Vivien Leigh: A Young, Hot Star Who Owned Hollywood From Day One

By Cyn Felthousen-Post
Vivien Leigh on the set of 'Gone with the Wind,' based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell and directed by Victor Fleming. (Photo by Metro-Goldwin-Mayer Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

She'll be forever known as Scarlett O'Hara, but Vivien Leigh was more than the Gone With The Wind (1939) character. Leigh had a fearlessness and gumption that her character shared, traits that didn't always charm those around her. But it's fair to say she was born to play Scarlett -- that was the opinion of British director Victor Saville, who was one of the first people in the UK to read Margaret Mitchell's novel. "Vivien, I've just read a great story for the movies about the bitchiest of all bitches," he told her over the phone, "and you're just the person to play the part."

Leigh is also closely associated with another difficult Southern belle, Blanche DuBois of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). In a 30-year film career, she only made 19 films in total and won two Best Actress Oscars (for Blanche and Scarlett). Leigh was brash, wild, sometimes unhinged and occasionally dangerous -- though the word "diva" has become overused in recent years, that's what she was, back then -- one of the great divas of the Golden Age of Hollywood.