TIME actresses

LIFE With Vivien Leigh: Photos of a Film Legend Gone Too Soon

On her 101st birthday, LIFE.com remembers the beautiful, mercurial, phenomenally talented Vivien Leigh with photographs that capture her enduring appeal.

Vivien Leigh was one of the silver screen’s true legends: an incendiary talent who won two Best Actress Oscars, famously married (and divorced) another towering artist, Laurence Olivier, and was celebrated during much of her lifetime as a star of the first magnitude both on the stage and in the movies.

But Leigh, who would have been 101 years old today (she was born Nov. 5, 1913, in Darjeeling, India), also endured hellish hardships during her too-short life. She suffered from bipolar disorder, threw herself into calamitous extramarital affairs and died of tuberculosis—from which she had suffered for years when she finally succumbed to the disease, at just 53 years old, in 1967.

Here, on her 100th birthday, LIFE.com remembers the beautiful, mercurial Leigh with two photographs: one of her in the role of the archetypal tempestuous Southern belle, Scarlett O’Hara, and the other made in 1940 at her home in California, with the actress holding the Oscar she won for that iconic performance in Gone With the Wind.

Her second Best Actress Academy Award, for her incarnation as Blanche DuBois in the 1951 Elia Kazan classic, A Streetcar Named Desire, honored a performance that, for many movie fans, was far and away more powerful than her turn as Scarlett. Leigh herself, however, later reportedly said that playing the alcoholic, idealistic, profoundly damaged Blanche “tipped [her] over into madness.”

Vivien Leigh was laid to rest in East Sussex, England. To this day, although she appeared in fewer than two dozen films in her entire career, she is still considered one of the greatest female movie stars of all time.

Vivien Leigh places the Oscar she won for her role as Scarlett in 'Gone With The Wind' on her mantlepiece at home, 1940.
Peter Stackpole—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com


Dear TIME Reader,

As a regular visitor to TIME.com, we are sure you enjoy all the great journalism created by our editors and reporters. Great journalism has great value, and it costs money to make it. One of the main ways we cover our costs is through advertising.

The use of software that blocks ads limits our ability to provide you with the journalism you enjoy. Consider turning your Ad Blocker off so that we can continue to provide the world class journalism you have become accustomed to.

The TIME Team