Leigh was more than her looks though, and despite an extremely privileged upbringing and glamorous lifestyle, including the infamous affair and marriage to Laurence Olivier, she was an incredibly talented actress. She was also haunted by her own demons, suffering from returning episodes of depression throughout her life and was also dogged by ill heath for much of her adult life.
The photographs on display at the National Portrait Gallery span her acting career from its roots in British theatre through to Hollywood blockbuster films and beyond and are a mix of studio shots and stills from the films themselves. It is the studio shots which really romanticise and immortalise Vivien Leigh. Many show how similar poses were repeated in order to show the actress at her most ravishing, while some of the film stills
capture Leigh's mix of emotional determination and coquettishness. These photographs capture a lost era when the private lives of film stars were closely guarded secrets. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Leigh was the Queen of British Film. She captured the heart of many fashionable photographers and the results of the their adoration of Leigh are fabulously apparent in the images chosen here.