Vivien Leigh, Lady Olivier was a British stage and film actress. She won two Best Actress Academy Awards for her performances as "southern belles": Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind and Blanche DuBois in the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire, a role she had also played on stage in London's West End in 1949. She won a Tony Award for her work in the Broadway version of Tovarich.
After an education in drama school, Leigh appeared in small roles in four films in 1935, and progressed to the role of heroine in Fire Over England. Lauded for her beauty, Leigh felt that it sometimes prevented her from being taken seriously as an actress. Despite her fame as a screen actress, Leigh was primarily a stage performer. During her 30-year stage career, she played roles ranging from the heroines of Noël Coward and George Bernard Shaw comedies to classic Shakespearean characters such as Ophelia, Cleopatra, Juliet and Lady Macbeth. Later in life, she played character roles in a few films.
To the public at the time, Leigh was strongly identified with her second husband Laurence Olivier, to whom she was married from 1940 to 1960. Leigh and Olivier starred together in many stage productions, with Olivier often directing, and in three films. For much of her adult life, she suffered from bipolar disorder. She earned a reputation for being difficult to work with, and her career suffered periods of inactivity. She suffered recurrent bouts of chronic tuberculosis, first diagnosed in the mid-1940s, which ultimately claimed her life at the age of 53. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Leigh as the 16th greatest female movie star of all time.