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News Release - Issued by Treasurer's House

The life of Vivien Leigh, Britain’s first international actress, comes to Treasurer’s House, York

The life of one of Britain’s most iconic actresses, Vivien Leigh, is the focus of a new exhibition coming to National Trust’s Treasurer’s House in York this autumn.

Public Faces, Private Lives is a brand new exhibition focusing on the juxtaposition of the Hollywood persona and home life of Britain’s first international film star, Vivien Leigh.

The exhibition opens at Treasurer’s House, York, on 19 September and will be on display until 20 December, before embarking upon a national and international tour.

This is the first major display of this collection anywhere, after the private archive was acquired from Leigh’s family in 2013 by the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). The V&A and National Trust have a long history of loaning objects from their collections to each other but this will be the first time an exhibition organised by the V&A will be shown at a National Trust property.

The exhibition is composed of highlights from the personal archive, which holds more than 10,000 individual items. The collection ranges from Vivien’s life at home, and with husband Sir Laurence Olivier to her glamorous public image, necessary for her career. It includes annotated film scripts, costume sketches and letters, including some from Sir Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and a young Dame Judi Dench, in which she expresses her admiration for Vivien Leigh’s acting talents.

David Morgan, General Manager, Treasurer’s House said: “We are delighted to be hosting the premier of this wonderful exhibition and we’re very excited to be working with the Victoria and Albert Museum in bringing the collection to Yorkshire.”

Treasurer’s House was the home of Edwardian business man Frank Green and it houses his remarkable collection of antiques, furniture, ceramics, textiles and paintings. It was the first house to be gifted to the National Trust complete with its collection and remains largely how he presented it. Frank loved to entertain and had royal visits and guests from the theatre elite including Lily Langtry and Ellen Terry. His parties were known to spill out into the garden to enjoy the borrowed view of York Minster. In his heyday Frank would have loved to have welcomed the Oliviers to his home at Treasurer’s House.

The exhibition will be on display throughout the house and contains some of the most remarkable objects from Leigh and Olivier’s lives. Leigh and Olivier fell in love whilst filming Fire over England (1937). The exhibition looks at their Australian tour together (1948) and their joint performances in Shakespearean plays at the Stratford Memorial Theatre (1955). They adored throwing lavish parties at their home in Notley Abbey. On display will be their home guestbook, which has an impressive list of signatures – a veritable who’s who from the mid-20th century - including Noël Coward, Orson Wells, Terrence Rattigan and Katharine Hepburn. Private love letters exchanged between the couple will also be on display along with a selection of photographs showing them at home.

A focus of the exhibition will be dedicated to the timeless cinematic classic Gone with the Wind (1939). It was Leigh’s portrayal as fiery Scarlett O’Hara that propelled her into international stardom. Original photos of Vivien Leigh playing Scarlett taken by Hollywood photographer Laszlo Willinger will be on display, along with film posters and scrapbooks.

A stunning red Christian Dior gown from Leigh’s costume in Duel of Angels (1958) and the headdress from her role as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1937) are just some of the objects from her stage performances that visitors can view.

A slideshow of stereoscopic[i] photographs taken from the private archive completes the exhibition. It gives a rare insight into all parts of her life, from film and fashion to theatre life and working with husband Laurence Olivier. Her double appearance on British stamps in 1985 and 2013, also in the collection, signifies the importance of her legacy - it’s highly unusual for a non-royal to be featured more than once.

Keith Lodwick, V&A curator of the exhibition said: “Vivien Leigh has an enduring appeal and remains one of the great luminaries of stage and screen. The archive is a magnificent and intact record that provides a fascinating insight into her personal life and career. Although a small rotating selection of material has been on display at the V&A since we acquired the archive in 2013, we are delighted that so many of its highlights will now be seen across the country.”

David Morgan concludes: “This is an exhibition not to be missed for fans of Vivien Leigh, film, theatre and costume alike. It’s a rare chance to see the different aspects of one of the most iconic screen legends of our time and her everlasting legacy.”

Vivien Leigh: Public Faces, Private Lives will be on display at Treasurer’s House from September 19 – December 20 2015. Visit the website for opening days and times. Treasurer’s House is situated in the centre of York, behind York Minster. Normal admission fees apply or free entry to National Trust members. For more information, visit or tel: 01904 624247.

Notes to editor:

A selection of press images will be available for promotional stories and photography, filming and recording days will be announced nearer to the exhibition opening date.

For public information on Treasurer’s House 01904 624247 or email

For media information on Treasurer’s House, interviews or images please contact:
Jo Parker, Marketing & Communications Coordinator.
01904 472027/472017 (direct)

About Treasurer’s House
Only a few metres from York Minster, this was the first house ever given to the National Trust complete with a collection - and it is not all that it first seems. It has a history spanning 2,000 years, from the Roman road in the cellar to the Edwardian servants' quarters in the attics, and thirteen period rooms in between. These house one man's remarkable collection of antique furniture, ceramics, textiles and paintings from a 300-year period. Infamous ghost stories are another of the many quirky attributes of this property.
twitter: @TreasurersYork

About National Trust
The National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 710 miles of coastline and hundreds of historic places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For more information and ideas for great value family days out go to:

About Vivien Leigh

Vivien Leigh (1913-67) was an internationally recognised actress who won two Academy Awards for her roles in Gone with the Wind (1939) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and enjoyed a distinguished stage career spanning 30 years. Married to actor Laurence Olivier from 1940-1960, the celebrated couple co-starred in plays and films and were greeted on their various tours with the enthusiasm generally reserved for visiting royalty.

Although well known for her film roles, she actually starred in more theatre works. She liked to play as many different characters as possible in order to keep developing as an actress, and as such the exhibition holds a variety of memorabilia from productions of Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra to Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) is widely regarded as her best stage performance, and her annotated notes about her approach to dealing with the play’s controversial themes of mental illness, homosexuality and rape will be on display. Other exclusive pieces include correspondence with director Elia Kazan, costume designer Lucinda Ballard, and playwright Tennessee Williams, who called her ‘the Blanche I had always dreamed of.’

About the V&A

The V&A is the world’s greatest museum of art and design with collections unrivalled in their scope and diversity. It was established to make works of art available to all and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. Today, the V&A’s collections, which span over 5000 years of human creativity in virtually every medium and from many parts of the world, continue to intrigue, inspire and inform. The V&A is home to the UK’s national collection of theatre and performing arts and recently began collecting costumes designed for film.