Tag: events


Wrap-up: A Weekend with the Oliviers Part 3

Sunday morning had an early wake-up call. Our first adventure was a walking tour of London. We met at the ungodly early hour of  9 am at the Laurence Olivier statue in front of the National Theatre and at 9:30 set off to see some of the places where Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier worked and lived. Our route took us across Waterloo Bridge (sorry, guys, not seen in the 1940 film) to Aldwych, down to the Strand, up to Covent Garden, over to Soho and Piccadilly, down through St James’ Park to Westminster, over to Belgravia and finally to Chelsea. The list of sites:

  • Aldwych Theatre — where Laurence Olivier directed Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire, 1949
  • The Savoy Hotel — where Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier formally met in 1935 while having dinner in the famous Grill Room
  • St. Paul’s The Actor’s Church, Covent Garden — The plaque dedicated to Vivien Leigh, which was given by John Mills after Vivien died, is special because it is, in a sense, the only sort-of grave marker that she has.
  • St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square — The beautiful church where Vivien Leigh’s public memorial service was held
  • The Noel Coward Theatre — Formerly the New Theatre in St. Martin’s Lane. This is where the Old Vic company performed during and after the war while waiting for bomb damage at the Old Vic to be repaired. The stage at the New Theatre is where Laurence Olivier officially became a theatrical superstar during the 1944-1945 season.
  • The Ivy — This famous, exclusive restaurant near Covent Garden was frequented by London’s smart set, including Vivien Leigh who could often be spotted dining alongside Noel Coward and other theatrical luminaries.
  • Ambassadors Theatre — Just next door to the Ivy, Vivien Leigh became an overnight star when The Mask of Virtue opened here in 1935.
  • The Phoenix Theatre — This Soho theatre is ticked away in a not-so-nice alley, but it is noteworthy because this is where Vivien Leigh performed in The Skin of Our Teeth in 1945 before falling ill with tuberculosis. When the play was revived in 1946, it was performed at the Piccadilly Theatre.
  • The Apollo Theatre — This Shaftesbury Avenue theatre is where Vivien Leigh performed in Duel of Angels during the London run of the play.
  • The Lyric Theatre — Vivien Leigh performed here in Noel Coward’s South Sea Bubble in 1956.
  • Theatre Royal, Haymarket — When The Doctor’s Dilemma came to London in 1943, it opened at this theatre and ran for over a year because audiences were thrilled to be able to see Scarlett O’Hara in the flesh.
  • St. James House – The former site of the St James’ Theatre. It was demolished and rebuilt as a modern office building, but the alley between the office and the pub next door boasts a relief of the Oliviers in the Two Cleopatras as well as a plaque commemorating the protest to save the theatre that was led by Vivien Leigh in 1958.
  • Westminster Abbey — The final resting place of Sir Laurence Olivier, O.M.
  • 54 Eaton Square — This flat (flat D) in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in London, was purchased by the Oliviers in 1958. After their divorce, as part of the settlement, Larry continued to pay rent on the flat so that Vivien and Jack Merivale could continue to live in London in style. Vivien Leigh died here in July 1967. Today, Academy Award-winning actress Louise Rainer occupies No. 54 and the bench Gertrude Hartley dedicated to Vivien upon her death still sits in the garden. You can see more photos of Eaton Square here.
  • The Royal Court Theatre — This off-the-beaten-path theatre in Chelse’a Sloane Square was the birthplace of kitchen sink dramas in the late 50s and 60s, starting with John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger. Laurence Olivier performed here in The Entertainer in 1958. Vivien Leigh also performed here in a different sort of play in 1959, Noel Coward’s Look After Lulu.
  • Durham Cottage — Laurence Olivier’s and Vivien Leigh’s love nest is situated on a quiet street just off the King’s Road in Chelsea. It was purchased in 1937 and served at their London base before relocating to Belgravia in 1957.
  • For a full photo tour of London’s Theatreland, click here.

Continue reading