2011–The 75th Anniversary of GWTW, the book, based in part on writings from the Mitchell family scrapbook, shown above.
This November Vivien Leigh would have been 100 years old and that is one reason for the timing of the new book Vivien Leigh, An Intimate Portrait (Running Press, 2013) by Kendra Bean. It is a book that any Vivien Leigh fan would enjoy and in fact cherish for years to come because of the way it is put together.
The cover is stunning and mysterious, portraying the publisher’s words, “Vivien Leigh’s mystique was a combination of staggering beauty, glamour, romance, and genuine talent displayed in her Oscar-winning performances inGone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire.”
The surprise comes when the book jacket is removed to reveal two very different pictures of the famous actress emblazoned on the cover. The other physical attribute to the book beside it’s beauty, which is not hard to accomplish due to the subject matter, is the page weight. The book is full of pictures–never before seen pictures– and each page is of photograph quality.
Aside from the aesthetic beauty of the book is the text which is fascinating. One of the things I put in my book, The Making of A Masterpiece, the True Story of Margaret Mitchell and Gone With The Wind was how closely author Margaret Mitchell’s life mirrored her character Scarlett O’Hara. I also mentioned that there were some similarities with Vivien Leigh’s life. During the reading of Kendra Bean’s book there were times I thought I was reading about Mitchell, looking at Mitchell and the same with the character of Scarlett O’Hara. It is interesting to see the comparisons with all of them and an educated reader who has read biographies on Mitchell and also read or seen Gone With The Wind will really enjoy reading about Vivien Leigh in this book.
While it is about her entire life and fills us in on all she did including stage and screen, there is enough Gone With The Wind to keep Scarlett fans engaged.
Kendra Bean the author, is from California but living in England where she moved to go to graduate school She has long been interested in Vivien Leigh and specifically her relationship with Laurence Olivier. Over the years she has done much research and collecting and in 2007 started a website called VivandLarry.com
The website proved to be her vehicle in getting many fans and opened many doors. Soon she was helping with a Vivien Leigh documentary that was filmed by a Japanese company.
“The premise was to have Vivien’s great-granddaughter go around in England, LA, and Atlanta and do a sort of journey of discovery about Vivien, speak with people who are still alive that knew her, visit sights related to her, etc.”
During that time she was able to work with Leigh biographer Hugo Victors as intermediaries with information and photographs.
She was a guest by Skype at the “Gateway To the Wind” event in St. Louis. She appeared and talked to fans at a seminar about social media sites related to Gone With The Wind people and events. She also put together a Vivien Leigh event in London. Through all of this she was gathering information and soon it grew into a book.
“I started the Viv and Larry site as a way to share pieces and information from my own collection of things that I was gathering,” Bean said from her home in London. “It kind of snowballed from there and became a big gathering place for fans. It’s really great that there’s such an active and, for the most part, positive community of people who love and want to learn more about Vivien (and Larry). It’s not really something I expected when I started the site.”
Vivien Leigh, An Intimate Portrait goes into all aspects of Leigh’s life, including her mental illness. It’s not a book aimed at ripping the reputation of a respected actress as many books are. It is rather a straightforward examination of an extraordinary life. Some of the information came from the private papers of Laurence Olivier which are at the British Library and she also used pictures taken by Leigh’s personal photographer.
Leigh’s life and her life with Laurence Olivier reads like one of the many movies she was in. The book is well worth the money and would be a great gift.
For more information on Vivien Leigh, An Intimate Portrait, click here: http://www.amazon.com/Vivien-Leigh-An-Intimate-1
Sally Tippett Rains is author of The Making of A Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind and is the content editor of StLSportsPage.com . Subscribe to this blog for other stories about Gone With The Wind.