. There wasn't a lot of new info in this latest biography of her, it just seemed like a rehash of many stories I've read before. Disappointing. A very dry and dull book about an interesting woman. I was a GWTW aficianado after seeing the film for the first time as a teenager. And then I went on to read books by and about all of the people who played a part in that film so I've read a lot about Vivien Leigh. There wasn't a lot of new info in this latest biography of her, it just seemed like a rehash of many stories I've read before. Disappointing.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    This feels like a comprehensive autobiography. At times a little dry, fastidiously detailing every play and film she was in. However, by the end I was glad of that; her personal life (marriage to Olivier, affairs, and the difficulty of living with bipolar disorder) is always within the context of an impressive body of work. I expect that every actor would want a biographer like Strachan.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marta Martinsone

    A very insightful book with tons of interesting information about history and British theatre. However, at times there was too much information, too many names that can make you feel confused - especially if you have no idea about the history of British theatre. But the book is amazing and tells a lot about Viven Leigh's theatre career, which is something I had very little information about. Even though the author is pretty sympathetic towards Laurence Olivier, I still felt he was a prick. A very insightful book with tons of interesting information about history and British theatre. However, at times there was too much information, too many names that can make you feel confused - especially if you have no idea about the history of British theatre. But the book is amazing and tells a lot about Viven Leigh's theatre career, which is something I had very little information about. Even though the author is pretty sympathetic towards Laurence Olivier, I still felt he was a prick.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dominique King

    I didn't know much about Vivien Leigh, beyond her playing Scarlett in GWTW and being married once to Laurence Olivier, but it was interesting reading about the rest of her life and career...especially on stage in live theater. She really had an unhappy life for the most part, and it was especially sad reading about her illnesses and relatively early death. The book really did bog down at parts, that, and the sadness of her life made it a difficult read. It was all right, but I'm looking for a ch I didn't know much about Vivien Leigh, beyond her playing Scarlett in GWTW and being married once to Laurence Olivier, but it was interesting reading about the rest of her life and career...especially on stage in live theater. She really had an unhappy life for the most part, and it was especially sad reading about her illnesses and relatively early death. The book really did bog down at parts, that, and the sadness of her life made it a difficult read. It was all right, but I'm looking for a cheerier read after this!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mark Lennon

    I absolutely loved this book. Such a fascinating person Vivien Leigh was and had such an interesting life although short and of course heartbreaking with her episodes of Bi polar. But you can tell this book was well researched and also never shyed away from the type of person Oliver could be, as Katherine Hepburn put it "great actor, small man". Brilliant book all round! I absolutely loved this book. Such a fascinating person Vivien Leigh was and had such an interesting life although short and of course heartbreaking with her episodes of Bi polar. But you can tell this book was well researched and also never shyed away from the type of person Oliver could be, as Katherine Hepburn put it "great actor, small man". Brilliant book all round!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Emma's Things to Read

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Fascinating book. Access to the Vivien Leigh Archive means there is new research and addresses some of the rumours and stories that are factually incorrect. A multilayered biography of a complex and talent woman.

  23. 4 out of 5

    yoanareadstoomuch

    fascinating

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cari Williams

    Best biography of Vivien Leigh that I have read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Georgina Monk

    Factual and appears to be as accurate as any biography can be, but I can’t help but feel as if it could have been just an ounce more engaging for someone who had such a vibrant life.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    What a story! I had read a previous book about Vivien Leigh and liked this one just as much.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elise

    A good read for long-time admirers of Vivien Leigh. Those who haven’t already read other biographies might not enjoy it. I appreciated the in-depth commentary on her theatrical performances and background on those plays. I’ve been reading about Vivien Leigh since acquiring Felix Barker’s 1950s biography a few years after her death. Stories about Vivien and Olivier have since flung wide. This one seems to ring true. It’s not overly adulatory. It is respectful without glossing over facts. It artic A good read for long-time admirers of Vivien Leigh. Those who haven’t already read other biographies might not enjoy it. I appreciated the in-depth commentary on her theatrical performances and background on those plays. I’ve been reading about Vivien Leigh since acquiring Felix Barker’s 1950s biography a few years after her death. Stories about Vivien and Olivier have since flung wide. This one seems to ring true. It’s not overly adulatory. It is respectful without glossing over facts. It articulates the aspects of why Vivien Leigh was an extraordinary actress and person, loved by many important people.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rose Ann

    Very well-researched bio, well-done, but really more info that I really needed about this iconic actress.

  29. 5 out of 5

    LD Britt

  30. 5 out of 5

    Keagan Federici

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