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Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, 30 May 1937

by an unknown photographer

Bromide print. 9 1/2 in. x 7 1/2 in. (241 mm x 189 mm) image size.
Acquired Daily Herald, 1980.

Source: npg.org.uk

Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh met in 1935, when they were each right on the brink of extraordinary acting careers and international fame. Both were married to other people at the time, and their relationship developed slowly. In 1937 they were cast opposite each other in a film (Alexander Korda’s Fire Over England) during which their relationship became, to quote Simon Callow in his essay in the Love Stories publication “all consuming, unmistakably so in the finished film”. In the same year Olivier and Leigh played Hamlet and Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet at the Old Vic theatre in London. This photograph was taken by a press photographer at Liverpool Street Station London, as the actors set off for Denmark to tour that production of Hamlet to Kronborg castle in Elsinore, Denmark (where the play is set). It is an image which records the overlapping of their professional lives and their relationship, at its beginning. Despite affairs on both they were together for almost 25 years (and married in 1940). Considered the golden couple of the British stage and screen, the intense press interest in their relationship endured up to and beyond their break up and eventual divorce.

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