Archiving star labour: framing Vivien Leigh

Lisa Stead

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3 Citations (Scopus)
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This article seeks to complicate dominant narratives surrounding the star image of stage and screen star Vivien Leigh by interrogating how the material traces of her working life are retained within her dispersed archives. Leigh’s archives document both the development of her stage and screencraft and her alternative off-screen ‘roles’ in business, philanthropy and activism throughout her transatlantic career, spanning the 1930s to the 1960s. By exploring materials such as annotated scripts, correspondence and photographs, the article examines how Leigh’s process of archiving produced distinct framings of her multifaceted labour for the future archival spectator. I argue that Leigh’s archival self-fashioning constitutes a complex material network, one which offers alterative readings of gendered star labour and pushes back against more standardised narratives of her career that have overwhelmingly focused on her glamorous star image, her mental health, and her relationship with her equally famous husband and co-star Laurence Olivier.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)860-874
Number of pages15
JournalWomen's History Review
Issue number5
Early online date17 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2020


  • archive
  • star
  • labour
  • film history
  • feminism
  • gender
  • historiography
  • performance

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