Museum acquires Leigh’s archives

Vivien Leigh’s archive — including letters sent to husband Laurence Olivier and diaries written until just before the Gone With The Wind star’s death — have been acquired by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum&.

Museum acquires Leigh’s archives

The archive — which has not been publicly displayed before — has been purchased by the museum from the star’s grandchildren on the centenary year of her birth.

As well as the British actress’s annotated scripts, it features correspondence from Winston Churchill, Noel Coward, and writer Graham Greene and contains over 200 letters exchanged with Olivier — the couple were married from 1940 to 1960 — 40 of which were sent while Olivier was on Broadway and Leigh was shooting Gone With The Wind in LA, between Apr and Jun 1939.

Photographs which have not been displayed before include stills from Gone With The Wind and Romeo And Juliet and transparencies taken by Leigh herself while on tour in the US, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

Leigh’s diaries, penned from the age of 16, feature alongside news clippings, postcards, her awards and visitor books, containing signatures from Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Alec Guinness, Bette Davis, Orson Welles, Judy Garland, and Rex Harrison.

The archive also contains over 7,500 personal letters addressed to both Leigh and Olivier from the likes of TS Eliot, Arthur Miller, and Marilyn Monroe.

Professional correspondence includes letters from Tennessee Williams, including one from 1950 about Leigh’s role as Blanche in the film adaptation of his play A Streetcar Name Desire, in which he writes: “It is needless to repeat here my truly huge happiness over the picture and particularly your part in it.

“It is the Blanche I had always dreamed of and I am grateful to you for bringing it so beautifully to life on the screen.”

Museum’s director Martin Roth said: “Vivien Leigh is undoubtedly one of the UK’s greatest luminaries of stage and screen and along with Laurence Olivier, remains a true star of her time. We are thrilled to acquire her archive intact in this centenary year of her birth and to be able to make it available to the public for the first time.”

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