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The Secret’s Out…

vivien leigh by laszlo willing 1940

I’ve got a secret! Okay, it’s not really so much a secret as an announcement — one I’ve debated making here for ages, and one which, after some good vibes from a couple good friends, I’ve finally decided to make. Ready?

I’m writing a book!

Not just writing, but also assembling. It’s an illustrated photography book (read: coffee table book) about Vivien Leigh and I’ve been working on it for the past three years. Nearly everything I’ve done during this time has been in some way related to accomplishing this goal and I believe in this project with all my heart. I’ve had this vision for so long, and like many things in life, the road has not always traveled straight ahead. The original plan was to do something about the personal and professional relationship of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. In the past four or five months, however, the topic has shifted to focus on Vivien and her life. I think this is the right decision.

Why this book? How long has it been since someone wrote a decent biography about Vivien Leigh? At least 20 years. Since becoming a fan of Vivien way back when and, as such, a passionate fan of classic cinema, it has always puzzled and saddened me that there have been no books of this format that focus on Vivien. All the other stars of the studio era have beautiful photography books dedicated to their lives and careers. You’d think there would be nothing left to say about Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn, for example, but they get new ones nearly every year. In Vivien’s case, the only illustrated books dedicated to her are Angus McBean’s Vivien A Love Affair in Camera and John Russell Taylor’s Vivien Leigh. These books, while containing lovely photos and heartfelt sentiments, barely scratch the surface.

It’s high time Vivien Leigh–the woman and actress–was put back in the spotlight. With her 100th birthday coming up in 2013, I aim to do just that.

What’s new to offer? While previous Vivien Leigh biographies have been well-researched, the fact is that there is so much more out there. I’m talking about archival materials, loads of rare and never-before-published photographs and personal papers. This will be the first book about Vivien to tap into the rich collections in major archives, including those in the British Library and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. 

What can I bring to the table as a writer? Years’ worth of research, a film degree and a lot of TLC.

Vivien Leigh more than deserves to be celebrated in a book like this. Her life and career were interesting of course, but she also had an aesthetic that lent itself so well to photography. This is the book I’ve always wanted to buy.

How YOU can help

I’m always looking for stories and original, rare photos of Vivien to enhance the materials I’ve already sourced. If you are a collector and have photos you’d like to share, or if you are a fan and were lucky enough to correspond with or even meet Vivien in person, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you!

I’ll keep you all updated on new developments. It’s been a long, sometimes frustrating process, but I’ve never lost hope that it will come to fruition in the end. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say. Vivien deserves it.

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.

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Comments (52)

  1. I’m SO EXCITED!!! If anyone were to take on this endeavor, I’m so glad it’s you. You must keep us all posted. If nothing else, I’ll be buying a copy! <3

  2. This sounds exciting! Being an aspiring author myself,you inspire me,as a Vivien Leigh fan I ca´t wait to get my hands on a copy.I really like your site,you can really tell it is created with such dedication and love of Vivien Leigh and her work.


  3. What a great idea and your the person to do it kendra. I wish you luck in gettig it done. This will be a book i will be buying. Cant for its release.

  4. Go for it! I have a ‘coffee table’ book on Audrey Hepburn and I would love one on Vivien Leigh. I’m sure there would be many people who would also love to buy one. So the very best of luck with your book Kendra.

  5. I can’t wait to get my copy! I have had the Angus McBean book for years but have always been on the lookout for more picture books of Vivien. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into this!

    1. The Angus McBean book is lovely but unfortunately so expensive due to being out of print. The photos in his book are also but a small selection of the pictures he took of Vivien throughout her lifetime. 🙂

  6. I knew it! I do have some rare pictures of Vivien that I would be willing to share. And of course.. I’ll be in line to get a copy when the book is published.. and hopefully an autographed copy! You are living out the dream I never got to finish..and I wish you tons of success!

  7. Good luck. If any one can do this you can. I’ll be one of the first in line to buy it. What a fitting tribute to Vivien on her 100th birthday.

  8. Kendra,
    Thanks for all you do! Your such an articulate young woman, very gifted! I’m sure it will be a bestseller! I will see on Amazon and buy it!

    Thanks again for such a delightful sight, I so look forward to when I get your emails.
    Keep up the great work!!!


  9. Wonderful decision, Kendra, everybody must have guessed by now that you would come up with like this .Wish you good luck with it. What about copyright?All these gorgeous fotos of V. were made by s.b. I hope you won’t have to face some difficulties there. But once you’ll have finished and published it I will certainly be one of the early purchasers.Thanks for letting us have interesting to look forward to in that field. regards.Renata

  10. I’m so happy for you , with your dedication, professionalism and insight as a biographer and your talent as a photographer you’ re surely the right person for this job.I’m looking forward to have your book in my collection

  11. So ridiculously excited for you, and I can’t wait until you’re all published and the rest of us can fully experience Vivien through your eyes – even though we get to do that here it’ll be amazing to have physical pages to pour over. I wish I could help in some way, but I have no idea how I could. It’ll be absolute perfection, and I know the result will be something Viv would be tremendously proud of!

  12. Ah Kendra, this is wonderful! i’m so excited for you, you most definitely have been putting in tons of hours of research! I can’t wait for the book to come out, and will certainly be buying it. Like you said, Vivien does deserve a good book like this- and I do believe your just the person to tackle such a job. Can’t wait to see the final product, I’m sure it will be just perfect!

    1. Hi Alex, thanks! The research is my favorite bit–I absolutely love digging through archives and such to get to the bottom of things and to reveal new facets of an already well-documented life. Gingers crossed for big things! 🙂

  13. That’s incredibly exciting!! It’s very inspiring to have someone like you around – who has the passion and the ability to work on this sort of project. So amazing! I’m afraid I don’t have anything related to Vivien in my collection but good luck!!

  14. Yay! Congrats! I can’t think of anyone better to make this type of book. I’m sure it will be awesome, and I can’t wait to get it! 🙂

  15. Congratulations!!! I am so excited for you and I bet that your book will be fabulous. Vivien indeed does deserve a book, especially a coffee table book full of beautiful photographs and information about her. I’m sure that when it’s out, it’ll be a perfect present for my mom who introduced me to Vivien.

  16. Kendra

    I am thrilled to know a book such as this is in the making. Am wondering if you have been able to correspond with any of Vivien’s family members? Like her grandsons Again so utterly thirilled can’t wait to see the book….

      1. Am so puzzled by that Kendra after all her great grandaughter Sophie? I think did something on her which you posted here…. I find it kind of sad actually they should want to celebrate her as we all do…

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