Entertainment & Arts

Vivien Leigh archive acquired by V&A

Still from Gone With The Wind
Image caption Vivien Leigh won an Oscar for her role in Gone With The Wind

London's Victoria and Albert Museum has acquired the archive of Oscar-winning British actress Vivien Leigh.

The archive contains many never-before-seen items, including affectionate letters between the Gone With The Wind star and her husband, Laurence Olivier.

It also features diaries, photographs, annotated film and theatre scripts and her numerous awards.

A changing selection of material from the archive will be on display from this autumn.

The archive was acquired by the V&A from Leigh's grandchildren.

It covers all aspects of her life and career, detailed in diaries which the star started writing when she was 16 years old in 1929 and kept until her death in 1967.

Image caption A collection of the star's newspaper clippings form part of the archive

"It really explores the life of one of Great Britain's most celebrated performers," curator Keith Lodwick told the BBC.

"The archive has never been publicly available before so we're discovering nuggets of information about Vivien Leigh that haven't been documented before and have given a fresh insight to her life."

The actress meticulously catalogued more than 7,500 personal letters from friends and colleagues, addressed to both her and Olivier, including missives from TS Eliot, Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother.

Another letter from playwright Tennessee Williams, written in 1950, praised Leigh for her Oscar-winning role in the film version of his play A Streetcar Named Desire.

"It is needless to repeat here my truly huge happiness over the picture and particularly your part in it. It is the Blanche I had always dreamed of and I am grateful to you for bringing it so beautifully to life on the screen," he wrote.

Also on display will be the visitors' book for Leigh and Olivier's Notley Abbey home in Buckinghamshire.

Image caption Leigh kept a personal diary for 38 years

Among the signatories were Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Orson Welles, Judy Garland and Rex Harrison.

"It's an extraordinary who's who of mid-century theatre and film," Mr Lodwick said. "Imagine to have been a fly on the wall for those parties."

"There are also really beautiful backstage photographs that have never been published before, as well as photographs taken by Leigh herself when she was on touring North America with Duel of Angels.

"She photographed herself on location and with friends at dinner - and they're all in colour which is quite rare."

The V&A will make the archive available for research once cataloguing has been completed. Digital records will also be available on its website.

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