Dark Star
Vivien Leigh was perhaps the most iconic actress of the twentieth-century. As Scarlett O'Hara and Blanche Du Bois she took on some of the most pivotal roles in cinema history. Yet she was also a talented theatre actress with West End and Broadway plaudits to her name. In this ground-breaking new biography, Alan Strachan provides a completely new full-life portrait of Leigh, covering both her professional and personal life. Using previously-unseen sources from her archive, recently acquired by the V&A, he sheds new light on her fractious relationship with Laurence Olivier, based on their letters and diaries, as well as on the bipolar disorder which so affected her later life and work. Revealing new aspects of her early life as well as providing glimpses behind-the-scenes of the filming of "Gone with the Wind" and "A Streetcar Named Desire," this book provides the essential and comprehensive life-story of one of the twentieth century's greatest actresses.

Dark Star Details

TitleDark Star
Author
ReleaseFeb 28th, 2019
PublisherI.B. Tauris
ISBN-139781788312080
Rating
GenreBiography, Nonfiction, Culture, Film

Dark Star Review

  • Kendra Bean
    January 1, 1970
    I reviewed the book at vivandlarry.com —http://vivandlarry.com/books/book-cor...
  • Tara
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to her unforgettable roles in Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire, Vivien Leigh is an enduring icon of the twentieth century. Nonetheless, her talent and achievements have often been overshadowed by her extraordinary beauty and charm, and her rather turbulent private life. She also died quite suddenly, and missed out on the honours afforded to other great English actors. This is what the title, 'Dark Star', refers to and attempts to uncover. After Leigh's personal archive was Thanks to her unforgettable roles in Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire, Vivien Leigh is an enduring icon of the twentieth century. Nonetheless, her talent and achievements have often been overshadowed by her extraordinary beauty and charm, and her rather turbulent private life. She also died quite suddenly, and missed out on the honours afforded to other great English actors. This is what the title, 'Dark Star', refers to and attempts to uncover. After Leigh's personal archive was donated to the V&A in 2013, Strachan is the first biographer to have full access to these materials, including her diaries from 1930-67. He is also one of the lucky few to have seen her onstage. A director himself, he places equal emphasis on her distinguished career in the theatre as to her movies. While not glossing over the tribulations of her marriage to Sir Laurence Olivier, and her heartbreaking struggle with manic depression, he also corrects errors made by previous authors and some of the more outlandish rumours that have surfaced in recent years. Not being an expert on the subject, I can't say how much of this book will be new to fans. But for me, the latter part was especially gripping, and gave me a new respect for how Leigh survived the loss of her great love and emotional breakdowns, and managed to get her life and career back on track against daunting odds.
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  • Irene Xandra
    January 1, 1970
    It is a biography that takes advantage of numerous previously published sources and of the research in the Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier archives. It covers both the professional activity and the personal life, the latter with an emphasis on her manic depression and her relationship to Laurence Olivier, extendedly explained.The author tries to give a larger context of her work, analysing aspects that are normally overlooked like technical details of the films and plays, cinematography, costu It is a biography that takes advantage of numerous previously published sources and of the research in the Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier archives. It covers both the professional activity and the personal life, the latter with an emphasis on her manic depression and her relationship to Laurence Olivier, extendedly explained.The author tries to give a larger context of her work, analysing aspects that are normally overlooked like technical details of the films and plays, cinematography, costumes, decors, etc.Probably as the author is deeply involved in the theatrical world he produced views and opinions of the old plays like a direct witness. For me, it's difficult to assess his comments and the quality of the plays that no one living today has ever had a chance to see. But sometimes the story is overcrowded with many names of people (and their personal history) that are marginal to the main story and make it hard to follow. These are also moments when the writing style, otherwise agreeable, gets lost among too many parentheses. On the other hand there are many things that are missing, like Vivien's views, on her characters, her favourite roles, her ambivalent attitude towards Scarlett, her defending of Blanche, her understanding of Anna Karenina, her approach to acting, etc, opinions of her co-stars, directors, etc.Sometimes the outside view on her career should have given more space to the inside one, voiced by the people directly involved, instead of the "objective" film reviewer perspective. Because of this, some films get less space of development and are treated more superficially, as the author lets it be known that they are not his favourites, for example Roman Spring and Ship of Fools.On the personal life side, the author tried to explain the relationships from their different points of view of the characters involved and their personal history heritage.There are little things that I've read for the first time, a bit of Gertrude and her take on Vivien's illness, a bit of Suzanne and her care and concern for her mother's life. Also reproducing statements from her doctor give a more complete view, as do the fragments from previous drafts of Larry's Confessions.In my opinion, the research didn't exhaust all possible sources and it fails to produce Vivien's personal point of view. Not much of Vivien's voice is heard, since the information from her diaries is of a telegraphic nature (got married - had a baby - left with Larry - lost a baby). Probably a more in-depth view in other people's archives and other sources would have produced better results, like when the author did quote from letters Vivien addressed to Noel Coward and Tarquin Olivier for example, that do state her thoughts and feelings in a less laconic style of writing.And finally, the book shows an odd choice of photographs, as if the author remembered at the last minute before publication that he should include some. Especially intriguing is the fact that among so few photos one of Kenneth Tynan found its place. Otherwise, Tynan's place and his negative role in Vivien's life and career is well proven in the text of the book. I didn't feel the need to put a face on one of Vivien's demons and waste that space on the page. On the whole, it is a good enough book, a serious biography, that incorporates many of the good sources from previously published books, with a few extra things from the new sources available.On the career side, the voice of the film / theatre reviewer is too obvious and overshadows the voice of the people directly involved.On the personal side, the author tries to give more space to the characters, their thoughts, enveloped in pertinent explanations from an outside point of view.
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  • Emma Cannon
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating book. Access to the Vivien Leigh Archive means there is new research and addresses some of the rumours and stories that are factually incorrect. A multilayered biography of a complex and talent woman.
  • Cari Dummett
    January 1, 1970
    Best biography of Vivien Leigh that I have read.
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