Vivien Leigh only made nineteen movies during her thirty-three year career, as she preferred standing on the stage to standing in front of a camera. During her career, she took home two Oscars for Best Actress: one in 1940 and one in 1952. I thought it would be fun to compile a list of Oscar related trivia, that you may not know, about Vivien.
1. Vivien Leigh, a British actress, won both of her Oscars for portraying Southern women. She earned her first Academy Award, for Best Actress, for her portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara, in Gone With the Wind. She earned her second Oscar, as Blanche DuBois, in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Vivien as Scarlett in Gone With the Wind
2. Vivien won both of her Best Actress Oscars during leap years: 1940 and 1952.
3. She was the first British actress to win an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Vivien and Oscar, 1940
4. Vivien knew in advance that she had won for her portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara, in Gone With the Wind. The names of the winners were released the day before the ceremony to the newspapers. The LA Times ran a list of winners on the day of the Academy Awards, instead of the day after the ceremony.
5. According to Laurence Olivier’s son, Tarquin, Olivier experienced a little bit of jealousy over her win and his loss (he had been nominated for Best Actor for Wuthering Heights): On their way home, he grabbed her Oscar and ‘It was all I could do to restrain myself from hitting her with it. I was insane with jealousy.’ (1)
Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier
6. Vivien wasn’t able to attend the 1952 Academy Awards. She was appearing onstage in New York, as Cleopatra, in dual plays by Shaw and Shakespeare. She heard her name announced as the winner, via the radio, in her dressing room at the Ziegfield Theater.
Vivien dressed as Cleopatra, March 1952
7. Greer Garson accepted the Best Actress Award for A Streetcar Named Desire, on Vivien’s behalf, at the 1952 award ceremony. Greer made a short speech: It’s an honor and a thrill to accept this for you, Vivien. I hope you’re listening in New York, We’re all very excited about it. God bless you and congratulations. I know she’d want to thank you if she were here herself. (2)
Bette Davis, George Sanders, Karl Malden (Best Supporting Actor), Greer Garson and Humphrey Bogart (Best Actor)
Vivien’s co-star in A Streetcar Named Desire, Kim Hunter, also didn’t attend the ceremony. Bette Davis accepted the Best Supporting Actress award on her behalf.
8. Vivien received her Best Actress Oscar later that year, in London, on June 17th. Johnny Green did the honor of presenting the statuette to Vivien.
Vivien Leigh and Johnny Green
9. In March 1953, Vivien arrived in Hollywood, from Sri Lanka, to continue filming Elephant Walk. While there, she planned on attending the 1953 Oscars and was scheduled to present the Best Actor Oscar. Her chosen dress for the evening was a stunning, ivory satin gown. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to attend due to a mental illness breakdown and had to return to London for treatment.
10. While Vivien was recovering from her breakdown, thieves broke into her London home, Durham Cottage. They stole her Oscar for A Streetcar Named Desire, along with silverware and miscellaneous clothing. Her Oscar was subsequently replaced by AMPAS.
Vivien as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire
11. In 1993, Suzanne Farrington (Vivien’s daughter), sold some of her mother’s things at a Sotheby’s auction. One of the items placed on the block was the Oscar Vivien had won for Gone With the Wind. The statuette sold for $510,000, which was the highest amount paid for an Oscar at that time.