18 Fascinating Facts About Vivien Leigh

Sasha/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Sasha/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Vivien Leigh is famous for beating 1400 other actresses to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. But Leigh’s own life, which was filled with dramatic highs and lows, was as colorful and tumultuous as Scarlett herself. Here are 18 things you might not have known about the iconic actress.

1. SHE ALWAYS KNEW SHE WANTED TO BE AN ACTOR.

At age three, Vivian Mary Hartley recited "Little Bo Peep" for her mother’s theater group and was hooked. Her friend Maureen O’Sullivan—who went on to play Jane in the Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller—said of her childhood friend, “Vivien always wanted to be an actress. She was single-minded. She was the only girl in the school to take ballet, for instance. She took it alone, the only one. I thought it was rather brave of her.”

2. SHE HAD A GREAT MEMORY.

When Leigh was just a child, her mother played a game from Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim to help develop her memory. She would put objects on a tray, let Leigh study them, and then clear the tray so the child could recreate the tableau. As an adult, Leigh had a near-photographic memory. She knew all her lines after only one or two readings of a play.

3. SHE NARROWLY AVOIDED BEING CALLED APRIL MORN.

When Leigh was 19, she married a wealthy barrister named Leigh Holman. Her new position as wife didn’t deter her acting ambition one bit, not even when she got pregnant with her daughter, Suzanne. Her agent wanted her to pick a stage name and made several suggestions, including “April Morn.” Instead, she settled on Leigh, her husband’s name, and changed the spelling of her first name from Vivian to the more feminine Vivien.

4. LEIGH'S FIRST MOVIE WAS THINGS ARE LOOKING UP.

In 1935, Leigh was cast as an extra in Things Are Looking Up. She only had one line.

5. SHE BEGAN A PASSIONATE AFFAIR WITH LAURENCE OLIVIER.

In 1936, Leigh saw Olivier in a play and whispered to her friend, “That’s the man I’m going to marry.” Her friend pointed out that she was already married—and so was he. That didn’t stop Leigh from visiting Olivier in the dressing room, where, as she was leaving, she kissed the back of his neck.

They were cast in Fire Over England together and a long, guilt-ridden affair began. In 1940, they finally divorced their spouses and got married. (Check out this steamy love letter Olivier wrote Leigh around this time.)

6. SHE TURNED DOWN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN WUTHERING HEIGHTS.

When Olivier was cast as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, Leigh campaigned to play opposite him as Cathy. Instead, director William Wyler offered her the supporting role of Isabella. Leigh, who was perhaps already focusing on Scarlett O’Hara, said, “I’ll play Cathy or I’ll play nothing.” Wyler thought she was crazy and later recalled saying, “"For a first part [in Hollywood], you’ll never get anything better than Isabella.' I made this deathless prediction. She sure showed me.”

7. FILMING GONE WITH THE WIND WAS EXHAUSTING.

Famously, Leigh won the role of Scarlett O’Hara over hundreds of actresses, including heavyweights like Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, and Paulette Goddard. During filming, Leigh worked 16 hours a day, six days a week, for 125 days. Cammie Conlon, who played Bonnie Blue Butler, said, “I have candids of her taken on set. She is exhausted. She is exhausted. She was in every scene, almost.” To deal with the stress, Leigh chain-smoked, burning through four packs of cigarettes a day.

Incidentally, Leigh was paid $25,000 for Gone With The Wind. Clark Gable, who worked 71 days, was paid $120,000.

8. DESERVEDLY, LEIGH WON AN OSCAR FOR HER PERFORMANCE IN GONE WITH THE WIND.

Leigh took home the trophy for Best Actress in 1939.

9. DESPITE HER SUCCESS, LEIGH WAS REJECTED FOR A PART IN REBECCA.

When Olivier was cast in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca, Leigh set her heart on playing Mrs. de Winter. But no one—not even Olivier—thought she was right for the character, who is supposed to be timid and weak. Leigh was thought too fiery and confident, and the part went to Joan Fontaine. (You can watch her screen test for Rebecca above.)

10. A FALL DURING FILMING LED TO A MISCARRIAGE—AND A BREAKDOWN.

During the filming of Caesar and Cleopatra, Leigh discovered she was pregnant with Olivier’s child. One day, while filming a scene where she had to run across a polished floor, she slipped and fell, causing a miscarriage. Some believe this trauma led to a mental breakdown. Leigh became deeply depressed and started lashing out at people over nothing, or she became hyperactive, staying up all night long. She was showing signs of what would later be diagnosed as bipolar disorder.

11. SHE WON A SECOND OSCAR FOR PLAYING A SOUTHERN BELLE.

In 1949, Leigh starred in the London production of Tennessee Williams’s new play A Streetcar Named Desire, playing Blanche DuBois, a faded Southern belle on the verge of psychosis. Olivier directed the play. Soon after, Leigh was hired to star in the movie version opposite Marlon Brando. The performance won her a second Oscar.

12. LEIGH BELIEVED PLAYING BLANCHE “TIPPED” HER INTO MENTAL ILLNESS.

While A Streetcar Named Desire was a professional triumph, playing Blanche took a toll on Leigh’s mental health. Identifying with someone so near insanity was overwhelming for Leigh and she absorbed Blanche’s psychology in a way that was hard for her to let go of. Later, when she was ill, she would often recite lines from the play. As she put it, “Blanche is a woman with everything stripped away. She is a tragic figure and I understand her. But, playing her tipped me into madness.”

13. SHE WAS REPLACED BY ELIZABETH TAYLOR IN ELEPHANT WALK.

The final mental break came for Leigh during filming of what would have been her next movie, Elephant Walk. On the set, she was erratic and paranoid, and then she began to hallucinate. She was sent back to Los Angeles, where she was hospitalized and given electroshock therapy—the only treatment for bipolar disorder at the time. Elizabeth Taylor took over the role.

14. THE MOVIE THE V.I.P.S WAS BASED ON LEIGH’S AFFAIR WITH PETER FINCH.

Speaking of Elizabeth Taylor: Part of Leigh’s illness manifested in increased libido, which led to several extramarital affairs, including one with Australian actor Peter Finch. This, along with the strain of her illness and other factors, led to the breakdown of her marriage. The Oliviers divorced in 1960, after 20 years of marriage.

In 1961, Leigh told screenwriter Terence Rattigan that she and Finch almost ran away together. They got to the VIP lounge at Heathrow Airport when they learned that fog had grounded all the flights. While waiting for the fog to lift, Leigh decided to stay with Olivier. Intrigued by this idea, Rattigan wrote The V.I.P.s, starring another famous couple, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

15. SHE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED STAGE ACTRESS.

While we think of Leigh as a movie star, she worked as much—if not more—in the theater. Despite mental and physical illnesses, she was constantly rehearsing or performing. She played major Shakespearean roles, from Ophelia to Viola to Lady Macbeth, and starred in works by contemporaries like Thornton Wilder and Noël Coward. She also won a Tony for the Broadway musical adaptation of Tovarich in 1963.

16. SHE HAD NO PATIENCE FOR CONDESCENDING CRITICS.

Here she is putting one in his place:

This clip is from the TV show Small World, hosted by Edward R. Murrow, where Leigh discusses film with critic Ken Tynan and producer Samuel Goldwyn. It speaks for itself.

17. SHE WAS ONLY 53 WHEN SHE DIED.

In 1944, Leigh was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and continued to battle it throughout her life. In the spring of 1967, she suffered a recurrent bout of the disease, but seemed to get better after convalescing. Then in July, she was trying to make her way to the bathroom when her lung filled with liquid and she collapsed and died. She was only 53 years old. The West End theater marquees were kept dark for an hour in her honor.

18. SHE WAS A FINE DANCER.

Here she is dancing the Charleston in her last fim, Ship Of Fools.

11 Masks That Will Keep You Safe and Stylish

Design Safe/Designer Face Covers/Its All Goods
Design Safe/Designer Face Covers/Its All Goods

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21 Defunct Disney Park Rides and Lands

Some of Disney's most beloved rides and attractions have gone the way of the Dodo.
Some of Disney's most beloved rides and attractions have gone the way of the Dodo.
Paul Rovere/Getty Images

Over the course of their 65-year history, Disney's parks have hosted a lot of rides—including many that didn't last. Here are a few defunct rides and lands you should know about, adapted from an episode of The List Show on YouTube.

1. Superstar Limo

Did you know that Jackie Chan, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cher were once featured in a Disney ride? It sounds fun, but Disney visitors were not a fan of Superstar Limo, which didn’t even make it a single year at California Adventure in the early 2000s. It was a slow ride through Los Angeles featuring audio animatronics of those celebrities and others. Maybe it would have been more successful as one of the later ideas for the ride: Miss Piggy’s Limo Service.

2. ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter

Walt Disney World once had an attraction inspired by the movie Alien. During ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, guests were terrorized in the dark by an escaped alien. It was frightening enough that only people over the age of 12 were recommended to experience the Encounter. While the attraction was in early stages, it was going to be called Alien Encounter and feature a Xenomorph from the Alien movies. But the park’s Imagineers objected to building a ride around R-rated fare in Tomorrowland, which was meant to have an optimistic vision of the future. As a result, the creature ended up just becoming a generic—but still very scary!—alien. It did have another cool Hollywood connection, though: George Lucas was one of the designers. ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter lived in the Magic Kingdom from 1995 to 2003, when it was replaced with a Lilo and Stitch attraction (which was itself dismantled in 2018).

3. Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour

This ride in Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1986 and was operational for 20 years. A tour guide took groups on a journey involving confrontations with Disney villains from Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Fantasia, and Pinocchio. These were done the way that Disney does best: a combination of video and animatronics. The big finale featured the Horned King from the film The Black Cauldron. It involved him saying that the guests were now trapped and would be sacrificed to the cauldron. One person who was given a sword earlier on the tour pointed it at the Horned King and "destroyed" him (there was a flash of light, then he disappeared).

4. Submarine Voyage

For almost 40 years, Disneyland maintained the Submarine Voyage ride. Riders would enter a submarine that was on a track. The submarine then looked like it was being submerged in water and proceeded to move slowly past various creatures, like turtles, fish, and mermaids. When the ride opened in 1959, the submarines were gray and named after actual U.S. navy submarines. In the ‘80s, they were painted yellow and given exploration-related names like "Explorer" and "Seeker." In 2007, the ride reopened at Disneyland with a Finding Nemo theme. At that time, more sub names in line with the explorer theme were added, like "Seafarer" and "Voyager." A Walt Disney World version similar to the original lasted from 1971 through 1994.

5. and 6. Rainbow Mountain Stagecoach Ride and Rainbow Caverns Mine Train

Two of the earliest rides at Disneyland were the Rainbow Mountain Stagecoach Ride and the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train, which were part of Frontierland. The Stagecoach Ride had actual stagecoaches led by actual horses going through a desert. It opened in the mid-’50s and closed in 1959.

The Mine Train journeyed through illuminated caverns, and would later turn into Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland. In 1979, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad took over the spot. But if you ride that roller coaster, you can still see evidence of the Mine Train. In the queue for Big Thunder Mountain, there are pieces from a town that were part of the old ride. The same queue leads you through a Ventilation Service Room where there’s a map with a section labeled “Rainbow Caverns.”

7. Flying Saucers

Flying Saucers existed for five years in the early 1960s at Disneyland. They looked like bumper cars, but they were slightly lifted above the ground thanks to air vents beneath the ride. Like air hockey, but with flying saucers. According to the site Yesterland, Flying Saucers used technology that was developed and patented especially for the ride. When it opened, the Los Angeles Times reported, “The Flying Saucer ride cost $400,000 to build, Each saucer is ‘blown’ 8 inches off the ground and is under constant control of its pilot,” a.k.a., a park guest, who moved the saucer by shifting their body in the direction they wanted to go. Part of the problem was that only people within a specific weight range could do that effectively. Flying Saucers was ultimately closed for a redesign of Tomorrowland.

8. If You Had Wings

Disney is really into flying. Between 1972 and 1987, Walt Disney World had a ride sponsored by Eastern Airlines called If You Had Wings. Passengers got on an omnimover—that line of cars that you can, in theory, board without them ever stopping—which “flew” them around the world (the world being animatronic scenes of places like Mexico, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico).

9. and 10. If You Could Fly and Delta Dreamflight

If You Had Wings briefly became known as If You Could Fly, and in 1989 turned into Delta Dreamflight. That’s right: a new sponsor. The idea was similar, but it was now an homage to airplanes. Passengers got a glimpse of aviation’s history and potential future. Buzz LightYear’s Space Ranger Spin is now where If You Had Wings and Delta Dreamflight once were.

11. Horizons

From the mid-1980s through the late-'90s, Horizons was a hugely popular ride at Epcot. Guests rode through 24 animatronic, futuristic sets. (According to Disney, the future holds robot butlers, robot chefs, and domesticated seals.) At the end of the ride, the car would let you vote on how you wanted to be returned home—through a space, desert, or ocean scene. Nowadays, Mission: SPACE sits in Horizon’s place.

12. Rocket Rods

Rocket Rods only lasted about three years. It was a high-speed thrill ride that used an old track that had belonged to the much slower People Mover ride—which ended up being its demise. The coaster broke down too often and permanently closed in 2001.

13. Adventure Thru Inner Space

Starting in 1967, for almost two decades, Disneyland guests could experience what it was like to be microscopic while riding Adventure Thru Inner Space. People waiting in line would watch as passengers sat in pods, went through a 37-foot-long microscope and were "shrunk" (in reality, they were replaced by 8-inch tall replicas on screen). While on the ride, they’d go through scenes of becoming smaller than a snowflake, mostly by watching videos.

14. Body Wars

On Body Wars—which was located at Epcot’s Wonders of Life Pavilion and operated from 1989 until January 1, 2007—40 riders took a journey through the human body. They were jostled around, causing motion sickness for many, as they watched a video of their dramatic chase. Fun fact: The video was directed by Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy. Even funner fact: The other famous Wonders of Life pavilion attraction was The Making of Me, where Martin Short learned how he was conceived. (Apparently they had a disclaimer about all the sexy stuff at the entrance to the attraction.)

15. Maelstrom

Maelstrom lasted a bit longer at Epcot, between 1988 and 2014, before it was replaced by a Frozen ride. It was a boat journey through the “history” of Norway, though that history involved some embellishment ... like an animatronic three-headed troll.

16. The Great Movie Ride

The Great Movie Ride was at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios from 1989 through 2017. Guests entered a building that looked like the famous Grauman’s (now TCL) Chinese Theatre, boarded a car, and traveled through scenes from 12 movies, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, Alien, Singin’ in the Rain, and The Wizard of Oz, as well as a montage of a bunch more classic films. Drama ensued when a live actor hijacked the ride. It closed in 2017.

17. and 18. Rocket to the Moon and Mission to Mars

In 1955, Disneyland had a simulation called Rocket to the Moon that showed patrons what it would be like to, well, travel to the moon. It closed in 1966, and a year later was replaced by Flight to the Moon, which became way less exciting when Apollo 11 actually landed on the moon in 1969. The area became Mission to Mars in 1975. That ride closed in 1993, and later, the space became … ExtraTerrorestrial!

19. Holidayland

Holidayland, part of Disneyland between 1957 and 1961, was actually a 9-acre area just outside of Disneyland. It was less ride-oriented and instead contained picnic spots, sports fields, and a large tent for performances.

20. Camp Minnie-Mickey and Beastly Kingdom

In the early days of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, the company wanted to include a Beastly Kingdom in homage to fake creatures like dragons and unicorns. While prepping for that, Camp Minnie-Mickey went up in 1998, intended to be a temporary placeholder until Beastly Kingdom was ready to be built. Well, now we don’t have either; Beastly Kingdom never came to be and the camp-themed section closed in 2014.

21. Lilliputian Land

Finally, one land that never became a land: Lilliputian Land. We know that Walt Disney wanted part of Disneyland to be based on a section of the book Gulliver’s Travels thanks to a map drawn in 1953. With everything in that area made to look tiny, like fake people, guests would feel like giants. It’s thought that some of the DNA of Lilliputian Land can still be seen on the Storybook Land Canal Boats.