It was the film that set Hollywood and Atlanta on fireplace. However for Vivien Leigh, who performed Southern belle Scarlet O’Hara, the making of “Gone With the Wind” was hell on earth.
The movie would go on to change into the highest grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation, it boasted ticket gross sales of $1.823 billion), profitable ten Academy Awards in 1939. But it surely took a big toll on its 25-year-old feminine lead. Exhaustion and strain from lengthy days and nights on the film set had her taking sedatives to calm her hysteria till in the future, she unintentionally overdosed.
On the time, Leigh was concerned in an affair with English actor Laurence Olivier. The 2 had fallen head over heels on the film set “Fire Over England” two years earlier than her starring position as Scarlett. Leigh had deserted her husband, lawyer Herbert Leigh Holman, and their child woman for Olivier — who had left his spouse, actress Jill Esmond, and their younger son.
“How dare you take four pills like that, you hysterical little ninny,” Olivier wrote to Leigh in a letter, having heard of her overdose. He additionally loved penning her horny letters, together with one which learn, “Urrgh! Bend over — Yes, take your drawers down – no, lift your skirt up – now then: Smack! Smack! Smack!,” in keeping with “Truly, Madly: Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier and the Romance of the Century,” (Grand Central Publishing), out now, by Stephen Galloway.
Each main feminine star in Hollywood — together with Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn — had begged director George Cukor for the position in what was to be the largest movement image ever made.
The position of Scarlett, Leigh hoped, would make her a legit actress — and equal to Olivier, who was hovering creatively as a Shakespearean stage and movie actor.
Nearly as quickly as filming started in December 1938, the issues began with the actress, who had undiagnosed bipolar dysfunction. Along with sudden crying and temper swings, she was tormented by different random maladies. Her eyes itched, and her pores and skin was peeling from an allergy to the pink dust that had been imported from Georgia to recreate the look of the South on the Hollywood set.
To make issues worse, her interval was late — and he or she feared she would want an abortion, as neither she nor Olivier had deliberate on having kids collectively. Throughout down time on the set, Leigh invented a vile new sport known as “Ways to Kill a Baby.” Pretending she was holding a child in her arms whereas driving, she would coo sweetly to the toddler earlier than hurling it out the window.
In the meantime Olivier, who was again on the East Coast testing for a movie, was imploring her to ship him her underwear. “I am sitting naked with just my parts wrapped in your panties,” he wrote to her. “My longing for you is so intense…”
Leigh gave the impression to be headed for an entire breakdown till producer David Selznick begged Olivier to go to and calm her down. The couple fortunately escaped to Kansas Metropolis, the place they thought they wouldn’t be acknowledged.
“I’m so grateful to you,” Leigh advised Selznick on her return to the set. “Larry met me in the hotel lobby, and we went upstairs, and we f–ked, and we f–ked, and we f–ked the whole weekend.”
Leigh wasn’t the one one on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The entire workers was struggling exhaustion from 3 a.m. wake-up calls and lengthy days.
Co-star Clark Gable arrived on set along with his personal points, as a result of he had no say within the position, having been lent out by one other studio. He feared he wouldn’t grasp the southern accent, and Leigh’s sophistication made him really feel like a rube, insecure over his small-town upbringing in jap Ohio. His temper softened when he acquired a knitted sock from his latest spouse to maintain his genitals heat. The directions: “Don’t let it get cold. Bring it home hot for me.”
Olivier began placing extra strain on Leigh by writing to her that “Gone With The Wind” was going to be an apparent catastrophe. “To make a success of your career in pictures is essential for your self respect and our ultimate happiness,” he wrote the actress, who would go on to win Greatest Actress for the position. And if she failed, he urged, “I am afraid you may become just — well, boring.”
As a substitute, “Gone With The Wind” modified Leigh’s life perpetually and made her a celebrity, however the exhaustion and darkish moods that overwhelmed her on set had been solely the start.
She would later try suicide earlier than having an acute nervous breakdown and being hospitalized to bear electroconvulsive remedy. She grew to become a stranger to Olivier, the person she as soon as adored, and died alone at 53 in 1967.