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Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'

Angus McBean Photograph. © Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University.

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Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'

by Angus McBean
bromide print, October 1949
9 1/2 in. x 7 1/2 in. (242 mm x 189 mm)
Purchased, 2001
Primary Collection
NPG P902

Sitterback to top

  • Vivien Leigh (1913-1967), Actress. Sitter associated with 144 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Angus McBean (1904-1990), Photographer. Artist associated with 276 portraits, Sitter in 79 portraits.

This portraitback to top

McBean photographed Leigh many times over the course of their thirty-year association. This photograph taken at the pre-London opening in Manchester was among several by McBean selected for publicity which were regarded as some of his greatest theatre portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Pepper, Terence, Angus McBean Portraits, 2006 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 July to 22 October 2006), p. 75 Read entry

    McBean’s on-set photographs of Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams's play are recognized as some of his greatest theatre portraits. Leigh played the part for eight months on the London stage before being signed up by Elia Kazan to make the film version in Hollywood. The physically and mentally draining part of a decaying Southern belle on the verge of madness won Leigh her second Academy Award as Best Actress. McBean first photographed her in the role in the pre-London opening at Manchester Opera House, where he had to work under extreme pressure during an open photocall. But it was his photographs that were selected for widespread distribution and publication when the play, produced by Laurence Olivier, opened in London at the Aldwych Theatre.

Placesback to top

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1949back to top

Current affairs

Following the Republic of Ireland Act in 1948, the Irish Free State becomes the Republic of Ireland and leaves the Commonwealth. The functions previously given to the King were handed to the President of Ireland.
The Second Parliament Act diminishes the power of the House of Lords, reducing their authority to delay bills from two years to one.

Art and science

George Orwell publishes his dystopian novel, 1984. The book imagines a future where totalitarian governments rule; their power based on continual war abroad, and overwhelming propaganda and surveillance at home. With 'Big Brother' keeping a constant check on the citizens' actions and thoughts, the individual loses the faculties of free will and independent thought.

International

The People's Republic of China is created after the Communist Party wins the Civil War. China became a communist country under Mao Zedong.
Cold War tensions increase as Germany is split into the democratic Federal Republic of Germany in the west (a union of the post-war British, French and American sectors), and the communist German Democratic Republic, in the east.

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