Wednesday, June 29, 2011

London, II - Vivien and Larry's London

So my main objective for going to London at the end of May was to take part in A Weekend with the Oliviers, organised by Kendra.

It was two days spent with a legion of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier aficionados, bliss! The schedule consisted of a tour of the Old Vic on Saturday morning, followed by a screening of That Hamilton Woman (Vivien in the role of the infamous Emma Hamilton and Larry as Nelson, naturally). Sunday was my personal favourite venture of the weekend, we met at the Olivier statue at the National Theatre and from there began our Vivien and Laurence themed walking tour of London.

Olivier's statue outside the NT, erected in 2007. Olivier was the first director of the National Theatre, 1963-1973 (during its years at the Old Vic).

Aldwych Theatre, Laurence Olivier directed Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire here in 1949.

Vivien as Blanche du Bois, 1949.

The Savoy, where Vivien and Larry first formally met in 1937.

Vivien's memorial plaque (erected by in, as Vivien has no formal gravestone, having being cremated after her death).
St. Paul’s The Actor’s Church, Covent Garden

The Ivy
This famous, exclusive restaurant near Covent Garden was frequented by London’s smart set, including Vivien Leigh who could often be spotted dining alongside Noel Coward and other theatrical luminaries.

The Noel Coward Theatre
This is where the Old Vic company performed during and after the war while waiting for bomb damage at the Old Vic to be repaired. The stage at the New Theatre is where Laurence Olivier officially became a theatrical superstar during the 1944-1945 season.

Ambassadors Theatre
Just next door to the Ivy, Vivien Leigh became an overnight star when The Mask of Virtue opened here in 1935.

Vivien as Henriette Duquesnoy in The Mask of Virtue, 1935, a reformed prostitute masquerades as 'a paragon of innocence'.

Afternoon tea - Having a very creamy waffle at Patisserie Valerie, 44 Old Compton Street, London

St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, Vivien Leigh’s public memorial service was held here.

Her Majesty's Theatre, Just across the street from the Theatre Royal. Vivien Leigh starred alongside Ivor Novello in The Happy Hypocrite here in 1936.

Theatre Royal Haymarket, When The Doctor’s Dilemma came to London in 1943, it opened at this theatre and ran for over a year because audiences were thrilled to be able to see Scarlett O’Hara in the flesh.

Publicity still of Vivien as Jennifer Dubedat in The Doctor's Dilemma, taken by Angus McBean. Also, Larry's favourite photo of Vivien.

St. James House, Holland Park, London. The former site of the St James’ Theatre. It was demolished and rebuilt as a modern office building, but the alley between the office and the pub next door boasts a relief of the Oliviers in the Two Cleopatras as well as a plaque commemorating the protest to save the theatre that was led by Vivien Leigh in 1958.

This flat (flat D) in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in London, was purchased by the Oliviers in 1958, Vivien lived here until her death in 1967. Today it is occupied by Louise Rainer.

Vivien & Larry at Durham Cottage, Chelsea, SW3

Vivien Leigh's Duel of Angels costume, Dior, V&A

Laurence Olivier's Oedipus Rex costume, 1946, V&A

For a comprehensive list of these and other Larry and Vivien places of interest around London, you can find them here and here.

After this exhausting day, we went for some food in Leicester Square before going to see Susie Lindeman's performance as Vivien in A Letter to Larry. Tarquin Olivier was in residence! I was too shy to shake his hand but others took the opportunity. It was a strong performance by Ms. Lindeman, based on Larry's request for divorce from Vivien, so some dark subject matter was being dealt with.

We then said our respective goodbyes, and took our exhausted but happy selves home.


  1. Zoe, this is so lovely! I'm really glad you enjoyed yourself and that the walking tour was fun for you guys. Your pics are amazing!! Thanks for comin down from Scotland, it was so nice to finally meet you!

  2. What an amazing tour! I'm a huge fan of Vivien Leigh- she had such an expressive face and could really capture her audience! I am so happy you got to see such historic places, and such beautiful costumes! :)

    Love your blog, by the way!

  3. Zoe, this post was fantastic!! I wish I had been able to come over for what looks like a wonderful day! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  4. that waffle looks so tasty! its making me hungry!

  5. What a great post! It sounds like such an exciting way to visit a city. I love all the photos and your commentary.