My thoughts on Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait might be compromised considering my acquaintance with author, Kendra Bean. Kendra is a friend of several film bloggers and has given me wonderful advice for my own dreams of publishing (of which she knows quite a bit). Thankfully, my thoughts are being mimicked worldwide as her biography on Leigh is utterly gorgeous…and there’s interesting writing on top of it.
I’ve read my fair share of Leigh biographies – I reviewed Anne Edwards‘ authoritative work a few months back – and Bean utilizes the various texts to add additional layers to what audiences know. Where Bean differs is in the personalization given to Leigh’s life; yes, the basic tenets are there – her relationship with Laurence Olivier, her trials with mental illness – but Bean gives the words new life through the beautiful photos and simple way of telling the story. Leigh’s story is one of heartbreak and Bean never sugarcoats the simple facts which damned Leigh’s career: critics and audiences’ inability to believe she wasn’t the Southern belle coupled with the inability to escape aging.
What readers will certainly want is the beautiful pictures this book possesses. Bean not only researched Leigh’s life, but spent a great deal of time combing through archives to find various photos of Leigh, several unpublished. Every page is filled with photos, many full-page, which are breathtaking to behold. If anything, Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait combines the best of a biography and a coffee table portrait book. A personal favorite photo of mine has Leigh, gussied up as Scarlett O’Hara, autographing a young extra’s photo. Coupled with Bean’s narrative, you get a wider scope of Leigh as a human by analyzing her photos throughout the years. In certain regards, the photos provide a better portrait of the star as you can read about her troubled life and see her attempts to hide those emotions in the photos. Her photogenic quality helped her hide her sadness, and in many photos you’re sad simply looking at them and knowing her pain.
Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait is a solid biography for casual fans of Leigh, or who want a broader understanding of the challenges facing her life and work. The die-hard fans will want enjoy the beautiful pictures and cherish a book filled with moving images of an exquisite actress. Really, this book is perfect for film fans in general!
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A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.