I take God as my witness that I will never go hungry again. One of the most mythical phrases in the history of cinema, pronounced by one of the most unforgettable characters: Scarlet O’Hara. A role that always accompanied Vivien Leigh, despite the fact that it was never a burden for her, as she explains to The confidential Jose Madrid, author of Vivien Leigh, the tragedy of Scarlett O’Hara (T&B Editores), the first biography in Castilian of the star.
The author novels the most important passages in the life of the actress and tells unknown data to the reader such as her time in Torremolinos, as well as her stormy relationship con Laurence Olivier. The green eyes that made Hollywood fall in love now revive in the pages of this book.
How did the idea of telling the life of Vivien Leigh come about?
I liked him since I was a child. One of my first memories is the night my aunt took me to bed without letting me finish seeing gone With the Wind. When I was able to finish it, at the age of fifteen, it seemed like a movie and an amazing performance. He had never seen such strength in an actress.
How is it possible that until now there was no biography of him in Spanish?
One of the first statements I was told by various publishers was that only Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn continue to sell products for themselves. I think that Vivien Leigh is thought to be no longer relevant, but it is clear that there was a story behind to tell, since her life was tumultuous and, in addition, she is still the protagonist of one of the most famous films of the 20th century. It is evident that this editorial gap had to be filled.
Why did you decide to romance certain passages in your life?
I see Vivien Leigh as a character from Romanticism, from a 19th century novel. Something like a Lady of the Camellias, with her tuberculosis, her depressions and her tragic roles. It was clear that his own life is a novel and, based on reality, I wanted to invent dialogues and use narrative devices such as flashbacks to better explain to the reader the different aspects of his story.
What passages will most surprise readers?
Those that have never been counted, such as her time in Torremolinos or the fact that her last maid, the woman who spent the last four years of her life very close to her, was from La Rioja. They are stories that bring his figure closer to Spain. For all those who still imagine her as an idealized Scarlet O’Hara, it is evident that they are going to meet a complex character who bordered on madness and lived on the edge.
Do you think your beauty was a drag on your career?
Undoubtedly. The damn beauty thing was already said by the British tabloids the day she died. Being so pretty caused her to never be taken seriously in her acting career. More than an advantage, it was a problem because she was very rigorous in her profession and, in fact, always preferred the effort of the theater to the tinsel of the cinema.
From childhood she suffered from bipolar disorder, was she aware of her illness?
It was not until after 30 and at a time when it was quite difficult to make a firm diagnosis of these types of diseases.
How did it affect your life?
Not only did it affect his personal life with numerous crises that undermined his marriage, but it also prevented him from going even further in his profession. When she was 50 she looked much older than she was from all the wear and tear from clinics, electro shock treatments, and other paraphernalia related to mental illness.
In 1940 her great role arrives, Scarlet O’Hara, what is true in that legend that she was chosen by George Cukor, who later left the filming?
Cukor campaigned for her, but if there was one important man in her choice it was Myron Selznick, David O’Selznick’s brother, who was eager to find a new face for the character. She was very brave, since the Southerners did not see well a British woman playing a character that had marked them so much since the novel.
And his feud while filming with Clark Gable?
The truth is that they never became good friends but they both admired each other. It has never been shown that she disgusted his teeth or that he considered them unbearable. What is true is that Gable was scared of her because he knew perfectly well that the weight of the film fell on the character of Scarlet and that he, much more famous, had nothing to do with it.
Do you think you escaped the Scarlet O’Hara myth?
He could not, nor did he want to escape. It is one of the few occasions when an actress likes to be associated with a character. There is a very funny anecdote in the book, the moment when he names all the cows on his farm after his characters. They were all but Scarlet, because only she could be.
How problematic was your relationship with Laurence Olivier?
It was a marriage of competitors born from passion. They were both very young and married when they met. However, they also shared a passion for acting and that made them, on many occasions, see each other as rivals.
Is it true that she was the one who began to be unfaithful to Olivier?
Yes, she had several romances outside of marriage but the most important was with Peter Finch. Olivier became so desperate that he appreciated the infidelity as a way to get rid of it. Their marriage was already very bad by then.
Did she always live in the shadow of her husband’s figure?
It especially bothered her to be a kind of consort to him, who was considered the best English actor of the 20th century. However, if you look at the movies they both made, her performances have aged much better than his.