Stats

  • Full name: Vivian Mary Hartley
  • Nicknames: Viv, V, Vivling, Bibbs, Puss
  • Birthday: November 5th, 1913, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India
  • Hair color: Dark brown
  • Eye color: Blue/green
  • Height: 5’3”
  • Weight: 104 lbs.
  • Nationality: British
  • Parents: Ernest Hartley, banker and horse trainer for the Indian army in WWI; Gertrude Yackjee, Irish beauty
  • Religion: Vivien was raised Roman Catholic
  • Profession: Film and Theatre actress (and occasional model for fashion magazines)
  • Education: The Convent of the Sacred Heart, Roehampton, London, England; finishing schools in Paris, Bavaria, and other countries in greater Europe; The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London.
  • Languages: Fluent in French, German and Italian
  • Marriages: Herbert Leigh Holman, lawyer, December 20th, 1932-August 30th, 1940 | Laurence Kerr Olivier, actor, August 30th, 1940-December, 1960
  • Children: At 19, Vivien had a daughter, Suzanne, with her first husband. Leigh Holman was given custody of the child when Vivien married Laurence Olivier. Her relationship with Suzanne while she was growing up was friendly at best. It was only after Vivien and Larry divorced that she and her daughter developed a closer relationship. She was step mother to Laurence Olivier’s son, Tarquin, and had two definite miscarriages while married to Olivier (I have read that she had one shortly after she and Larry were married, or so it says in Alan Dent’s Vivien Leigh A Bouquet). Vivien was also godmother to several children of famous friends including David Niven Jr. (oldest son of David and Primmie Niven) and Juliette Mills (oldest daughter of John and Mary Mills).
  • Other relationships: Though many sources say that Vivien was hypersexual due to her manic depression, the two most famous relationships she was involved in were with Peter Finch and John “Jack” Merivale, both actors. Vivien was also involved with John Buckmaster (Jack Merivale’s step-brother and theatre actor) while married to Leigh Holman.
  • Hobbies: Gardening, doing the Times crossword, playing hostess at parties, collecting modern art and Dickens first editions, walking
  • Pets: Vivien was mad for cats, especially Siamese ones. At one point, she and Laurence Olivier had 16 Siamese. Two cats were photographed with Vivien the most. These were New Boy, a beautiful seal-point Siamese given to her by Larry while they lived at Notley Abbey and one which accompanied them when they traveled. The other was Poo Jones, another seal-point Siamese that lived with Vivien until she died. Vivien and Larry found a stray tuxedo cat while living at Durham Cottage in the early days of their marriage and named it Tissy.
  1. While living in a rented house in Hollywood during the filming of That Hamilton Woman, a sheep dog named Jupiter “Jupee” decided to adopt the Oliviers. He came with the house. Vivien also had a dog named Sebastian when she lived at Tickerage Mill toward the end of her life. The Oliviers raised cows at Notley Abbey and Vivien named them after her stage roles: Cleopatra and Sabina were two of the names she chose.
  • Favorites: flower—white rose; food—French cuisine; destination—France. In her book, By Myself and Then Some, friend and actress, Lauren Bacall, wrote that Vivien had always told her that she could not bear to let a year go by without visiting her beloved France. Vivien also loved to be in her dressing room at the theatre where she was performing; perfume—Joy by Jean Patou; color—white; car—Rolls Royce; animal—Siamese cat; author—Charles Dickens; photographer; Angus McBean (her personal photographer), Cecil Beaton (who was a good friend until the Oliviers had a falling out with him in 1948); cigarettes—Players, Olivier brand
  • Vices: Smoking—it was reported that while filming Gone with the Wind, Vivien was smoking up to four packs a day. Larry Olivier told Vivien’s secretary, Sunny Lash, to ask Vivien to cut down on her intake; swearing—Alexander Walker writes in his book that she apparently picked it up from Larry whose favorite word seemed to be “fuck”. Vivien would often use expletives on film sets when things were not going according to schedule.
  • Illnesses:
  1. Manic Depression–said to have come forward as a result of a miscarriage in 1944. It got worse as the years went on and treatment for mental illnesses at the time was crude at best. As a result, she was often violent with Larry at home and sometimes had outbursts in public. It also caused insomnia and hyper-sexuality. After a complete nervous breakdown in Hollywood during the filming of Elephant Walk (she had flown back from Ceylon), during which friend David Niven cared for her while Larry flew in from Europe, Vivien was flown back to London, hospitalized and given her first Electro-shock Treatment. Larry said that after she woke up from her stay in the hospital, she was no longer the same girl he had married. Though she suffered from other problems, her manic depression remained the one that effected her life and career most succinctly.
  2. Tuberculosis–apparently caught while on tour in North Africa in 1943, though Laurence Olivier reported that he thought she may have caught it in Liverpool because it was there where she developed a cough that she couldn’t shake. Vivien lost 13 lbs while on this tour and became unnaturally tired. Doctors discovered a tubercular patch on her left lung and she was ordered on a long bed rest. She seemingly recovered but it came back in the late 1960’s and eventually killed her.
  • Death: July 7, 1967 at 54 Eaton Square inBelgravia, London, from complications with Tuberculosis. She was 53 years old. On July 8th, London payed tribute to Vivien when all of the theatre lights in the West End were turned off in her honor. Following her death, a public memorial service was held at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, London. According to several people, the church was packed with celebrity friends and bystenders waiting to say their good-byes. In Los Angeles a few months later, Vivien’s Hollywood friends and co-stars payed tribute to her with a memorial at the University of Southern California. Here famous names such as George Cuckor, Greer Garson, and others shared their memories of Vivien as well as scenes from her films.
  1. A private memorial was attended by Vivien’s mother, daughter, step-son and a few close friends at her country home, Tickerage Mill in Sussex. Her ashes were scattered on the lake behind the house.
  2. Today there are several memorials dedicated to Vivien in and around London. A plaque was placed in the Actors Church at Covent Garden by her good friend and fellow actor, John Mills. At her flat at Eaton Square, there is a British Herritage plaque as well as a stone bench in the garden which was placed there by her mother.

%d bloggers like this: