best film:   Gone with the Wind. This category is a strength for Vivien Leigh- no doubt about it. Gone With the Wind is a masterpiece and landed well within the top 100 of all-time on the last update.  A Streetcar Named Desire is a very solid film – landing in the top 500 of all-time. Vivien Leigh may have some weaknesses in her resume, but it is not in these top two categories.



of the hundred or more actors that auditioned to play Scarlett O’Hara- David O. Selznick eventually landed on Vivien Leigh- just 26 years old at the time of the film’s release in 1939.



best performance:  Gone with the Wind in a landslide here. Not only is Gone with the Wind a masterpiece but Leigh is sensational in it.  Few actors historically get to deliver a line like her “As God as my witness…” line at the end of act 1- and in a masterpiece, nonetheless.  Leigh gets overlooked a little historically in this film (along with Streetcar actually) because she is dueling with Clark Gable (and Marlon Brando in Streetcar’s case) but she is the film’s narrative vehicle and for those who have not seen the 1939 masterpiece in a while, it is easy to forget just how much MORE of the film Leigh is in more than Gable. Her character is supposed to grate on the viewer (just like her character Streetcar) and it is not one to fall in love with. But the bottom line here is she is brilliant, as lead, in a masterpiece.



after starring in the still the biggest box office film of all-time (when adjusting for inflation)- Leigh would only make a handful (five) of total films in the 1940s.



stylistic innovations/traits:   Vivien Leigh is the rare Golden Era actor who had less than twenty (20) film credits to her name. Her personal life and health certainly contributed to her lack of resume and that is a shame. Her weakness here is the sheer lack of archiveable films (seven). It is worth noting that she played, in her two big roles, very unlikeable characters that were built to drive the viewer nuts the entire running time. Her Blanche DuBuois and Scarlett O’Hara are at least partially created so the viewer wants Brando or Gable’s character to tell her off. This is her purpose (Katharine Hepburn often played characters like this) and she succeeds. So, her performances here should be applauded- not decried.



Leigh’s comeback was 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire. She certainly loses the bout to Brando, but that does not mean she not be applauded still for her work.



directors worked with:    Nobody more than once – Victor Fleming (1) in Gone with the Wind, Elia Kazan (1) in Streetcar and Mervyn LeRoy (1) in Waterloo Bridge.




top five performances:

  1. Gone with the Wind
  2. A Streetcar Named Desire
  3. That Hamilton Woman
  4. Waterloo Bridge
  5. Sidewalks of London




archiveable films

1938- Sidewalks of London
1939- Gone With The Wind
1940- Waterloo Bridge
1941- That Hamilton Woman
1948- Anna Karenina
1951- A Streetcar Named Desire
1965- Ship of Fools