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Vivien Leigh archive - including letters to Laurence Olivier - to go on display

Published 20/03/2016

Sir Laurence Olivier and his wife, Vivien Leigh at the Cambridge Theatre, London
Sir Laurence Olivier and his wife, Vivien Leigh at the Cambridge Theatre, London

Gone With The Wind star Vivien Leigh's personal belongings, including diaries and love letters to husband Laurence Olivier, will go on display for the first time.

The collection, which has not been publicly exhibited before, contains more than 100 pieces from Leigh's archive, including costumes, sketches, photographs and scripts.

It was purchased by London's Victoria and Albert museum from the double Oscar-winning star's grandchildren last year on the centenary year of her birth.

Keith Lodwick, V&A exhibition curator, said: "Vivien and Olivier were great friends and their creative work resulted in two of Leigh's most celebrated roles - Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream and in Shaw's Caesar And Cleopatra.

"Vivien Leigh remains an enduring icon of stage and screen and the objects on display provide a fascinating insight into her personal life and career."

The exhibition will be held in the National Trust property Nymans in West Sussex, the former family home of Leigh's favourite set and costume designer, Oliver Messel.

Nikki Caxton, exhibition and programme officer, said: "We're really excited to be hosting the V&A's exhibition at Nymans where we have the wonderful connection between Vivien Leigh and Oliver Messel."

Many of Leigh's costumes will be on display, including a Christian Dior gown from Duel Of Angels and the headdress Messel made for her performance as Cleopatra.

It will also feature letters from Judi Dench, Bette Davis, Tennessee Williams, Sir Winston Churchill and The Queen Mother.

Leigh gained international fame with her role as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind, for which she was the first British actress to win an Academy Award.

She was married to Olivier from 1940 to 1960, the couple co-starred in numerous plays and films.

Vivien Leigh: Public Faces, Private Lives will take place from June 1 to September 4.

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