general discussion laurence olivier the oliviers vivien leigh

The Girl in the War visitor Meredith sent in a really interesting article from the January 1941 issue of Photoplay magazine.  The first part is a lovely letter that Laurence Olivier wrote to his good friend Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, which talks about he and Vivien living by the sea so that he could commute to training with the Fleet Air Arm.  Many magazine  articles of the time comment on how ideal the Oliviers’ life was at this time–apart from the danger Larry faced being part of the Navy.  Vivien played the housewife and cooked and cleaned for both of them.  I remember one magazine article talking about how she would ride a bicycle into the village wearing an old oversize sweater; ever the face of wartime fashion.

This is a letter Larry wrote to his good friends Doug and Mary Lee Fairbanks about life in the Navy (click photo to enlarge):

Letter from Olivier to the Fairbankses. Click to enlarge.

This was before Vivien started in The Doctor’s Dilemma, and she and Larry seemed very happy together just being normal people and not the world’s most famous film stars.

Meredith pointed out the last paragraph of the second little article here, and I thought it was interesting as well.  It says Vivien was expecting a baby in January 1942 (the month this was published).  We know Vivien had at least two miscarriages, one in 1944 and one in 1956.  These two incidents are mentioned in just about very biography about her or Larry…but then I remembered reading a little passage in Vivien Leigh a Bouquet by Alan Dent:

A menu-note from Claridge’s does not – from its date, 16-9-42 – indicate that austerity was de rigueur at the best hotels in the darkest days of the war.  One was offered croquettes de fruits de mer, roast partridge with fresh green haricots and salad, and whatever was Delice Claridge’s; and one might wash it down with sherry, a chablis called Les Forets 1934, two different Burgundies (Charmes  Chambertins 1933 and Charmes Chambertins 1929), and a little Cognac.  On this occasion the Oliviers’ guests included Duff Cooper and Lady Diana Cooper, besides myself; and when we went upstairs to a private suite after dinner we took with us – collected from downstairs – a remarkable and very jolly war-veteran, Commander Billy Bishop.  I can recall Duff Cooper talking to me most eloquently and persuasively about the high merits of Shakespeare’s, in his view, underrated tragedy of Julius Caesar. And still more vividly I recall the fragile beauty of Vivien waving good-bye to me along the corridor — fragile because she had had one of her miscarriages not many days before and was wearing an invalid’s long shawl of the purest and whitest and softest wool. (Thanks to Meg for typing this out)

From the same issue of Photoplay:

Click to enlarge.

These mentions would seem to suggest that Vivien Leigh had more than the two miscarriages mentioned in so many biographies.  What do you readers think?

Follow facebook | twitter

Kendra has been the weblady at since 2007. She lives in Yorkshire and is the author of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait, and co-author of Ava Gardner: A Life in Movies (Running Press). Follow her on Twitter @kendrajbean, Instagram at @vivandlarrygram, or at her official website.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments (4)

  1. It is so heart breaking that Viv and Larry couldn’t have children of their own. Can you just imagine how beautiful their kids would have been? Wow, just thinking about takes my breath away!

  2. One wonders if Vivien would have been a different mother to Larry’s child than she was to Suzanne…perhaps more attentive, more interested? Guess we’ll never know. It is such a shame they never had a child; talk about winning the genetic lottery!

%d bloggers like this: