Monday, March 31, 2014

Vivien Leigh - An Actress Whose Life Was Affected by Bipolar Disorder

Vivien Leigh was born Vivien Mary Hartley in Darjeeling, India. At a very early age, she showed an aptitude for acting but she could only indulge into it at the age of 18 when she enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

At the age of 19, she married Leigh Holman, who was a barrister and it was his name that she used to make up her stage name. A year after the marriage, Vivien was still studying and she had a daughter named Suzanne.

Then in mid-1930s, Vivien happen to meet Laurence Olivier and thus began one of the most passionate affairs of that time. Olivier was married during this period to Jill Osmond but it did not stop Vivien and Olivier from publicizing their affair.

During this period, both lovers acted frequently together on stage and screen and by this time they had left their spouses to be together. Then Olivier signed up for Wuthering Heights and Leigh requested to be cast as Cathy in the film. However, her demand was rejected because she was not well-known in America.

Leigh ended up getting her most famous role -- Scarlett O'Hara -- in the film Gone With The Wind and the film was released the same year as Wuthering Heights. Leigh's movie was a box office success and this little unknown actress ended up winning the Best Actress Award in 1939.

In 1940, Olivier and Leigh got married finally. Then World War II happened and Vivien worked mostly on plays staged in and around London. During this period she became an insomniac and her stepson Tarquin Olivier had to stay up the nights with her.

In 1994, during the shooting of Caesar and Cleopatra, Vivien realized that she was pregnant but unfortunately she miscarried after having a fall on the set of the film. Her stepson attributes her manic depression to the loss of the baby. In 1945, Leigh was also diagnosed with tuberculosis, which did not help the situation.

During this period, manic depression was not understood and as result Leigh received shock therapy for her disorder. Her mental condition coupled with physical illness started playing havoc in her personal life and this affected her marriage; leading to a divorce in 1960. In addition, she has also started drinking heavily.

Although Leigh had bipolar disorder and tuberculosis, she continued acting and won her second Oscar for her role in the film A Streetcar Named Desire.

In 1967, Leigh died due to tuberculosis.

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