Starring Vivien Leigh: A Centenary Celebration

Past display archive
30 November 2013 - 27 July 2014

Room 33


Vivien Leigh as Lady Hamilton in 'That Hamilton Woman'
by Robert Coburn, or by Laszlo Willinger
NPG x128515

Starring Vivien Leigh: A Centenary Celebration

Telling the story of the film and theatre career of the celebrated actress Vivien Leigh, and focusing on her Oscar-winning role in Gone With the Wind (1939), this display features over 50 portraits of Leigh including rare vintage photographs, magazine covers, vintage film stills and press books. Many of the photographs in the display have not been exhibited at the Gallery before and include works by leading photographers such as James Abbe Jr, Bassano, Cecil Beaton, Clarence Sinclair Bull, Howard Coster, Angus McBean, Norman Parkinson, Sasha, Laszlo Willinger and Madame Yevonde.

Leigh was one of the most famous women of the twentieth century. For twenty years, with her husband Laurence Olivier, she was part of the most celebrated, talented and glamorous British couples of the era. Her most famous performance, as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, brought her worldwide recognition and the first of two Academy Awards. The second Oscar was for the 1951 film production of Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire, starring opposite Marlon Brando.

Photographs in this display span Leigh’s career, beginning with a still of her first un-credited film performance in Things Are Looking Up (1934) and Norman Parkinson’s studio portrait taken at the time of her stage success in The Mask of Virtue (1935), and ending with her last film role in Stanley Kramer’s Ship of Fools (1965), for which she received the French Crystal Dove award as best actress.

Other theatrical and film roles represented in the display include her first appearance with her future husband Laurence Olivier in Fire Over England (1937); Leigh with Rex Harrison in Storm in a Teacup (1937); Leigh in two Hollywood films, with Robert Taylor in Waterloo Bridge (1940) and as Nelson’s mistress Lady Hamilton with Olivier in That Hamilton Woman (1941); and her role in the most expensive British film, at the time, Gabriel Pascal’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra (1945). This display celebrates the centenary of one of the enduring stars of the twentieth century.


© National Portrait Gallery, London

Take a look at the latest blog: Vivien Leigh: a Star in Wartime