Cache of love letters between the two stars are made public for the first time, revealing their ardent passion
It was one of the greatest romances of the 20th century which, from its illicit beginnings, went on to become one of the most scrutinised relationships of its day.
Now a cache of love letters between Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier are to be revealed to the public for the first time, documenting how their ardent passion for one another later gave way to cool indifference.
In one undated letter, believed to be from 1938 or 1939, he wrote: “I woke up absolutely raging with desire for you my love... Oh dear God how I did want you. Perhaps you were stroking your darling self.”
On April 23, 1939, he wrote: “I am sitting naked with just my parts wrapped in your panties. My longing for you is so intense.”
Leigh confided in Olivier that she was struggling with the role of Scarlett O'Hara in 1939's Gone With The Wind. They both worried that the film would flop, putting a stopper on producer David Selznick’s plans to make Leigh a huge star.
On May 30, 1939, he wrote: “I have come to the conclusion you're very naughty. We are a popular scandal, or rather a public one. Therefore it is only reasonably good taste to be as unobtrusive as possible.
“Can you dance and be gay and carry on like the gay happy hypocrite days? No my love you cannot. Why because of your fame, tripled with our situation - quadrupled with the fame there off.”
In 1945, Olivier wrote: “It is not possible to express my feelings and thoughts about you my dear one. I long for you with such a wretchedness.”
However, by the end of the 1950s, the relationship had turned sour. Leigh suffered a serious of mental breakdowns and her affairs and erratic behaviour put a strain on the marriage. The couple divorced in 1960.
A year later, Olivier married Joan Plowright, the actress who would remain his wife until he died in 1989. He apologised to Leigh for the “beastly way” she discovered he was to remarry: from the media.
In a letter from the early 1960s, Olivier wrote of how he was grateful for being “set free”, and urged Leigh to make a fresh start with her new love Jack Merivale. Olivier urged her to “take great care of Jack”, warning her not to “try [him] too hard”.