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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Vivien Leigh An Intimate Portrait

It is undeniable that Vivien Leigh is one of the most talked about stars of the 20th century, and for good reason. Not only was she the lady who won the coveted role of Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, but she was also married to one of the greatest actors who ever lived, during the height of both their impressive careers. In addition to her relationship with Sir Lawrence Olivier, Vivien Leigh lived a remarkable life full of triumphs and heart breaks, and personal demons. This latest peek into the private life of a Hollywood legend takes a unique approach to revealing the many sides of this very complicated woman.

This is not a biography in the sense that we are use to. This is an illustrated biography. The book provides a narrative to photos of Leigh throughout her life, thus the title. And the title does not lie. This is most certainly an intimate portrait, chronicling the actress’ journey from birth to her untimely death in 1967. In between these two dates she was photographed a lot, and a picture is known to be worth a lot more than any words that might accompany a press release. That is, if you look at it the right way - with context. And context is what the author, Kendra Bean provides.

Having delved into the Laurence Olivier Archives, Ms. Bean covers Leigh’s raise within the British film industry, her conquering of Hollywood, and her celebrated love affair with the man who helped shape her into being. The access to such an invaluable collection of personal letters and documents grants Bean a depth of understanding previously unavailable to other authors, shedding a more discerning insight on Leigh’s whole story.

Within the covers of the book are hundreds of rare and never-before-published images, including those by Leigh’s “official” photographer, Angus McBean. Fortunately, the photos are presented now in Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait, the first illustrated biography to closely examine the fascinating, troubled, and often misunderstood life of Vivien Leigh: the woman, the actress, and the legend. No doubt this is a must-read for the ardent fan of old Hollywood.

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