21 October 2011 | MartinHafer
A decent biography that actually made me feel a bit sorry for Olivier.
I've seen a few biographies about Vivian Leigh and this one made for Turner Classic Movies is probably the best. It isn't perfect, but does a good job of encapsulating her life and career.
The story begins in India--where Vivian was born. I was saddened to hear that at a very early age (I think 6), she was sent off to England for schooling--and was away from her family for about a decade. I know that sort of thing was done back then, but you wonder how much of an impact this had on her--it surely couldn't have been good. And, considering her instability as an adult, perhaps the impact was disastrous. Now I am not blaming Vivian's bipolar disorder on this but you do wonder if it somehow contributed to it or exacerbated it. Sad.
The film then discusses her stage and film successes as well as her tempestuous relationship with Laurence Olivier. Now I have always disliked the pair as people, as they both left spouses in order to move in together. This selfishness was, at times, excused as some great love affair by the folks they interviewed for the film and I guess that's just how show type people are--but it seemed pretty sad. However, when I heard more about how she mistreated Olivier almost from the very beginning, I felt a bit sad for him as well--as well as her announcing (as per IMDb) that she'd been having affairs and wasn't interested in him any more sexually (ouch!!). But this wasn't mentioned in the show--just that she was increasingly unstable. Perhaps the folks making the film just wanted to make her look great and fill the viewer with a sense of awe...but it did seem a bit dishonest. Now I DO understand that folks with bipolar disorders do act this way sometimes--much of it due to the illness. But it would have put the end of their marriage in a much clearer context.
Apart from this, the film is everything you'd expect---interviews, film clips, photos, etc.. I noticed one reviewer commented that Jessica Lange's narration was not especially good. I would agree--though I am sure she's a nice person. It's just that her expressions and speech sometimes didn't seem to match what she was discussing.