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The 3 Roles That Defined Vivien Leigh's Career

By    |   Friday, 05 Jun 2015 09:50 AM

In a movie career that only spanned 19 films, Vivien Leigh was a talented enough actress to make her mark in almost every performance, even roles where she took the supporting role such as 1937's "Fire Over England" and 1938's "A Yank at Oxford."

However, when she took top billing, there were a few films where she put in unforgettable performances.

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Here is a look at three of those roles:

1. "Scarlett O'Hara, "Gone with the Wind" (1939)
There are some critics out there who say that "Gone with the Wind" may be the best movie ever made – it definitely finds itself on many all-time top 10 lists.

Many of those critics also laud Leigh's performance as trouble Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara as the best female performance in history. Whether this is true or not is a matter of opinion, but her turn as Scarlett is definitely one of the most memorable all time.

Film critic Roger Ebert said of the pairing of Clark Gable and Leigh, "Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh were well matched in the two most coveted movie roles of the era."

The performance netted Leigh a Best Actress Academy Award as well as a number of other accolades and made her one of Hollywood's (and London's) most sought after actresses.

2. Emma (Lady Hamilton), "That Hamilton Woman" (1941)
Leigh found herself in another historical drama, one that tells the story of a one-time dance hall girl who ends up courting some of the most powerful men in British history, including Sir William Hamilton and Admiral Horatio Nelson.

The story is told in flashbacks from the point of view from the aging women. Her love life is threatened by the repercussions of the Napoleonic Wars, and follows her path to despair after Nelson's death.

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The New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther said of Leigh's performance, "Vivien Leigh's entire performance as Lady Hamilton is delightful to behold. All of the charm and grace and spirit which Miss Leigh contains is beautifully put to use to capture the subtle spell which Emma most assuredly must have weaved."

3. Blanche DuBois, "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951)
Most actresses, even the most talented ones throughout history, are lucky if they have one role for which they are remembered. Leigh caught lightning in a bottle not once, but twice – the second time being her performance as Blanche DuBois in the movie version of Tennessee Williams's play, "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Leigh more than holds her own against powerhouse performance by Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, and Kim Hunter as she takes on the Southern bell e role on once again, this time as a fading one.

AMC Filmsite notes that the transition from Scarlett O'Hara to Blanche DuBois should have been an easy one Leigh. "Vivien Leigh's character was a logical extension from her Scarlett O'Hara role in "Gone with the Wind" (1939) – a post-Rhett Butler Southern belle exhibiting a patrician façade."

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In a movie career that only spanned 19 films, Vivien Leigh was a talented enough actress to make her mark in almost every performance, even roles where she took the supporting role such as 1937's "Fire Over England" and 1938's "A Yank at Oxford."
vivien leigh, roles, career
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2015-50-05
Friday, 05 Jun 2015 09:50 AM
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