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Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh at Grauman’s Egyptian

Streetcar

 

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, 1951, Warner Bros., 122 min. Director Elia Kazan’s powerful adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ classic play made Marlon Brando a household name for his incendiary portrayal of working-class Stanley Kowalski, who collides headlong with fragile Southern belle Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) when she moves in with him and wife Stella (Kim Hunter), her sister. Introduction by authors Susan Mizruchi (Brando’s Smile) and Kendra Bean (Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait), who will sign their books in the lobby at 6:30 PM.

 
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The Vivien Leigh Archives

vivien leigh archives lecture

Photo © V&A

BFI Southbank, November 12 – V&A curator Keith Lodwick discusses the recent acquisition of the Vivien Leigh Archives.

As well as being a hugely talented actress, Vivien Leigh was also a meticulous record keeper. The Victoria & Albert Museum has recently acquired Leigh’s archive which includes handwritten diaries, extensive personal correspondence, rare photographs, awards and press clippings. In this richly illustrated presentation, V&A curator Keith Lodwick presents a selection of highlights from the archive and shares some of the insights it offers into her life and work.

After Keith’s presentation, he will be joined onstage by Nathalie Morris (Senior Curator, BFI Special Collections) and Kendra Bean (Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait) for a discussion.

Tickets £6

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Vivien Leigh: A Century of Fame Exhibit

topsham_vivien5

This autumn, Vivien Leigh fans the world over are celebrating the British actress’ 100th birthday. The tributes have kicked off in the cozy village of Topsham in Devon, where several of Vivien’s personal possessions are on display as part of the “Vivien Leigh: A Century of Fame” exhibit at the Topsham Museum.

“Vivien Leigh: A Century of Fame” highlights the connection between Vivien and Topsham, and includes items that explore her image as a film and stage star, as well as the woman behind the star image. The building itself was the former house of Dorothy Holman, the museum’s founder who also happened to be Vivien’s sister-in-law from her marriage to Leigh Holman. Vivien visited Dorothy in Topsham on several occasions. Her daughter, Suzanne, lived with Dorothy for a time during the war before being evacuated to Canada, and still has ties with the museum today.

I went down to Devon with Robbie and my friend Marissa on Saturday. We were met at the museum by director Rachel Nichols, who gave us a lively tour of the exhibit. On display are items from the museum’s permanent collection, including the dress Vivien wore to the premiere of Laurence Olivier’s film Richard III in 1956, and the nightgown she wore as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. The exhibit has been supplemented with items borrowed from the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, the Bill Douglas Centre and Bristol Theatre Collection. Suzanne Farrington has also loaned some personal items, including family photographs and my favorite, a wooden model theatre purchased by Laurence Olivier in 1945 – believed to be German in origin – containing a small doll depicting Vivien Leigh as Sabina in Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth. It’s a small, but intimate space that allows visitors to get an intimate view of these treasures.

I was really glad to hear that the exhibit has attracted large numbers of people to the museum. It just goes to show that Vivien’s allure has transcended decades and generations. The items on display have the effect of making Vivien seem alive and current. Topsham is a beautiful place and I’d highly recommend going for a visit. “Vivien Leigh: A Century of Fame” runs until October 31. Admission is free.

All photos © Kendra Bean, 2013.

News & Events

Lecture @ National Portrait Gallery

Vivien Leigh NPG

Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait

Actress Vivien Leigh is best known for her Academy Award-winning performances in Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire, her popularity on the post-war British stage, and her twenty-year marriage to Sir Laurence Olivier. Kendra Bean, author of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait, discusses the fascinating life of this extraordinary star.

The talk will be followed by a Q&A and book signing, and an opportunity to visit the Vivien Leigh centenary exhibit.

Admission is free, but space is limited and seats will be allocated on a first come, first served basis, so make sure you get there early!

Where: National Portrait Gallery Ondaatje Wing Theatre | St Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE
When: Thursday, November 28, 1.15 pm