Born under the Raj in India, Vivien Leigh trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and gained early recognition on stage in The Mask of Virtue (1934). She made her film debut in Things are Looking Up (1934), which was followed by such films as A Yank at Oxford (1938) with Robert Taylor (1911–69) and Fire Over England (1937) with Laurence Olivier, whom she married in 1940.
In 1939 Leigh shot to international fame playing Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, winning an Oscar and a New York Critics Award, after which she returned to England and, with Olivier, appeared in numerous plays. In this period she also made Waterloo Bridge (1940), Lady Hamilton (1941), and Caesar and Cleopatra (1945). They toured Australia and New Zealand with the Old Vic (1947) and Leigh's stage success as Blanche du Bois in A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Olivier, was repeated in Kazan's film version (1951), bringing a second Oscar and New York Critics Award. Divorced in 1961, she again toured with the Old Vic (1961) and in 1963 made her first appearance in a musical on Broadway in Tovarich, winning a Tony Award. Ill health, including mental problems, dogged the remainder of her career. Her last film was Ship of Fools (1965).