V&A buys Vivien Leigh archive: Unseen photographs, diaries and letters to Laurence Olivier made available to the public

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

Vivien Leigh's archive - including letters sent to husband Laurence Olivier and diaries written until just before the Gone With The Wind star's death - have been acquired by the V&A.

The archive - which has not been publicly displayed before - has been purchased by the London museum from the double Oscar-winning star's grandchildren on the centenary year of her birth.

As well as the British stage and screen actress's annotated film and theatre scripts, it features correspondence from Winston Churchill, Noel Coward and writer Graham Greene.

Click here or on "View Images" for a picture preview

It contains more than 200 letters exchanged with Olivier - the couple were married from 1940 to 1960 - 40 of which were sent while Olivier was on Broadway and Leigh was shooting Gone With The Wind in Los Angeles, between April and June 1939 alone.

Photographs which have not been displayed before include stills from Gone With The Wind and Romeo And Juliet and transparencies taken by Leigh herself while on tour in the US, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

Leigh's diaries, penned from the age of 16, feature alongside newspaper clippings, postcards, her awards and visitor books, containing signatures from Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Sir Alec Guinness, Bette Davis, Orson Welles, Judy Garland and Rex Harrison.

The archive also contains more than 7,500 personal letters addressed to both Leigh and Olivier from the likes of TS Eliot, Arthur Miller, Sir Winston, Marilyn Monroe and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother who thanks the couple for remembering her.

Professional correspondence includes letters from Tennessee Williams, including one from 1950 about Leigh's role as Blanche in the film adaption of his play A Streetcar Name Desire, in which he writes: "It is needless to repeat here my truly huge happiness over the picture and particularly your part in it.

Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, 1949 Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, 1949  

"It is the Blanche I had always dreamed of and I am grateful to you for bringing it so beautifully to life on the screen."

In a letter to the film's director Elia Kazan during preparation for the role, she writes: "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."

A changing selection of material from the archive will be on display from the autumn in the V&A (Victoria And Albert Museum), which would not disclose how much it paid for the archive.

The museum's director Martin Roth said: "Vivien Leigh is undoubtedly one of the UK's greatest luminaries of stage and screen and along with Laurence Olivier, remains a true star of her time.

"We are thrilled to acquire her archive intact in this centenary year of her birth and to be able to make it available to the public for the first time.

"It not only represents Vivien Leigh's life and career, but is also a fascinating insight into the theatrical and social world that surrounded her.

"The V&A is the natural home for the archive as there are so many links to other areas of the collection, from the costume designs in the Oliver Messel collection to the costumes worn by Leigh in Duel of Angels, designed by Christian Dior."

A volume of press cuttings about Vivien Leigh's role in Gone With The Wind, 1940. A volume of press cuttings about Vivien Leigh's role in Gone With The Wind, 1940.  

PA

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?