Detail from volume of press cuttings about Vivien Leigh’s role in Gone With The Wind, 1940 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

V&A acquires Vivien Leigh archive

Gareth Harris, 16.08.2013
Museum to display star's photographs and letters
A vast personal archive belonging to the late British actress Vivien Leigh (1913-67), the star of Gone With The Wind, has been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The archive, which includes around 10,000 items, incorporates letters from Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, as well as large format stills from Gone With The Wind and the stage production of Romeo And Juliet.

More than 200 telegrams, letters, postcards and photographs dating from 1938 to 1967 chart Leigh’s relationship with the Oscar-winning actor Sir Laurence Olivier. The couple married in 1940 and divorced in 1960.

Their correspondence also throws light on how the National Theatre in London was founded. In 1963, Olivier established the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic near Waterloo.

"What comes across in the archive is that Leigh was willing to de-glamourise herself if the role called for it," says Keith Lodwick, a curator in the museum's theatre and performance department.

"She wrote to Elia Kazan, the director of the film A Streetcar Named Desire, saying: 'You do know that when I said over the phone I'm worried about the way I'll look, I didn't mean good, I meant right.' It's an aspect that's not really been touched upon before in biographies," he added.

The V&A purchased the archive from Leigh’s grandchildren. It was acquired through Robert Holden Ltd, a London-based agent.

Material from the archive will be on display in the V&A’s Theatre and Performance galleries this autumn. Digital records will also be available on the museum website.

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