Vivien Leigh was an English actress, born in 1913, and best known for her role as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind.
Laurence Olivier was born in 1907 and is considered one of the great actors of all time, but the role that remains in most minds is his portrayal of Hamlet.
Their affair began in 1936 when they acted together in Fire Over England. At that time, they were each married to someone else and in those days, illicit celebrity affairs didn't bring the same ho-hum reaction they do today. They kept their affair under wraps until they were able to get their respective divorces so they could marry in 1940. In spite of their discretion, their relationship was a well-known secret.
Olivier said "I couldn't help myself with Vivien. No man could. I hated myself for cheating on Jill, but this was something different. This wasn't just out of lust. This was love that I really didn't ask for but was drawn into."
Letters came to light after their deaths that Olivier had sent to Leigh and over 200 are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Even into their marriage the passion was simmering and some of the letters are definitely X-rated. Others are simply a declaration of love. “You are in my thoughts and weighing so heavily in my heart all the time. I am only existing until I see you again and only just managing to do that.”
Vivien wrote to Lawrence during a time apart n the 1950s “Whenever you think of me my Larry-boy you will know I am with you adoringly Vivien."
But chinks were beginning to appear in the marriage. Vivien Leigh suffered from bi-polar disease and her highs and lows began to take their toll on the relationship. She would have periods of hyperactivity and then delve deep into depression, which often ended in an explosion of behaviour that she would not be able to recall afterwards. Both of them were known to have affairs in the later years of their marriage.
Finally in 1960 they divorced, unable to live together any longer. Olivier remarried, to Joan Plowman, a marriage that lasted until his death.
But even after divorce they remained in touch. Vivien had recurring bouts of tuberculosis, which finally killed her in 1967. Olivier's last letter to Vivien was several weeks before her death “Sincerest love darling, your Larry.”
Vivien once said "I would rather have lived a short life with Larry [Olivier] than face a long one without him". She died at age 53.
Olivier was ill for the last 20 years of his life. He died of kidney failure in 1989.