Vivien Leigh was a famed British actress whose best known works are Gone with the Wind (1939) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). The characters she played in both films, Scarlett O’Hara and Blanche DuBois became iconic female figure in film history. She was always with her cats and often traveled together, her favorite kind was Siamese.
Vivien Leigh was born November 5, 1913, in Darjeeling, India to an English stockbroker and his Irish wife. As a teen, Vivian attended schools in England, France, Italy, and Germany, becoming fluent in both French and Italian.
She went on to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Love of her life, Cats
At the beginning of her marriage to Laurence Olivier, she adopted a small black and white stray who she named Tissy. She brought Tissy with her to Plymouth, where Olivier was ordered for flying lessons.
Leigh spent her days as a war-time wife reading Dickens, gardening, and playing with this small cat. She then acquired others including a white cat, Tiddly-iddly-iddly, and Christmas, a ginger tom.
Vivien Leigh Quotes
Among many, Leigh was fond of Siamese cat called New Boy (New for short). New was given as a gift by Olivier, he was named after London’s New Theatre (renamed the Noël Coward Theatre in 2006) where Olivier frequently performed.
Olivier purchased an elegant Parisian collar ornamented with small gilt bells for New. New traveled with couples to the theatre as a good luck charm and would stay in their dressing rooms. Sadly, New was run over by a car when the couple was in Australia performing with the Old Vic Company.
After the couple lost New in a tragic way in 1948, Olivier gave Leigh a new Siamese cat. Armando has had a dark face like New and wore the same bell collar. Leigh owned Armando in early 1960. Leigh herself claimed that,
once you have kept a Siamese cat you would never have any other kind. They make wonderful pets and are so intelligent they follow you around like little dogs.
Poo Jones, a well-mannered smoky-white Siamese cat with beautiful violet eyes and black feet and nose, lived with Leigh in the 1960s.
Leigh adored his presence and allowed Poo Jones to sleep on her shoulder. He also traveled with her, even accompanying Leigh on the Queen Elizabeth, enjoying daily walks on the boat deck.
At the theatre, Poo Jones would sleep during the acts and wake up just before his owner returned to her dressing room.
Gone with the Wind is often considered the most beloved, enduring and popular film of all time. It’s Epic Civil War drama focuses on the life of petulant southern belle Scarlett O’Hara.
When American director George Cukor (who later let go from the film) was hunting for the perfect actress to play the lead role, he had a strong sense for this woman.
The girl I select must be possessed of the devil and charged with electricity.
Casting a virtually unknown British theater actress in the role of a Southern belle struggling for survival during the American Civil War was risky, to say the least—especially considering that Gone with the Wind was already, even in pre-production, one of the most highly anticipated Hollywood pictures of all time.
However, the decision paid off hugely as the film hit box office records, and won eight Academy Awards out of thirteen nominations- including one for Leigh as best actress.
Leigh’s known for suffering bi-polar disorder for much of her adult life. She died on 7th July 1967, her beloved Poo Jones was by her side kept meowing as if he were trying to wake her.
All her life, feline friends were by her side, must have alleviated her illness and shared lovely moments together.
Also published on Medium.