VIVIEN LEIGH: A Biography by Anne Edwards
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VIVIEN LEIGH: A Biography

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Anne Edwards, who told all there was to tell about Judy Garland, has a far looser line on Vivien Scarlett-O'Hara Leigh--especially since ex-husband Olivier isn't talking--but that doesn't stop her from slipping us the Awful Truth: Vivien was a ""manicdepressive. . . diagnosed by more than one doctor as schizophrenic."" The disease doesn't show up until after Leigh has achieved semi-sudden stardom as Scarlett and hard-won wifedom as Lady Olivier--involving two divorces (Vivien was an upper-middle-class, teenaged wife and mother) and romantically notorious living in sin. Edwards is dandy with the ruthless young beauty, with Hollywood chatter, and Gone With the Wind artistic differences (""Miss Leigh, you can stick this script up your royal British ass!""), and with Leigh's exquisite hats and gowns. But Leigh's London theater and mental illness find her floundering. Digressions into Oliver's career produce oversimplifications of his Freudian Hamlet and Iago, and Kenneth Tynan's ""devastating. . . slashing diatribe"" on Vivien's Cleopatra is made much of but denied detail or quotation. This same vagueness and non-documentation become more pronounced--and much more crucial--when Vivien's depressive reactions to Oliver's success switch to hysterical, ""almost totally paranoid"" fits (forgotten afterward) and unspecified spells of unspecified promiscuity (deliverymen, taxi drivers). ""Being manic-depressive was not like having a cold,"" but, as Vivien's career goes downhill from Streetcar Named Desire to Ship of Fools--losing Olivier to plain Joan Plowright--Edwards can't do much but record rumors (""She was capable of stripping naked in front of people and screaming obscenities"") and sensationalize a complex problem into ""Jekyll and Hyde."" First husband Leigh Holman (he gave her his names and lifelong friendship) and last lover Jack Merivale supply sympathetic input, but, with Olivier's silence and Edwards' cliches (hearts are ""heavy,"" chests are ""manly,"" bearings are ""regal""), this conjecturama around ""the great lady who could be a street girl"" must rely on sheer gossip-power and still-tappable memories of Tara.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1977
Publisher: Simon & Schuster