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10 classic movies starring Vivien Leigh

British actress Vivien Leigh is best remembered today for her performance as a spoiled Southern belle in the classic Civil War drama, "Gone with the Wind" (1939), but the star who so famously portrayed Scarlett O'Hara also played some of history's most memorable - and notorious - women. Born Vivien Hartley in India in 1913, Leigh first entered pictures in 1935, but mental health issues and other problems prevented her from appearing in as many films as other leading ladies of her generation. By the time of her death in 1967, Leigh had only 20 film credits behind her, but her performances ensured that she would never be forgotten. Here are ten classic movies in which you can see Vivien Leigh in action.

Vivien Leigh and real-life husband Laurence Olivier starred as lovers in the historical romance, "That Hamilton Woman" (1941).
DVD cover detail from Criterion Collection

1) "Fire Over England" (1937) - Leigh has a supporting role as one of Queen Elizabeth's ladies in waiting in this British costume drama, which stars Flora Robson as the queen. Laurence Olivier also appears in the picture; he and Leigh had been romantically involved since 1936, despite being married to other people, and would be married to each other in 1940.

2) "A Yank at Oxford" (1938) - This MGM picture starring Robert Taylor helped Leigh make the transition from British to American films. The cast also includes Lionel Barrymore, Maureen O'Sullivan, and Edmund Gwenn.

3) "Sidewalks of London" (1938) - Leigh stars with Charles Laughton and Rex Harrison in this comedy about London street performers.

4) "Gone with the Wind" (1939) - Leigh won the Best Actress Oscar for her iconic turn as Margaret Mitchell's fiery anti-heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, no small feat in a year studded with fantastic performances from leading ladies. Clark Gable and Leslie Howard were the objects of Scarlett's fickle affections, and a cast of thousands brought the Civil War South to life. Today, Leigh's beauty is immortalized in countless Scarlett O'Hara ornaments, posters, figurines, and cards that depict the character in her assortment of gorgeous gowns.

5) "Waterloo Bridge" (1940) - Leigh reunites with "Yank at Oxford" costar Robert Taylor for this wartime romance set during World War I. Leigh stars as Myra, a young ballerina who loses her job by falling in love and is then forced into a life of prostitution when she believes that her fiance has been killed. (The tragic love story is a remake of a 1931 film of the same name.)

6) "That Hamilton Woman" (1941) - Leigh and Olivier star as Emma, Lady Hamilton, and her lover, Lord Nelson, in this historical drama. The third and final onscreen pairing of the real-life couple, the movie was promoted as "The Year's Most Exciting Team of Screen Lovers!" The picture earned four Oscar nominations and won one award for Best Sound.

7) "Caesar and Cleopatra" (1945) - Claude Rains plays Caesar to Leigh's Cleopatra in this adaptation of the play by George Bernard Shaw. Ironically, Flora Robson plays one of Cleopatra's servants, thus reversing the roles Robson and Leigh had played in "Fire Over England" eight years earlier.

8) "Anna Karenina" (1948) - Leigh tackles another great literary heroine as the title character of this romantic drama, adapted from the novel by Leo Tolstoy. Ralph Richardson costars as her husband, Karenin, while newcomer Kieron Moore plays the role of Count Vronsky.

9) "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951) - Leigh won her second Best Actress Oscar in this big screen adaptation of the play by Tennessee Williams. As Blanche, a fragile and faded belle who takes refuge with her married sister in New Orleans, Leigh is tragically moving. Marlon Brando earned an Oscar nomination as her brutish brother-in-law, while Kim Hunter and Karl Malden both won Oscars for their performances in supporting roles.

10) "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" (1961) - In her penultimate screen role, Leigh plays a middle-aged stage actress who becomes involved with a young gigolo after her husband's death. Warren Beatty costars as her mercenary lover. Like "A Streetcar Named Desire," "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" was adapted from a work by Tennessee Williams.

Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier were divorced in 1960, and Leigh died of tuberculosis in 1967, at the age of 53. You can learn more about Vivien Leigh by watching the video at the top of this article, but you can also visit Kendra Bean's blog,, which covers all aspects of the stars' lives. Bean is the author of the 2013 biography, "Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait."

Jennifer Garlen writes as the Huntsville and National Classic Movies Examiner. Her newest book, "Beyond Casablanca II: 101 Classic Movies Worth Watching," is available on Kindle at Amazon.

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