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Vivien Leigh as Cynthia in 'Fire Over England'

6 of 22 portraits on display in Room 33 at the National Portrait Gallery

Vivien Leigh as Cynthia in 'Fire Over England', by Howard Coster, 1936 - NPG x19527 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Vivien Leigh as Cynthia in 'Fire Over England'

by Howard Coster
half-plate film negative, 1936
Transferred from Central Office of Information, 1974
Photographs Collection
NPG x19527


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Sitterback to top

  • Vivien Leigh (1913-1967), Actress. Sitter associated with 132 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Howard Coster (1885-1959), Photographer. Artist associated with 9346 portraits, Sitter in 5 portraits.

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This was the first of three films made by Leigh with Laurence Olivier. Flora Robson starred as Elizabeth I with Leigh as Cynthia, a lady-in-waiting, and Olivier as Michael Ingolby. Embarking on an illicit affair during filming they became known in the studio as 'the lovers'. Leigh recalled: 'I don't think I have lived quite as intensely ever since. I don't remember sleeping, ever; only every precious moment that we spent together.' The screenplay was adapted by Clemence Dane from A.E.W. Mason's novel about the English defeat of the Spanish Armada. Directed by William K. Howard and produced by Erich Pommer, this was Leigh's first film under contract to Alexander Korda, marking the beginning of a long friendship.