Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait by Kendra Bean is not a comprehensive biography of the actress. For that, you should refer to Anne Edwards' excellent biography published in 1977 or Hugh Vickers' bio published in 1989. Kendra's book focuses on Leigh's career as an actress, her passionate pursuit of and marriage to Laurence Olivier and the resulting legend that embraced and suffocated both of them. In fact, if there is one word to describe Vivien Leigh, it would be passionate. The book glides lightly over other important personal relationships, but deals sympathetically with the mental illness that plagued her and destroyed her marriage.
|The Golden Couple of the British Theatre|
|Vivien triumphed as Lady Macbeth|
But this is a coffee table book and, as such, it is beautifully done. The size is just right (not too big nor too small), the paper is heavy and glossy and it is loaded with photos, some previously unpublished. Kendra Bean is the fist Vivien Leigh biographer to have been granted access to the Laurence Olivier archives. The information contained in medical documents and intimate letters shed new light on Vivien's great struggles and great triumphs and serve to humanize this seemingly other-worldly creature. As mercurial as she was, Vivien had a great capacity for love and friendship and made many life-long attachments that, though tested greatly by her illness, remained intact. Her friends were as loyal as they come.
If you are like me, the text of a coffee table book is important, but not as important as the photos and here the book does not disappoint. Vivien Leigh is a beautiful subject and we are treated to an eyeful of beautiful images.
|Hollywood Beauty: Vivien photographed for Waterloo Bridge|
We see Vivien at all stages of her life. From her youth to her early marriage to her charmed life as Scarlett O'Hara and Lady Olivier to the ultimate struggles with age, illness and loneliness, the pictures tell the story. And a big flat out thank you to Kendra Bean for including a beautiful full-page photo of Vivien as Scarlett O'Hara in my favorite dress from Gone With the Wind.
|Scarlett's beautiful love bird dress designed by Walter Plunkett|
Vivien Leigh: and Intimate Portrait is available from a variety of sellers, including Amazon.