Vivien: The Vivien Leigh Collection, Sotheby’s, New Bond Street, London W1, 26th September 2017
Vivien Leigh was one of the most beautiful and talented actresses to ever grace both stage and screen and now she is once again the star of the show when Sotheby’s auctions hundreds of items belonging to her in London on 26 September.
From Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind to Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire and Karen Stone in The Roman Spring Of Mrs Stone Vivien almost reflected her own life in her films. The feckless Scarlett ‘thinking about it tomorrow’ is Vivien in her early theatrical pursuits where she was a whirlwind jumping from (mainly) success to success then Blanche sadly shows us Vivien in her troubled years long before bi-polar personalities had been categorised. Then finally we have Karen Stone a bewildered widow who falls for the ersatz charm of an Italian gigolo played by Warren Beatty complete with cod Italian accent. Mrs Stone has found a new way of living and remains a sad but noble survivor.
When I was ten years old I saw Vivien on stage at the Kings Theatre in Glasgow in Noel Coward’s South Sea Bubble and can still recall the ‘presence’ that came across the footlights.
The items in this sale include diaries, family photographs, paintings as well as library and personal items – even the wig she wore as Blanche. I was quite surprised and delighted to see that Vivien possessed a similarly framed item exactly the same as one I recently bought in a charity shop. It is a sketch by Ronald Searle published in Punch in January 1957 as part of his Heroes of our Time series entitled Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. – not Lady Olivier! In it Vivien looks out from the sketch brightly and vivaciously whilst Sir Laurence is in the foreground in his Richard lll costume and make up, including the hump, and looking out at us resignedly, cigarette clutched firmly between his fingers.
The accompanying catalogue features many lovely photos of Vivien but then how could you take an unlovely one?