She was one of the most glamorous stars in movie history, with a back story as colourful and troubled as any Hollywood melodrama.
And now the life of Vivien Leigh will be told in a blockbuster new exhibition coming to York.
In a major coup, Treasurer’s House will host the first major display from the archives of Britain’s first international film star.
Treasurer’s House, Minster Yard, York YO1 7JL
Sat Sept 19 – Sun Dec 20
Entry to the house – adult £7.20; child £3.60
Vivien Leigh’s archives were acquired from her family by the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2013.
The V&A is staging Vivien Leigh: Public Faces, Private Lives throughout Treasurer’s House this autumn. Featuring costumes, annotated scripts, and personal items from the home she shared with husband Laurence Olivier, it will be a remarkable insight into the life of one of the most iconic legends of Hollywood’s golden age.
This is the first time an exhibition organised by the V&A will be shown at a National Trust property.
Juxtaposing Leigh’s Hollywood persona and home life the exhibition draws from more than 10,000 items in her personal archive.
It includes annotated film scripts, costume sketches and letters, including some from the Queen, Sir Winston Churchill, the Queen Mother and a young York acting hopeful called Judi Dench, in which she expresses her admiration for Vivien Leigh’s talents.
The exhibition will be on display throughout the house and contains some of the most remarkable objects from Leigh and Olivier’s lives.
The couple fell in love whilst filming Fire Over England (1937).
As well as featuring their Australian tour and joint appearances in Shakespeare plays at Stratford, the exhibition will include love letters between them.
They threw lavish parties at their home in Notley Abbey. On display will be their guestbook, with signatures from, among others, Noël Coward, Orson Wells, Terrence Rattigan and Katharine Hepburn.
A focus of the exhibition will be dedicated to the timeless cinematic classic Gone With The Wind (1939).
It was Leigh’s portrayal as fiery Scarlett O’Hara that propelled her into international stardom. She also won one of two Oscars for the role, the other being for A Streetcar Named Desire.
Original photos of Vivien Leigh playing Scarlett taken by Hollywood photographer Laszlo Willinger will be on display, along with film posters and scrapbooks.
A stunning red Christian Dior gown from Leigh’s costume in Duel Of Angels (1958) and the headdress from her role as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1937) are just some of the objects from her stage performances that visitors can view.
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) is widely regarded as her best stage performance, and her annotated notes about her approach to dealing with the play’s controversial themes of mental illness, homosexuality and rape will be on display.
General manager of Treasurer’s House David Morgan said:
It’s a rare chance to see the different aspects of one of the most iconic screen legends of our time and her everlasting legacy.
Keith Lodwick, V&A curator of the exhibition said:
The archive is a magnificent and intact record that provides a fascinating insight into her personal life and career.
After the exhibition finishes its York premiere it will embark on an international tour.