Vivien Leigh would’ve celebrated her 105th birthday on November 5, 2018. The two-time Oscar inner made only a handful of films before her untimely death in 1967 at the age of 53. Yet several of those titles remain classics. Let’s take a look back at 10 of her greatest films, ranked worst to best.
Born in British India, Leigh appeared in a number of roles on both the stage and screen in England, including a production of “Hamlet” opposite her husband, Laurence Olivier (she played the mentally unstable Ophelia, a role that would prove tragically homogenous).
She came to international attention after landing the coveted role of Scarlet O’Hara in David O. Selznick’s massive adaptation of Margaret Mitchell‘s bestseller “Gone with the Wind” (1939). Leigh was far from the first choice to embody the headstrong Southern belle who pines after a married man (Leslie Howard) while wedding another (Clark Gable) against the backdrop of the Civil War. Yet the relatively unknown thespian beat out the likes of Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Lucille Ball and Katharine Hepburn (to name but a few) for the role, and won the first of two Best Actress Oscars for her efforts.
Leigh made relatively few films throughout the 1940s, as her bipolar disorder led to periods of inactivity. She made a triumphant return as Blanche DuBois, the delicate, disturbed debutante escaping a sordid past, in Elia Kazan‘s “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951). Leigh replaced Jessica Tandy for the screen version of the controversial Tennessee Williams play, joining original players Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden. The film earned her a second Best Actress trophy, as well as a BAFTA win and Golden Globe nomination.
Though she made very few films, Leigh was active on the stage, winning a Tony as Best Actress in a Musical for “Tovarich” in 1963. She appeared in several productions directed by Olivier, including Thornton Wilder‘s “The Skin of Our Teeth” and Shakespeare’s “Richard III.”
Tour our photo gallery of Leigh’s 10 greatest films. Though only two earned her Oscar nominations, all contain awards-worthy performances.
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