Truly Madly

Truly, Madly: Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier and the romance of the century

By Stephen Galloway

What it’s about?

In 1934, a friend brought fledgling actress Vivien Leigh to see Theatre Royal, where she would first lay eyes on Laurence Olivier in his brilliant performance as Anthony Cavendish. That night, she confided to a friend, he was the man she was going to marry. There was just one problem: she was already married—and so was he.

TRULY, MADLY is the biography of a marriage, a love affair that still captivates millions, even decades after both actors’ deaths. Vivien and Larry were two of the first truly global celebrities – their fame fueled by the explosive growth of tabloids and television, which helped and hurt them in equal measure. They seemed to have it all and yet, in their own minds, they were doomed, blighted by her long-undiagnosed mental-illness, which transformed their relationship from the stuff of dreams into a living nightmare.

Through new research, including exclusive access to previously unpublished correspondence and interviews with their friends and family, author Stephen Galloway takes readers on a bewitching journey. He brilliantly studies their tempestuous liaison, one that took place against the backdrop of two world wars, the Golden Age of Hollywood and the upheavals of the 1960s — as they struggled with love, loss and the ultimate agony of their parting.  

What I think:

I have read quite a few of the Vivien Leigh biographies over the years. This is joint biography that focuses on the period of her marriage to Laurence Olivier.

Focusing on their passionate and volatile relationship, the book explore the impact that fame, obsession and mental illness had on one of the most famous theatre and screen couples.

Their love and passion for each other is so evident in the beginning of their relationship. Olivier is the bigger star and does everything he can to promote Leigh’s career. Their love letters are passionate and they clearly adore each other.

The details of Leigh’s mental health, which for so long is dismissed as being a temperamental actress, are so sad. Behind the glamour of the films and stage she struggles as her bipolar disorder becomes less manageable. Friends lose patience and her relationship with Olivier rapidly declines.

The final years of their marriage are so tragic as they try to maintain appearances against ill health, faltering careers and affairs.

There’s lots of new research and interviews with those friends and colleagues of the couple who are still alive.

This is a fascinating read.

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