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Damn You, Scarlett O'Hara

The Private Lives of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier

Damn You, Scarlett O'Hara
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Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier carried labels—“The Most Romantic Couple the World Has Ever Known,” or more fancifully, “The Darling of the Gods.” This stunningly handsome man and this exquisite beauty were the Romeo and Juliet of their era, the doomed Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton, the tragic Hamlet and Ophelia. But were they really? Even though the spotlight shone on this celebrated pair of lovers throughout their tabloid-fueled careers, what went on when the red velvet curtain came down has remained hidden from view until the publication of this ground-breaking work by two acclaimed celebrity biographers. For the first time, the sexual excesses and interpersonal anguish of this ill-fated duo is exposed in graphic, sometimes wrenching detail. Vivien dazzled the world—and still does—with her Oscar-winning portrayals of Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and of “that delicate moth,” Blanche DuBois, in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Larry electrified World War II audiences with his portrayal of the brooding, tormented, and romantic figure of Heathcliff in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Later, he returned to the screen with a Jean Harlow dye job to portray Hamlet in another brooding role that earned him an Oscar. He became the greatest actor of his day, perhaps the greatest of all time. Her stunning beauty, enormous talent, and dazzling charisma enchanted the world. They were referred to as a “dream couple,” but their private lives were a nightmare. Dashing and “impossibly handsome,” Larry was pursued by luminaries, both male and female. Noël Coward was “mad about the boy;” John Gielgud seduced him, as did Prince George, the Duke of Kent. Sometimes, Larry shared the same lovers with his wife, notably Richard Burton, Peter Finch, and Marlon Brando. Larry’s love affairs ranged from Lily Damita, wife of Errol Flynn, to the swashbuckler himself. Producer David Lewis said, “Larry would sleep with anyone, and that included Tyrone Power.” His female conquests ranged from Greer Garson to Jean Simmons, from Claire Bloom to Marilyn Monroe. His lesbian first wife, Jill Esmond, was seduced by Joan Crawford, while Larry himself slept with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Crawford’s husband back during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Vivien concealed a nightmare of infidelity and even violence, often seducing her leading men—not only Finch, but Robert Taylor, Leslie Howard, José Greco, and Jean-Pierre Aumont. She even seduced a would-be leading man, Paul Newman, but said no to Clark Gable, who tried to rape her. In time, seized by manic-depression, she became notorious for picking up strangers on the street for sex, evoking her role as the doomed heroine of Waterloo Bridge. “I’m a Scorpio and they eat themselves up and burn themselves out,” said Vivien. “They die young.” Larry told Noël Coward, “The only time I feel really alive is when I’m acting or some ardent lover is worshipping me.” “The world adored Viv and Larry, but didn’t really know then,” Coward said. “They were a willful, determined, compulsive duo who knew what they wanted and went for it, be it a movie or stage role, a sexual conquest, or a walk on the wild side. To the banquet of life, they brought a voracious appetite. They also created a myth about themselves which one day may be exploded, long after they’ve departed from this cesspool of life.”
Blood Moon Productions; February 2011
720 pages; ISBN 9781936003167
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