LIFE With Vivien Leigh: Photos of a Film Legend Gone Too Soon

Vivien Leigh, as Scarlett O'Hara, in a scene from 'Gone With the Wind,' 1939
Peter Stackpole—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Vivien Leigh, as Scarlett O'Hara, in a scene from Gone With the Wind, 1939.
Actresses
'30s

Vivien Leigh was one of the silver screen’s true legends: an incendiary talent who won two Best Actress Oscars, famously married (and divorced) another towering artist, Laurence Olivier, and was celebrated during much of her lifetime as a star of the first magnitude both on the stage and in the movies.

But Leigh, who would have been 100 years old today (she was born Nov. 5, 1913, in Darjeeling, India), also endured hellish hardships during her too-short life. She suffered from bipolar disorder, threw herself into calamitous extramarital affairs and died of tuberculosis — from which she had suffered for years when she finally succumbed to the disease, at just 53 years old, in 1967.

Here, on her 100th birthday, LIFE.com remembers the beautiful, mercurial Leigh with two photographs: one of her in the role of the archetypal tempestuous Southern belle, Scarlett O’Hara, and the other made in 1940 at her home in California, with the actress holding the Oscar she won for that iconic performance in Gone With the Wind.

Her second Best Actress Academy Award, for her incarnation as Blanche DuBois in the 1951 Elia Kazan classic, A Streetcar Named Desire, honored a performance that, for many movie fans, was far and away more powerful than her turn as Scarlett. Leigh herself, however, later reportedly said that playing the alcoholic, idealistic, profoundly damaged Blanche “tipped [her] over into madness.”

Vivien Leigh was laid to rest in East Sussex, England. To this day, although she appeared in fewer than two dozen films in her entire career, she is still considered one of the greatest female movie stars of all time.

Vivien Leigh places the Oscar she won for her role as Scarlett in 'Gone With The Wind' on her mantlepiece at home, 1940.

Peter Stackpole—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Vivien Leigh places the Oscar she won for her role as Scarlett in Gone With the Wind on her mantle at home, 1940.

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