photography the oliviers

Vivien Leigh’s Friends: A Call for Help

*Shouts into the Internet void* HELP!

In my last post I wrote about my efforts to preserve Vivien Leigh’s snapshot albums for posterity. Now I’ve reached the stage where I’m attempting to identify the unrecognisable (to me) people in the images. This is part of the cataloguing process. The goal is to record as much information as possible about the content of the images whilst digitising them. Unfortunately, very few of the images have identifying information written on the back and the handful of people I have shown the albums to have also been unable to supply any names.

If you donated $25 or more to my Vivien Leigh albums fundraiser, you know from the email I sent with an accompanying e-booklet that I was going to consult the Notley Abbey guestbook which is part of the Vivien Leigh archive at the V&A. I was recently sent a PDF of the book and spent yesterday afternoon transcribing 70 pages of signatures and dates. This has been useful in general but unfortunately there are still some issues with identification. The images were not arranged in the snapshot album in a strictly chronological fashion. Thanks to Laurence Olivier bleaching his hair for Hamlet I have been able to date several of the images to the spring/summer of 1947. However, there is only one guestbook entry for the whole of that year: Helen (Spencer) and Tully Grigg. It’s more than likely that some people turned up for a weekend at Notley and didn’t sign the guestbook for whatever reason — completely understandable but unhelpful in this moment.

Helen Spencer appeared opposite Olivier and Raymond Massey in the play The Rats of Norway in 1933. I haven’t been able to locate any images of Tully Grigg online but have found a couple of Spencer and don’t think any of these women are her. (I could be wrong?)

vivien leigh album
The man of the left here looks a bit like artist and stage manager David Kentish. He and his wife Rosemary were somewhat frequent guests at Notley in 1949. But were they at Notley in 1947? The mystery remains.

The snaps posted here appear to have been taken over the course of the same weekend at Notley Abbey. All of the faces look vaguely familiar and I thought they may perhaps be cast or crew members from either Hamlet or Anna Karenina, both of which were filmed in the summer of 1947. But they may well be theatre people for all I know.

vivien leigh album

vivien leigh album

vivien leigh album

Can anyone out there identify the people in these snaps (aside from Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier)? I would be very grateful for any assistance with this. Please feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch via email if you think you can help!



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 (6)

  1. Hi Kendra,
    I’ll have a good look and see what I can turn up. I just have to say how handsome Larry looks with his blond hair!!
    Wouldn’t it be divine to go back in time and spend a weekend at Notley?
    Well done with all you’re doing to keep their beautiful story alive.
    Kind regards, Lesley

  2. I totally agree with you Lesley! I think Larry looks so gorgeous with his blonde hair!
    Sorry Kendra- can’t help with any identification of guests
    Thanks for all your hard work preserving Vivien’s snapshots! I am a bit curious though-did Vivien’ family keep any of the photos Vivien took or others taken of her & Larry?
    I would assume that they would want to keep some for themselves as a family momento?

  3. Hello, I am Helen Grigg, granddaughter of Helen Grigg (Helen Spencer) and I will check with my father (Tully Grigg) regarding the images to see if that is Helen.

    Many thanks

  4. Hello there…

    I would like to know more about Vivien and Peter Finch relationship? I really don’t understand many aspects of it, I have some questions if Kendra or others can help me with some answers :

    – Was Viv’ bipolar disorder mainly responsible for this affair and somewhat she wanted to torture Larry and make him jealous OR was she attracted to Peter Finch and simply loved him?

    – The odd passive response of Larry during the long course of his wife VERY open affair with Finch ?!

    – When Larry finally left Vivien, why didn’t she resume her affair with Finch giving their history together and strong attraction to each other “the stories about them trying to run away together ect..)

    – Had Vivien remained friend with Finch later in her life?!

  5. The woman in the flower-print dress resembles Elsa Lanchester.
    Pity the skirt is so long, as E.L. had quite distinctive knees. 😉

%d bloggers like this: