8 Of The Best Vivien Leigh Films Reviewed

Vivien Leigh: Exploring the Remarkable Filmography of a Golden Age Star

Vivien Leigh, an illustrious figure of the Golden Age of Motion Pictures, remains an icon celebrated for her exceptional performances. Rising to fame in the mid-1930s, she secured her legacy with her unforgettable portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara in the timeless classic, “Gone with the Wind.”

Early Life and Soaring Stardom

Born in Darjeeling, Bengal Presidency, British India, Vivien Leigh embarked on a journey that spanned over three decades in the entertainment industry. Though renowned for her stage work, her ventures into cinema yielded a lasting impact. Despite a relatively concise filmography, her status as a symbol of American cinema owes much to her involvement in several cinematic gems.

8. The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)

Opposite Warren Beatty, Vivien Leigh graced the 1961 romantic drama The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. The story revolves around Karen Stone, a fading actress, and her passionate but one-sided affair with a young Italian gigolo in Rome.

While the film’s reception might be mixed, Leigh’s performance as Karen Stone is nothing short of extraordinary. Her vulnerability, sensibility, and versatility shine through, redeeming the film’s weaker aspects. As Tennessee Williams aptly said, “Caged birds accept each other, but flight is what they long for.”

7. Sidewalks of London (1938)

Also known as St. Martin’s Lane, the 1938 film Sidewalks of London is a notable piece in Leigh’s early career. Alongside Charles Laughton and Rex Harrison, Leigh portrays Libby, an ambitious performer caught in an unlikely partnership.

Leigh’s spirited portrayal of Libby, coupled with the chemistry between the trio, infuses the film with charm. This film foreshadowed Leigh’s ascent to international stardom. As she once said, “I’m not a film star; I am an actress. Being a film star is such a false life, lived for fake values and for publicity.”

6. Ship of Fools (1965)

In Stanley Kramer’s 1965 drama Ship of Fools, Leigh stars alongside Simone Signoret and Jose Ferrer. Set aboard an ocean liner bound for Germany, the film delves into the interactions of a diverse group of passengers. Leigh plays Mary Treadwell, an American divorcée seeking to recapture her youth.

Despite the film’s thematic challenges, Leigh’s portrayal of Mary is captivating. Her ability to inject humanity into complex roles sets her apart. As she famously remarked, “I’m not a professional actress and I never have been. What people see on the screen is me.”

5. Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)

In 1945, Leigh donned the role of Cleopatra in Caesar and Cleopatra. While Elizabeth Taylor’s portrayal is more renowned, Leigh’s depiction offers its own allure. The film delves into the relationship between Cleopatra and the aging Caesar, portrayed by Claude Rains.

Caesar and Cleopatra grapples with tonal shifts, yet Leigh’s magnetism as Cleopatra remains undeniable. Her performance encapsulates the grace and allure associated with the Egyptian queen. As Cleopatra herself mused, “All strange and terrible events are welcome, but comforts we despise.”

4. Waterloo Bridge (1940)

Mervyn LeRoy’s 1940 drama Waterloo Bridge sees Leigh opposite Robert Taylor in a poignant narrative. Leigh’s character, Myra, a young ballerina, experiences love and heartbreak amidst wartime challenges.

The film’s tragic undertones find a poignant expression in Leigh’s performance. Her portrayal of Myra is heart-wrenching, reflecting the complexities of the character. In Leigh’s words, “I’m rather frightened by reality, but I’m nothing compared to the freak show next door.”

3. That Hamilton Woman (1941)

Vivien Leigh’s partnership with Sir Laurence Olivier is legendary. In the 1941 historical drama That Hamilton Woman, they bring to life the passionate affair of Emma Hamilton and Admiral Horatio Nelson. Leigh’s portrayal of Emma is spellbinding.

Leigh’s dominance on-screen as the courtesan is awe-inspiring. Her chemistry with Olivier electrifies the film. As Winston Churchill remarked, “If my film career hadn’t gone down the drain, I’d probably have been known now as a correspondent in Hollywood for the Evening Herald.”

2. Gone with the Wind (1939)

Vivien Leigh’s role as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind is etched in cinematic history. Adapted from the 1936 novel, the film follows Scarlett’s journey against the backdrop of the Antebellum South.

Leigh’s portrayal of Scarlett is a triumph, an indelible mark on the world of cinema. As she confessed, “I’m not beautiful. My mother once called me an ugly duckling. But, listed separately, I have a few good features.” Her performance continues to captivate audiences, a testament to her brilliance.

1. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

More than two decades after her Gone with the Wind triumph, Leigh delivered a performance that would define her legacy. In A Streetcar Named Desire, she embodied the tragic Blanche DuBois, clashing with Marlon Brando’s Stanley.

Leigh’s portrayal of Blanche is a revelation, a testament to her unparalleled talent. The clash of acting styles with Brando makes the film a riveting experience. As Leigh herself stated, “I’ve always been mad about cats.” Her depiction of Blanche remains a tour de force, a portrayal of vulnerability and intensity that lingers long after the credits roll.

In sum, Vivien Leigh’s filmography is a treasure trove of cinematic excellence. Her ability to bring complex characters to life is a testament to her genius. As Laurence Olivier fittingly described her, “She is a very great actress.” Indeed, her legacy shines as bright as her performances.

She earned a reputation for being difficult to work with and for much of her life, she had bipolar disorder, as well as recurrent bouts of chronic tuberculosis, which was first diagnosed in the mid-1940s and ultimately led to her death at age 53 in Belgravia, London with a net worth of $10 million.

Author Profile

Stevie Flavio
Film Writer

Email https://markmeets.com/contact-form/

Leave a Reply