God help those who had to take to the skies with Vivien Leigh, with her second husband, Laurence Olivier, or with the glamorous couple together. Here the tests.
1936: A troubled seaplane whose passengers included Leigh “bouncing off the waves like a stone on its way to Capri,” to the point that Leigh, a Catholic, crossed herself repeatedly invoking St. Teresa, author Stephen Galloway writes in Truly, Madlya new book about the life of one of the most glamorous couples of the 20th century.
1940: The newlyweds fly from Lisbon to Bristol, England. The cabin of the plane they were traveling in caught fire, an eerie fulfillment of a dream Olivier had had a few days earlier.
WWII: the dashing Olivier, who according to writer-editor Michael Korda was a “notoriously incompetent” Royal Navy pilot, crashed his plane twice and was demoted to quasi-management roles such as parachute folding, target towing and recruiting events.
1946: On a transatlantic flight from New York, the couple looked out the window and noticed one of the engines was on fire… The Pan Am Clipper Boeing 314 had a long, dry bounce landing in Connecticut territory.
1948: Leigh runs out of air 3,500 meters above the Tasman Sea in Oceania. The plane had to descend more than 1,000 meters and the actress was assisted with an oxygen mask. The trauma caused that in the following years he relived that experience and, subsequently, the star had to be tied or sedated to travel by plane.
Remembered above all for her portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara in gone With the Wind, Vivian Leigh suffered from bipolar disorder, which at the time was known as manic depression. (She would later contract tuberculosis, too.) She was a frail woman, so lovable and gregarious: “The only person in the world who was charming even when she threw up,” director-producer Alexander Korda once told his nephew Michael Korda. . But she suddenly had outbursts of anger and nervous breakdowns. Unfortunately, at that time the drugs and therapies that could have stabilized her did not exist.
His three-decade romance with Laurence OliverConsidered one of the greatest talents of his generation, he was something of a hellish flight unto himself: he shot up into the heavens and was buffeted by strong turbulence before his inevitable plunge to earth and beyond, non-stop to hell.
There are many, many biographies of Leigh, and several others of Olivier (including one written by his eldest son, Tarquin, from his first marriage to Jill Esmond). There is also a memoir by Olivier himself, confessions of an actor; and a memoir by his third wife, Joan Plowright. And there is even a book from 1978, love-scenededicated specifically to the Olivier-Leigh romance.
But Galloway, the former executive editor of The Hollywood Reporter, is perhaps the first author to intersperse this well-known story with commentary from current mental health experts, such as psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison, who suffers from bipolar disorder and wrote the book An Unquiet Mind. Galloway’s new book, which has just been released in the United States, amply fulfills its mission and makes a contribution to the story of Olivier and Leigh that, without being essential, is coherent, round and entertaining. To the couple’s love story, Gallaway’s book adds compassion, without depriving itself of the essential gossip.
Some couples “magically know each other.” Olivier saw Leigh onstage playing a prostitute in the mask of virtue and he was “drunk with desire”. (In time they would also get drunk on many other substances.) Unfortunately, they were both married to other people. In 1937, Leigh was Ophelia in Hamlet at a staging in Elsinore, Denmark. They worked in the cinema together in england on fire (1937). Twenty one days together (1940) and lady hamilton (1941).
The stunningly beautiful Vivien Leigh was born Vivian Hartley, an only child, raised first in India and then sent to convent school in England. She took her stage surname from the middle name of her first husband, Herbert Holman. They had a daughter, Suzanne, but Leigh viewed the marriage as “just another role in an endless play,” Galloway writes, and “motherhood was repeated performance without the benefit of a good script.”
Olivier, the youngest of three brothers, lost his beloved mother when he was just 12 years old and, although he was less attached to his father – a clergyman with some oratorical gifts who “distributed affection in thin slices, like the roast he cut on Sundays” — the man convinced him early on to settle down with Jill Esmond. “What a noble idea!” Jill responded when Laurence proposed to her for the second time. And to spice up home life, she gave him a lemur bought at Harrods. The British are like that.
Leigh, Olivier, and their respective spouses became friends over countless garden parties, barbecues, and dinners. Reading how the events unfolded, one sees that it was all quite civilized and parlor-Vivian even asked Jill how cooked they liked their eggs. Larry— but also with a lot of jealousy, despair and even child abandonment that reminds one of John Updike’s lesser-known infidelity novel, Marry me, and Harold Pinter’s play Betrayal. (Both Leigh, who broke out onstage playing Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire before taking it to the big screen, like Olivier, a virtuoso of Shakespeare, they preferred the theater to the cinema).
That at first their scandalous relationship had to be clandestine to comply with the rules of Hollywood morality just at the moment of his professional consecration —Leigh in gone With the Wind; Olivier as Heathcliff in scaly heights—, surely it further enhanced the obsession of both. They married in 1940 and divorced in 1961.
Galloway evidently spent many a night rummaging through the archives (although some of the Olivier-Leigh correspondence unfortunately remains scattered). Galloway stitches that material together seamlessly with interviews new and from that era, like Korda and Hayley Mills, to inject energy and freshness into the story. It is a true delight the opportunity that the book offers to reconnect with the intellectuals who admired the couple, such as Noël Coward and JD Salinger, and their enemies, such as the flamboyant critic Kenneth Tynan.
This famous couple, whose tragic love marked by illness gives them a patina that more stable ties lack, won half a dozen Oscars between them (two for Leigh, for gone With the Wind Y A Streetcar Named Desire; three for olivier por Henry V, Hamlet and a career honorarium). And now that the Oscars are bleeding viewers and importance, not to mention violence and scandal, this book is like a time capsule that transports us to the time when movies and their stars seemed the very center of the world. universe.
Translation of Jaime Arrambide
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Loves without fiction: the turbulent romance of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, between air disasters and consecration in Hollywood