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the oliviers vivien leigh

Being Nancy Drew: 5 things I’ve learned from researching the Oliviers

Research materials

My favorite part of writing is not so much the creation of a narrative as the research that is necessary to piece that narrative together. I love rummaging through the stacks (the basement) in libraries for books that have been collecting dust for God knows how long; physically touching paper that was handled by an historical figure who contributed something meaningful to society; looking at personal photos that have never been published; ¬†reading correspondences between fascinating personalities. It’s like history coming to life in my hands and I feel like a proper detective looking for clues to solve some kind of mystery.

I consider myself lucky enough to have been able to scour special collections in Universities and national libraries on both sides of the Atlantic for this particular project. I find archival materials especially significant when researching the life of a person who is no longer alive. (Auto)biographies may tell one version of events, but archival materials are physical evidence — proof — that an event did or didn’t happen as it was later reported. From Hollywood to London (I even went to Birmingham!), I’ve spent hours upon hours over the past three years searching for the answers to the question “Who were Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh?” Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

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