Sir Laurence kills whispers about Vivien

The Sunday Express, March 1953

What is the truth behind Vivien Leigh’s sudden dramatic flight home from America? Is it correct that she has had differences with her studio management? And will her breakdown affect her plans to star in a London play during the Coronation season?

Full, frank answers to these and other questions–questions which have been intriguing Britain and America–were given to the Sunday Express yesterday.

To Sidney Rodin, Sir Laurence Olivier, Miss Leigh’s husband, gave the facts behind her return. Rodin writes:

My first question was: Is there any truth in the Hollywood rumors that she was dissatisfied with the role in the Paramount film Elephant Walk, and with her leading man, Dana Andrews?

Sir Laurence replied: “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

I asked about reports from New York that there had been some kind of scene when the Oliviers arrived at Idewild airport with their friend Danny Kaye for the flight home. It has been said that Miss Leigh argued against the use of a stretcher, and appeared reluctant to leave the car.

Is it true, I asked, that Sir Laurence and Danny Kaye had to force Miss Leigh aboard the airliner?

And why, if Miss Leigh was suffering from a nervous breakdown aggravated by a terror of flying, did Sir Laurence insist on bringing her back to Britain by plane?

Back came Sir Laurence’s answers: “Vivien had been put under sedatives for the Hollywood-New York flight, but the effect of the drug had worn off sooner than expected.

“There was a struggle because she was not quite out of the drug. She was bewildered. She didn’t know quite what was happening.

“Vivien’s dread of flying has been a little exaggerated as of late. It was better to get the trip over at once than to risk the tedium of a long train and ship journey.”

Why didn’t Sir Laurence arrange for his wife to go into a nursing home in Hollywood?

His reply: “The decision to bring her home to Britain was made on the advice of three doctors and in the light of my own knowledge of her temperament.

“She was very ill and when she is like that I know that she has a better chance of a quick recovery in her own home surroundings and among her own friends.”

I inquired about the treatment now being given to Miss Leigh in a Coulsdon (Surrey) hospital.

Sir Laurence’s reply: “She is having a complete rest, not speaking to anyone…Even I am not seeing her. She is entirely cut off, without any phone contact. All flowers and telegrams and other messages are being diverted to our Chelsea home. No one and nothing is allowed to disturb her.”

Why, I asked, does Miss Leigh drive herself so hard, with an almost non-stop succession of arduous film and stage roles, careering round the world to fulfill them. Is it ambition or her natural temperament?

Her actor husband replied: “Vivien is not ambitious. It is her natural disposition that drives her at full pressure all the time. Like any great actress, she always wants to do better.

“Vivien has no fear of slipping, no fear of losing her public. I think she works too hard and tell her so, but she is a very difficult person to advise.”


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