Vivien Leigh


  1. Annabella,  Under The Red Robe, 1937.     Producer Alexander Korda kept Vivien waiting two years before finding a film for her – then dropped her with the excuse that French money insisted on a French star.  In truth, he saw bigger returns from cashing in on the growing love affair of Viv and Laurence Olivier by having them play lovers (forever canoodling under Queen Elizabeth’s eye) in Fire Over England.
  2. Margaret Lockwood, The Lady Vanishes, 1937.   The favourite Hitchcock film of François Truffaut and Orson Welles (he watched it eleven times). Hitch tested Leigh and mused over Nova Pilbeam, his muse in two previous films. Despite her being a brunette, he fell for Lockwood’s test.“He didn’t seem to direct us at all.   He was a dozing, nodding Buddha with an enigmatic smile on his face.”Well, he’d just received a telegram from producer David O Selznick, inviting him to… Hollywood! 
  3. Maureen O’Sullivan, A Yank At Oxford,  1938.     Forget the legend. Viv was known to MGM before GWTW…  LB Mayer, himself, dropped her as Robert Taylor’s leading lady and regulated her to a (prophetic) smaller role of a philandering wife.
  4. Rosalind Russell, The Citadel, 1938.    The Irish Geraldine Fitzgerald and two Britis – Leigh and Greer Garson – tested  for Dr Robert Donat’s wife, Christine, in King Vidor’s take on the AJ Cronin novel. MGM gave the rôle to Elizabeth Allan (handily living back in the UK) until rudely dropping her when Russell became available. 
  5. Barbara Stanwyck, Union Pacific, 1938.       Director Cecil B DeMille offered $2,000 a week, plus $160 expenses and annual options on four more films rising from $20,800 to $56,000. Yet nothing could dissuade her from saying –  with what Olivier called  “an almost demonic determination” – that she would be Scarlett O’Hara.
  6. Ida Lupino, The Light That Failed, 1938.      Battle of three Brits… Lupino stole a script and insisted director William Wellman test her as Bessie.  Ronald Colman, having already lost a previous Rudyard Kipling project (Gunga Din, 1938),wanted this one. When Wellman voted Lupino, Colman tried to oust him. He failed. Not a happy set! “If he didn’t want me,” claimed Lupino, “he never let on.”
  7. Merle Oberon, Wuthering Heights, 1938.
  8. Greer Garson, Pride and Prejudice, 1939.     MGM house genius Irving Thalberg was due to supervise his pet project – co-starring his wife Norma Shearer and Clark Gable – when the production chief tragically died at age 37.   MGM then liked the  the magic of  of keeping Gable  opposite his Scarlett… But Shearer would not be moved. And wanted  Robert Donat, Errol  Flynn (!) or Robert Taylor as Mr Darcy. Leigh wanted the role opposite her lover, Laurence Olivier but, scared of adultery headlines, Metro put her in Waterloo Bridge with… Taylor!  Finally, Metro safe with Olivier opposite  Greer Garson. Olivier was very unhappy with the result. “Difficult to make Darcy into anything more than an unattractive-looking prig, and darling Greer seemed to me all wrong as Elizabeth.”
  9. Joan Fontaine, Rebecca, 1939.
  10. Ida Lupino, The Light That Failed, 1939.    Battle of three Brits… Lupino stole a script and insisted director William Wellman test her as Bessie.  Ronald Colman, having already lost a previous Rudyard Kipling project (Gunga Din, 1938),  wanted this one. When Wellman voted Lupino, Colman tried to oust him. He failed. Not a happy set! “If he didn’t want me,” claimed Lupino, “he never let on.”

  11. Paulette Goddard, North West Mounted Police, 1939.  No, no, CB DeMille told Paulette Goddard (then Mrs Charlie Chaplin), you’re not right for an Indian half-breed.  And yet, somehow, he thought his adopted daughter, Katherine, was. (She was Mrs Anthony Quinn at the time). Plus German Marlene Dietrich, Hungarian Steffi Duna, British Vivien Leigh,  Russian Anna Sten (Stench to her foes) and the French Olympe Bradna and  Simone Simon! Goddard refused to give up.  Decked out in full costume, make-up and pidgin English, she stormed  into CB’s office on the Paramount lot… and soon sashayed  away  with a script, a deal and a triumphant grin!
  12. June Duprez, The Thief of Bagdad, 1940.    Due to begin shooting when she flew off to see Larry Olivier in Hollywood and do something positive about securing her GWTW dream role. Korda’s film followed her when the war meant quitting Denham  Studios for the Mojave desert.
  13. Greer Garson,  Pride and Prejudice, 1940.    Thwarted over Rebecca,  Viv set  her sights on Elizabeth Bennett opposite “Larry boy” as Darcy. Her GWTW producer David Selznick over-ruled her again and she had to make way for Olivier’s former stage protegée,  who had preceded her to Hollywood fame as Mrs Chips.
  14. Wendy Hiller, Major Barbara, 1941.      Another campaign. She played his  Doctor’s Dilemma on stage, was making ready for a version of his Barbara project – and Viv now set out to convince George Bernard Shaw how perfect she was Caesar and Cleopatra. He agreed. Of course, he did.
  15. Ingrid Bergman, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, 1941.  Why not two double acts, said Dr/Mr Spencer Tracy, generously suggesting the same actress play both his Fine Lady and Young Hooker (er, Barmaid!). Leigh preferedThat Hamilton Woman  with her soon-to-be husabnd Laurence Olivier. Then, Bergman won The Lady and immediately swopped with Lana Turner as the trollop.   And complained she was miscast.  Yes, by herself!
  16. Ingrid Bergman, For Whom The Bell Tolls, 1942. Barbara Britton, Frances Farmer, Betty Field, Paulette Goddard, Susan Hayward and  Barbara Stanwyck were seen for Gary Cooper’s gal. Plus the French Annabella, Mexico’s Esther Fernández,  true Brit  Vivien Leigh and Germany’s Luise Rainer and  Vera Zorina. However, Ernest Hemingway insisted on Bergman (and Cooper) because  he’d had them in mind when writing the book. In case Ingrid  changed her mind, producer-director Sam Wood had  the Austro-Hungarian Lenora Aubert waiting in the wings.
  17. Joan Fontaine, Jane Eyre, 1943.     Producer David O  Selznick fluctuated between Fontaine, Leigh and Katharine Hepburn for the titular governess.  Idem for the byronic Mr Rochester, until dropping Ronald Colman, Alan  Marshal, Walter Pidgeon for Orson Welles. DOS then sold his whole package – director Robert Stevenson, writers John Houseman, Aldous Huxley  – to Fox.
  18. Joan Fontaine, Frenchman’s Creek, 1943. English lady. French pirate. Love at eight bells. Also up for Dona St Columb (opposite Mexican star Arturo de Córdova) were Leigh, Irene Dunne, Merle Oberon, Katina Paxinou and Rosalind Russell. But having lately refused Ernest Hemingway and Charloitte Bronte heroines why would fancy Daphne Du Maurier’s… ?
  19. Ingrid  Bergman, Saratoga Trunk, 1943.  Viv v Ingrid, Part 3…   Head bro Jack Warner shelled out #175,000 for the rights to the latest huge (ie rambling) novel by Edna Ferber– for yet another Errol Flynn-Olivia De Havilland reunion.  Or Errol Flynning  Bette Davis, Nina Foch, Vivien Leigh, Eleanor Parker, Ann Sheridan or the Russian Tamara Toumanova  as Clio Dulaine, Coop’s aristocratic Creole lover!  It also  loomed large as  the Dutch-born Nina Foch’s debut, although  she  ten years younger than most candidates. However, Sam Wood got the gig and used his Hemingwayesque couple from the 1942 For Whom the Bell Tolls:  Cooper and Ingrid Bergman as a Swedish Creole! In Hollywood
  20. Renée Asherson, Henry V, 1945.     David Selznick mean-mindedly stopped her joining Laurence Olivier’s masterpiece, deeming the French princess too small a role.  Not for Viv when playing it opposite Larry in a 1941 military tour. (Nor for Emma Thompson in her then-husband Kenneth Brannagh’s 1989 version). Viv never forgave Selznick.
  21. Irene Dunne, Anna and the King of Siam, 1945.   Oh really?  Considering that production chief Darryl F Zanuck also favoured William Powell as King Mongkut,  casting Loy as Anna  would have meant that The Thin Man’s Nick and Nora Charles  were ruling Siam..!  Also up for Anna: Bette Davis, Olivia De Havilland; Loy and Merle Oberon were back in the running when running when Dunne’s husband had a heart attack and filming was postponed for two months.

  22. Deborah Kerr, Perfect Strangers/Vacation From Marriage, 1945.    To follow Caesar and Cleopatra,  producer Alexander Korda tapped Viv as first replacement for an ill Merle Oberon.  Instead, the role went to one of the many actresses who lost Cleopatra.

  23. Paulette Goddard, An Ideal Husband, 1946. Viv was originally intended for Laura Cheveley. The switch annoyed a dozen of Shepperton Studios’ hairdressers, going on strike because Goddard had the temerity to bring brought her own Hollywood stylist with her.
  24. Lana Turner, Cass Timberlane, 1946.     Marie McDonald pushed hard for the Sinclair Lewis heroine – from the wrong side of the tracks – but MGM only considered Leigh, Virginia Grey, Jennifer Jones before having Lana Turner marry Spencer TraNEWcy’s Judge Timberlane. 

  25. Ingrid Bergman, Notorious, 1946.    Viv v Ingrid, Part 4…      David Selznick always wanted his Scarlett to be Alice – then sold  his rights to RKO for $800,000 to help complete Duel in the Sun, 1946, his utter folly for his wife, Jennjfer Jones,  Alfred Hitchcock was more infatuated with Bergman, contracted to Selznick, the original producer of  this…er… what was it exactly? Selznick had no idea.  Hitchcock and his writer, Ben Hecht, saw it differently. For Hitch it was an erotic-as-possible love story,  a taut espionage thriller for Hecht. Hmm, mused Hitchcock. why can’t it be both?  And so it came to pass…. Selznick sold the entire project to RKO.  Hitch’s signature walk-on was grabbing champagne at a party and making a fast exit left. Of course. He had a terrific film to make. Cary Grant’s finest hour… and the matrix for the Bond films.

  26. Jean Simmons, Hamlet, 1947. For his legendary take on Shakespeare’s Danish prince. – the first British sound version – Laurence Olivier spurned  Claire Bloom and even  his wife, Vivien Leigh (”you’re  too famous, darling!”) and chose the  teenage Jean Simmons for  Ophelia.  Far too old at 41, “Larry” was never keen on following his Henry V with Hamlet (in a blonde rinse and black-and-white) but Orson Welles had already grabbed Macbeth and Othello. Olivier was the first actor to direct himself to a Best Actor Oscar.  The second was Italian comic Roberto Benigni… 52 years later…   for La vita è bella (Life Is Beautiful)..   But Larry got a knighthood, as well. 
  27. Linda Darnell,  Forever Amber, 1947.     A matter of age. Viv and Margaret  Lockwood were older than Peggy Cummins –  sacked after  30  days  shooting and replaced, no less, as the sexy Amber by the vision of the Virgin Mary from The Song of Bernadette.
  28. Jeannette Nolan, Macbeth, 1947.
    Tallulah Bankhead, Mercedes McCambridge and Agnes Moorhead all rejected Orson Welles’ invite to be his Lady M. Their egos were bruised by being second/third/etc choices after…Vivien.  “I wanted a  sexpot… who could speak the lines…    Olivier wouldn’t hear of it.”  Of course not. Laurence Olivier was planning his own version of “the Scottish play.” On realising the Welles film would be out first, Olivier  switched to Hamlet winning four 1949 Oscars including Best Actor and Film.  Welles even withdrew his film from the 1948 Venice Festival, fearing bad comparisions to Hamlet.  This once, Welles knew when he was beaten. And so, Welles’ radio co-star made her (much criticised) screen debut. With a tiny budget (of course), Welles shot it in 21 days.

  29. Angela Lansbury, If Winter Comes, 1947.      Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick bought the morality tale in 1939 for Fontaine and Leslie Howerd – or Vivien Leigh opposite her husband, Laurence Olivier. They all passed. So did DOS, selling his rights in 1940 to London producer Alexander Korda… who did the same to MGM, which wanted Donat and Greer Garson as the feuding Sabre couple…Finally, they became Lansbury and Walter Pidgeon on, for the historic first time, non-flammable film.
  30. Mala Powers, Cyrano de Bergerac, 1950.      For Roxanne opposite Charles  Laughton – but the first film of her Alexander Korda contract was cancelled in 1935 following lengthy disputes about noses and perfectionist Laughton insisting that Viv go  blonde. She was first choice again  when producer Filippo del Giudice suggested Cyrano as Olivier’s follow-up to Henry V, Hollywood suggested the same as he prepared Hamlet, 1948. José Ferrer made sure no one rained on his (Oscar-winning) nose by hiring a B-movie Roxanne.
  31. Bette Davis, All About Eve, 1950
  32. Ann Todd,  Madeleine, 1950.    The most forgotten of iconic  director David Lean started as a play about the 1850s’ notorious – and legally Not Proven – Scottish  murder case. It was bought for Viv by the Rank Organisation as a co-production with David Selznick. Having played Madeleine Smith on-stage, Ann Todd persuaded  Lean, her new husband, to direct.  A grave error. For both of them!  He left her in 1954.
  33. Olivia de Havilland, My Cousin  Rachel, 1952.  Director George Cukor quit in high dudgeon. He did not approve of producer-scenarist Nunnally Johnson’s script – and wanted Scarlett as Rachel. Well, he actually wanted Garbo but…
  34. Deborah Kerr, Young Bess, 1953.      Deborah replaced Viv in some Alexander Korda films.  Viv rejected  MGM in 1947 at age  34 as the offer was not for the teenage title role – offered to Elizabeth Taylor and eventually played by Olivier’s Ophelia,  Jean Simmons.  Unlike Selznick, who lost Viv (in court and life) in 1945, Korda won Viv back with Anna Karenina, 1948.
  35. Rita Hayworth, Salome, 1953.      Viv would shed veils for Orson Welles in the dual role of King Herod and Oscar Wilde. However, producer Alexander Korda could  not raise the money to see Viv strip. Columbia’s crude Harry King Cohn  could  and made the ex-Mrs Welles shed her veils for King Charles Laughton.
  36. Anne Baxter, The Ten Commandments, 1954.  

  37. Elizabeth Taylor,  Elephant  Walk, 1954.    
    Deborah Kerr was top choice for Douglas Fairbanks Jr when he bought the  rights to Robert Standish’s novel in October  1951 for hiis (and Alexander Macdonald’s) company, They sold  out to Paramount in June 1952 to concentrate on TV production.  Vivien Leigh started the film and suffered a breakdown after a month in what is now Sri Lanka.  Working with her lover, Peter Finch, in a role refused by her husband, Laurence Olivier (who then recommended Finch!)  sure didn’t help  her brittle mental condition  – diagnosed as ecstatic mania.  “I knew it was coming and I couldn’t  stop it.” Her  biographer Alan Strachan reported:  ”Vivien seemed utterly lost, mumbling and unable to remember her lines, addressing Finch as ‘Larry,’ occasionally slipping into dialogue from Streetcar… then collapsing on the floor, a huddled and disheveled figure, make-up ruined, unable to stop her compulsive sobs.” Olivier rushed her home. SOS calls were sent out to Claire Bloom, Jean Simmons and  Taylor. She  had been first choice for the film – but pregnant.  Leigh remained  visible in many of the long shots  and when she turned for her close-up – bingo, it’s Liz!   Nine years later, Liz was  a thinly disguised Viv in The VIPs, 1963, a Terence Rattigan script based on Leigh changing her mind about running  off with Finch after being fogged in at London Airport.

  38. Jean Simmons, Désirée, 1954.  Long before Brando and Simmons, the Fox studio had planned the Oiviers as Napoleon and the fiancee that got away. Daisy Rae as Brando insisted on calling her. 
  39. Claire Bloom, Richard III, 1955.    “You’re still too famous darling… “  Not to mention older!  Once again, Laurence Olivier bypassed his missus  – for the role of Lady Anne opposite his king.  He then persuaded his co-producer, Alexander Korda, to  help keep her from visiting his set by giving her the lead in the film of  Terence Rattigan’s play,  The Deep Blue Sea.   While Olivier and Bloom had their affair.
  40. Elizabeth Taylor, Giant1955.

  41. Audrey Hepburn, War and Peace, 1956.    Producer Alexander Korda had earlier pegged Orson Welles to play Pierre and write-direct with the Oliviers as Natasha and Andrei.
  42. Deborah Kerr, Separate Tables, 1957.    Laurence Olivier found directing impossible under co-producer Burt Lancaster and withdrew (with Viv) from both tables.  Lancaster, Kerr and David Niven (a friend of the Oliviers) took the other three roles…. 
  43. Rita Hayworth, Separate Tables, 1957.    …and, terrified  or  not,  Hayworth (a former Niven lover)  accepted the fourth, an  image-switch suggestion from  her co-producer (and new husband) James Hill. Director Delbert Mann thought the role beyond her, but… “The character is frightened of being alone and needed someone to cling to and I had a great sense that a lot of the truth of  that performance came from Rita, herself.”
  44. Marilyn Monroe, The Prince and The Showgirl, 1957.     Or, still The Sleeping Prince when the Oliviers planned to film their stage success.  “Then,”  recalled Viv, “I saw Marilyn Monroe in How To Marry A Millionaire and said to Larry: This girl’s wonderful in comedy. She should star in the film…  And I added I thought I might be too old for the part. [Playwright] Terry Rattigan and Larry went mad over Monroe and when I changed my mind,  suggested I might play the  part after all,  they said: ‘Oh, but you’re too old.”
  45. Simone Signoret, Room At The Top, 1959.      “We tried to get Vivien,” said producer Sir John Woolf. “She wasn’t free.”  And the hype said no British actress would – could! – play an adulteress. D’oh! And the Oscar goes to…
  46. Katharine  Hepburn,  Suddenly Last Summer,  1959.  From the outset, producer Sam Spiegel wanted Elizabeth Taylor and Leigh  as Catherine, the victim of the dreadful Tennesse Williams’ monstrous creation, Violet Venable.. wanting a lobotomy performed on her poor niece, Elizabeth Taylor, to kill her memory of how Mrs V’s homosexual son was killed and, indeed, cannibalised.  And it wasn’t even a Hammer Film!  Just Tennessee Williams at his most outlandish!  Sam explained his reasoning. “ “Liz looks like a younger  version of Vivien.” Not a comment to delight Leigh!  Ultimately, Sam realised that Viv meant “too many problems.” Kate  clashed with director , Joseph L Mankiewicz, that he  threatened to shut down production until the arrival of the Directors Guild card he had ordered for her!
  47. Wendy Hiller, Sons and Lovers, 1960.       “I don’t want to look crummy, Jack.” Hollywood wanted Vivien, director Jack Cardiff did not… and eased her out. Diplomatically. “Well, Viv, darling, you live in grimy poverty and perpetual coal dust. You have to scrub the dirt off your husband in a zinc bath every night and one of your sons is 24. I’m afraid you’ll look crummy most of the time – but it’s a wonderful part!”
  48. Claudette Colbert, Parrish, 1961.      Stage-screen director Joshua  Logan left his project (to Delmer Daves) when he could not get Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara for Warren Beatty’s parents! No young career would have survived such a gimmick. Instead, Beatty became Viv ‘s gigolo lover in The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone, 1961.
  49. Geraldine Page, Toys in the Attic, 1962.    “This turgid drama and his avid actors …get completely out of hand and run wild in a baffling confusion of theatrical bursts and attitudes.” Owch! That was the New York Times critic Bosley Crowther. As for Page, “she sizzles and pops and spins in circles. But what’s at the core of her? Who knows!” Double owch! Obviously, director George Roy Hill was out-of-his-depth and could not have better controlled the studio’s first, dream-wish cast. Katharine Hepburn, Gene Tierney and… and Vivien Leigh.
  50. Kate Reid, This Property Is Condemned. 1965.  Natalie Wood got it and wanted to work again with Robert Redford, just months after their Inside Daisy Clover. However, she did not win the battle for her mother. Nat wanted the great French Oscar-winner after Grayson Hall and Vivien Leigh passed. Redford seemed more in charge. He suggested the director, Sydney Pollack – the first of their seven movies. And they worked togethet on beefing up the mother’s role until ”we found something shootable.  Not necessarily Tennessee Williams but shootable.”  No, said Viv, ”a piece of shit.”

  51. Olivia  De  Havilland,  Hush  Hush  Sweet Charlotte, 1964.    
    Or, of course, What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte?  When Crawford agreed to battle anew with her old nemesis, Bette Davis, in another horror tale of two old biddies by Baby Jane author Henry Farrell. After locations in Louisiana, Joan was ill, although many said her “viral pneumonia” was unrequited love for Bette, who deliberately upset her by being mire friendly with their lesbian co-star Agnes Moorehead. Either way, Crawford was gone. Bette refused Katharine Hepburn or Vivien Leigh and director Robert Aldrich famouslytook three planes, a train and a taxi to her Swiss home to persuade Olivia  De Havilland to take over. (Bette refused Katharine Hepburn or Vivien Leigh).  “Livvie” agreed. Aldrich called Davis with the “secret: news. She told the media. And  Crawford (known to her intimates as “Billie”) cried for nine hours. She was furious with Aldrich.  “He let me hear it for the first time in a radio release, and, frankly, I think it stinks.”  She felt Bette was manipulating Aldrich “She’s practically directing the picture for him right in front of me, so God knows what else she’s up to behind my back. I might wind up on the cutting-room floor.”  None of them should have bothered. Charlotte was no Baby Jane.  And why no Livvy? “I can just about stand looking at Joan’s face at 6am, but not Bette Davis’ “

  52. Margaret Leighton, The Loved One, 1964.  “The motion picture with something to offend everyone…”  It would have been more so if Spanish legend Luis Buñuel had managed to  make it with Alec Guinness in  the mid-1950s. Instead, the newly Oscared UK director Tony Richardson made a mess of Evelyn Waugh’s 1948 satire of the American funeral home business. Best players on-screen were Milton Berle and Margaret Leighton arguing about how to bury their pet pooch. Such a flabbergasting mismatch, said Observer critic Charles Taylor.  in 2006., “no problem believing they’ve been married for years.” Richardson had hoped for larger mismatches: Phil Silvers wed to Vivien Leigh, Jeanne Moreau or Simone Signoret.   The first signed Agnes Moorehead was called back to Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte for re-shoots of her scenes with  Joan Crawford when she was replaced by Olivia De Havilland. The following year, Richardson directed Moreau in Mademoiselle and she was the co-respondent in Vanessa Redgrave’s divorce from him in 1967.

  53. Julie Christie, Far From The Madding Crowd, 1967.      About 20 years earlier, Hollywood director George Cukor aimed to film the Thomas Hardy classic. He was, however, in two minds about who – Olivia or Vivien Leigh –  should be the Bathsheba Everdene,  the flirtatious heroine juggling three admirers.  In 1966 and 2012, John Schlesinger and Thomas Vinterberg knew precisely who they wanted:  Julie Christie and Carey Mulligan.

  54. Anne Heywood, The Fox, 1968.       First choice for Howard Koch’s first script. Minus, no doubt, Anne’s  nude masturbation scene.
  55. Antonina Shuranova, Chaikovsky, USSR-USA, 1969.     Little interest from Hollywood after Ship of Fools sank but  Igor Talankin wanted Viv to  join  the  Russian  Hamlet, Innokenti Smoktunovsky, as Madame von Meck, the mistress of Peter Ilyich. Mildly interested until a new play came up, ironically called A Delicate Balance. With her own mind and health precariously balanced, she was found dead  by her  lover, actor Jack Merival,  on July 7, 1967.
  56. Beryl Reid, Entertaining Mr. Sloane, 1970.      “I saw the play in 1964  and I wanted  it for Vivien  and Mason,”  said  Silvio Narizzano. He also directed  another Joe Orton piece, Loot.
  57. Sandrine Bonnaire, La Peste/The Plague, France-Argentina-UK, 1991.   First film of the Albert Camus  book was announced by director Marcel Cravennne at  the second Cannes festival in 1947 – for Jean Gabin, Viv, Fernand Ledoux, Gérard Philippe.









 Birth year: 1913Death year: 1967Other name: Casting Calls:  57