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Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, and the Romance of the Century
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A New York Times Bestseller
"A "well rounded and entertaining" (New York Times) Hollywood biography about the passionate, turbulent marriage of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.
In 1934, a friend brought fledgling actress Vivien Leigh to see Theatre Royal, where she would first lay eyes on Laurence Olivier in his brilliant performance as Anthony Cavendish. That night, she confided to a friend, he was the man she was going to marry. There was just one problem: she was already married—and so was he.
TRULY, MADLY is the biography of a marriage, a love affair that still captivates millions, even decades after both actors' deaths. Vivien and Larry were two of the first truly global celebrities – their fame fueled by the explosive growth of tabloids and television, which helped and hurt them in equal measure. They seemed to have it all and yet, in their own minds, they were doomed, blighted by her long-undiagnosed mental-illness, which transformed their relationship from the stuff of dreams into a living nightmare.
Through new research, including exclusive access to previously unpublished correspondence and interviews with their friends and family, author Stephen Galloway takes readers on a bewitching journey. He brilliantly studies their tempestuous liaison, one that took place against the backdrop of two world wars, the Golden Age of Hollywood and the upheavals of the 1960s — as they struggled with love, loss and the ultimate agony of their parting.
Around midnight on June 16, 1937, an anxious young man, dark-eyed and good-looking, slipped out of his London home, stole away from his wife and child, and set out to meet the woman he loved.
Two years after Laurence Olivier had first glimpsed Vivien Leigh, a woman of such transcendent beauty and intoxicating allure that she had left him drunk with desire, he was under her spell. Day in and day out, they would sneak off the set of their new movie or sit lost amid a swirl of dreams, real-life versions of the lovers they would later play, Romeo and Juliet, whose lesson they would have done well to learn, “violent delights have violent ends / And in their triumph die.” “Whether they thought they were fooling anybody, I don’t know,” said a crew member. “But we all knew that here were two people hopelessly in love.”
What drew them to each other with such fierce power, blinding them to all sense of duty and danger, even to right and wrong, and pushing them to the point where, this very night, they were about to run away? Was it simply lust, the devouring sexual greed that nobody who knew them could ignore? Or was it something else, an affinity of the heart, mind and soul? Long after their passion had faded, when their ecstasy had turned to agony and their turbulent romance had left them battered and scarred, Olivier searched for an explanation. It was a virus, he said, a disease, a compulsion as mighty as any in legend or myth. “It sometimes felt almost like an illness,” he wrote, “but the remedy was unthinkable. Only an early Christian martyr could have faced it. Virtue seemed to work upside down: love was like an angel, guilt was a dark fiend. At its every surge Macbeth would haunt me: ‘Then comes my fit again.’”
For cynics, this was self-aggrandizement; for others, mere indulgence. Only Larry’s wife, Jill Esmond, collateral damage left in the wake of her husband’s affair, understood what it was, even when it had turned into a fireball that incinerated her marriage. “Real passion—I’ve only seen it that once,” she told their son. “If you are ever hit by it, God help you. There’s nothing you can do.”
And yet there was something Olivier could have done. Three weeks before he and Vivien fled, they had traveled to Denmark, planning to stage Hamlet in the place where it was set, with the thirty-year-old Larry as the prince and the twenty-three-year-old Vivien as Ophelia. Equipment, costumes and props had been loaded onto trucks; the trucks hauled across the North Sea; the cast and crew flown to the coastal town of Helsingor, where the actors were scheduled to perform for a week on the ramparts of Kronborg Castle. And then, hours before they were due to go on, all hell broke loose. A thunderstorm cracked open the sky; water flooded the battlements, along with thousands of makeshift seats; and any hope of salvaging the production as it had been conceived was doused by the storm. Moving indoors to a hotel ballroom, the troupe scrambled to reconfigure their work as theater in the round, with barely enough time to arrange their entrances and exits before an audience of royals and dignitaries began to filter in. The play seemed doomed. And yet somehow, despite the chaos, this Hamlet was a sensation, sealing Olivier’s reputation as one of the most dazzling actors alive.
The next day, he was in the midst of rehearsals when an incident took place that shook him to the core. What happened is unclear, but after an explosive confrontation with Vivien, he reappeared before his colleagues, ashen, and said “something about Viv having gone bonkers, having attacked him, having had a fit of some kind,” according to an early report. When Vivien emerged, she was unrecognizable from her usual vivacious self and spoke “not a word to anyone, just staring blankly into space.”
This was more than a moment of pique, more than a terrified ingenue’s temper tantrum; it was as if a flare had been sent up from the recesses of her psyche, warning Olivier of trouble ahead. Why she had erupted, he did not know; whether she would do so again, he could not predict. And yet it was obvious this exquisite diamond was flawed. Once, outsiders might have said she was possessed; now, two hundred and fifty years after the last witch had been burned at the stake, and decades into the age of Freud and Jung, people still knew so little about mental health that nobody understood she was seriously ill.
Larry could have walked away, could have ended his affair then and there and returned to Jill (who had accompanied him on this voyage, only to be shunted off on sightseeing tours with the young Alec Guinness). But he didn’t. Rather than extricate himself, he plunged deeper; rather than step back, he surged forward. Once home, he and Vivien vowed, they would leave their spouses for good. Reason was powerless to stop them. Passion conquered all.
This book is a study of passion—not the soft, sentimental kind of Hollywood movies and Victorian romance but the sort that engulfs, overwhelms and sometimes destroys: the sort for which the Oliviers became famous.
Half a century since Vivien’s death and more than three decades since Larry’s, they continue to haunt us. There are books and blogs about them, conferences and symposia; there are documentaries and exhibitions and even a collection of scholarly essays published by Manchester University Press. And yet they remain veiled, their story wrapped in half-truths, conundrums and lies, proof positive of Gabriel García Márquez’s adage that all human beings have three lives: the public, the private and the secret.
They were emblems of a class and culture that’s sunk as deep beneath the waves as the ocean liners that ferried them across the seas, but they didn’t belong to that class and culture at all. They were lovers as famous as Burton and Taylor or Bogie and Bacall, but their kind of love often seemed closer to hate. And they were the first married couple since the advent of sound to become global celebrities, but they despised celebrity and even the medium that led to their fame.
They appeared to have it all; and yet in their own minds they were blighted, doomed by a mental illness neither understood that transformed their relationship from the stuff of dreams into a living nightmare.
Laurence Kerr Olivier was born on May 22, 1907, the son of an impoverished curate who had fallen far short of his goals. Living in a cramped two-up-two-down, built for the working classes in the country town of Dorking, the Oliviers could hardly feign gentility: their neighbor was a chimney sweep, the very archetype of what it meant to be poor.
“My father used to describe how he was frying sausages for Dr. Rawlings and himself when the doctor appeared in the kitchen doorway bearing a tiny but healthy-looking infant in his arms, as yet unwashed and smeared with blood,” wrote Olivier in his 1982 memoir, Confessions of an Actor. “My father’s telling of this always indicated a sense of slight disgust as Dr. Rawlings placed me in his arms.”
Gerard Olivier, known to his son as “Fahv,” was a mercurial man, a failed teacher who had only recently joined the church and lived in the shadow of his older brother, Sydney, soon to become secretary of state for India and later the first Baron Olivier. Father and son never bonded; instead, overwhelmed by three young children—Larry followed Sybille (born in 1901) and Dickie (born in 1904)—Gerard came to resent the infant and blamed him for siphoning off his wife’s attention. While he meted out affection in tranches, just like the Sunday roast he would cut into wafer-thin slices (their very meagerness a source of pride), Agnes Olivier made up for her domestic disappointments by lavishing love on her youngest child. With so many mouths to feed and so little money to do so, the Oliviers’ marriage grew strained, their arguments heated. On occasion, Gerard would explode in “a storming, raging tornado which he’d turn on Larry in a way he never did on my brother Dick and me,” recalled Sybille. But Olivier had only the faintest memory of this, because in 1910 Gerard gave up his life as a country priest to minister in the London slums.
London was a sprawling, chaotic mess whose population had doubled in less than forty years. Its tenements were fetid, its drains foul, just a decade after a groundbreaking study had found twenty-eight percent of the slum population virtually swimming in their own excrement. “I see little glory,” said Winston Churchill, then a young member of Parliament, “in an Empire which can rule the waves and is unable to flush its sewers.”
It was in this empire that Gerard began to work, based in Notting Dale, the most “hopelessly degraded” part of London, according to a contemporary report, where he served in an area nicknamed “the potteries and the piggeries” for the brick kilns that lined its streets and the pigs that wallowed in its mud. A clay pit known as “the ocean” slopped with slime, while the homes were “mere hovels in a ruinous condition, filthy in the extreme, and containing vast accumulations of garbage and offal.” Things were beginning to improve, but this was still “hell on earth to more than 4,000 people,” writes one historian. “Its houses were densely overcrowded, many occupied by 20 people and more, [who] were largely made up of loafers, cab-runners, beggars, tramps, thieves, and prostitutes.”
To these thieves and prostitutes, Gerard brought his ministry, operating out of a shack with the grandiose name of St. Gabriel’s while his family lived a mile away in Elgin Crescent, a few doors down (if many layers socially) from the future residence of British prime minister Boris Johnson. As Agnes and her children settled in, Gerard devoted himself to his flock, urging them to keep up with the Bible when they could barely keep up with the rent. He was not so much a fish out of water as a whale, an intense and self-lacerating figure who did everything to stand out, draping himself in a black cassock and pointed hat (the garb of a Catholic priest, not a Protestant), and delivering fire-and-brimstone sermons when all his parishioners really wanted was his support.
Larry never questioned this. “Many sons react against their father’s being in religion,” he said later. “I didn’t. I accepted everything.” Rebellion was left to Sybille, who rebelled so much she made it a way of life. She left home to become an actress in her teens; lived “in sin” with another actor long before it was acceptable; and was possibly bisexual—she once told Larry she would have had “a thundering love affair” with his first wife if he hadn’t gone and married her. She was a free spirit when women had no right to freedom or spiritedness.
A year after moving to London, Gerard was fired, precipitating the family’s gravest crisis. His stubbornness, zealotry and extreme “High Church” brand of Christianity proved too much even for a local parish that desperately needed him, and so in the summer of 1911, homeless and penniless, he and his family began a meandering trek across the country, traipsing “from one seaside town to another,” remembered Sybille, while Gerard searched for part-time clerical work. For weeks the family shuttled among the run-down resorts of the southern coast, the working-class havens that one of Olivier’s most celebrated characters, Archie Rice, would call his own, while the temperature rose to a broiling ninety-nine degrees. The Times published lists of “deaths by heat” as water pumps burst and trees withered, asphalt melted on the roads, workingmen’s button-on collars stuck to their skin, adults and children fainted and died.
Squeezed into sad, soggy rooms in cheap boardinghouses, Agnes was forced to cope alone while Gerard went wherever his services were required. By the time he had found a permanent post in London, he had lost his taste for domesticity and “never took kindly to family life again.”
Rejected by his father, Larry turned to his mother. She was “the most enchanting person,” wrote Sybille. “Hair so long she could sit on it. She absolutely made our childhood, and she adored Larry.” “Mrs. Olivier was a darling,” confirmed the actress Sybil Thorndike, a family friend, “and Larry was exactly like her. She was sturdy, with a face just like Larry’s, rather gipsy-looking, rather larky. I’m sure he got all his humour from his mother.”
Agnes believed in her son, lent ballast to his hopes and dreams. He was his mother’s “baby” and her “darling old Kim” (an abbreviation of the nickname Larrykin that also called to mind Kipling’s vagabond boy), whom she encouraged to aim high. Maybe he could go to India and work on a plantation, as his brother would do when Larry was fifteen. Maybe he could even buy his own plantation or do better still and become a politician, like Uncle Sydney, who had placed first in the nation’s Civil Service exams, was a friend of Bernard Shaw and destined for high office. These were the hopes Agnes implanted in her favorite child, these the ideals that enflamed his imagination. And then, when Larry was twelve, a guillotine dropped down, severing his world in two.
His mother had begun to change. Soon she became weak and lost full control of her limbs. “Her disease was at first wrongly diagnosed as disseminated sclerosis [a form of multiple sclerosis],” wrote Sybille, “and she spent months in Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, where her sister Constance was at that time Matron, having electric treatment which unfortunately did no good at all. Her left side became partially paralysed, her left hand useless, and the left side of her mouth appeared pulled down so that her face was distorted into that of a much older woman.”
Too late, the family learned she was suffering from a cerebral tumor, most likely glioblastoma, a pernicious cancer of the brain that would later kill US senators Edward M. Kennedy and John McCain. Its progress was swift and unstoppable, first causing headaches and nausea, then moodiness, vomiting and agonizing pain. Agnes probably never knew she was terminally ill: her doctors would not have told her, as was their practice, because cancer was taboo, an “abomination of the body,” in the words of sociologist Erving Goffman. It was bad enough that Agnes was dying; it would have been shameful for her to know the cause.
One Saturday in March 1920, the Reverend Olivier brought his son home from boarding school and led him into the family’s new residence in Letchworth, just north of London, where he was serving as vicar. “Larry came to the old Rectory to see his mother,” wrote Sybille. “There he stood, Agnes’ most precious child, at the open door with his cap in his hand, his dark hair rather rough and badly cut as usual, and his tweed overcoat shabby, smiling at his mother in the way she loved him best. There was no agony of parting for those two, just a laughing ‘Goodbye Mummy,’ as she lay there looking at him.” Sybille played one of her mother’s favorite hymns on the piano while they spoke: “Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer! / Sing, ye saints! His wonderful love proclaim!”
On March 27, Agnes died; she was forty-eight years old.
The anguish of that experience haunts Olivier’s memoirs, written sixty years after her death. “My heaven, my hope, my entire world, my own worshiped Mummy died when I was twelve,” he wrote. The older he got, the more tenderly he spoke of her and the more he was unable to recall her without being overcome. “There was undoubtedly a paradise in my childhood, and it lasted until my mother died,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I’ve been looking for her ever since, [for a] vanished Garden of Eden, paradise lost, [with] all the world’s nostalgia for what has gone and cannot be recovered.”
Olivier cherished his few mementos of Agnes, and her warm notes to him can be found in his archive at London’s British Library, written on onionskin sheets and preserved in their tiny original envelopes, the word “Precious” scrawled on one in Larry’s adult handwriting. “How she loved you,” Sybille reminded him when they were old. “And how eternally grateful I am to have had her as long as I did.”
After his wife’s funeral, Gerard didn’t utter her name for years—not at home, nor to his family, nor to the outside world. Losing her must have been devastating, no matter how great the tension between them. She had remained loyal throughout, even when he broke the one vow she had insisted he take as a precondition for their marriage: that he never join the church. He was alone now, and not just alone but destined to remain so, he thought, if he wished to remain true to his ideals: that a High Churchman should never remarry but should commit himself to God. As he turned deeper into himself, he turned further from his children, leaving them to struggle alone—especially his younger and so-vulnerable son. From then on, noted the critic Kenneth Tynan, Larry retained a “pipeline to childhood pain.”
“There was this little gap inside [him], a little vortex after that,” says the actress Sarah Miles. “He could play all of the archetypes. But in the center, something was missing.”
Five thousand miles away, at the very time Agnes lay dying, a six-year-old child and her parents left their estate in Calcutta, India, and set out for the nearby port.
The humidity was oppressive on this March 2, 1920, and along with the humidity came stinkbugs and mosquitoes and disease: malaria, chikungunya and yellow fever, plagues that had left too many British invaders dead and the rest with a permanent itch called prickly heat. Once, these colonials had believed they could conquer India; now they knew India had conquered them.
Still, this was a small price to pay for success and at age thirty-eight Ernest Hartley had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Fifteen years since leaving his job as a low-level bank clerk in England, his gamble had paid off: he had risen to senior partner with the stockbrokers Pigott, Chapman & Co., his ascent only briefly interrupted by his obligatory military service in World War I. He was a horseman, a gambler, a ladies’ man and an amateur actor—a fellow who loved the theater and all things theatrical, qualities his daughter would inherit. Now he was about to take her to the land of his birth.
If Gertrude Yackjee, thirty-one, lacked her husband’s effervescence, she made up for it in beauty. She may have come from the lower rungs of Anglo society in India (where she was born, unlike him), but she was clever enough to use her looks well in a place where looks were the key to marriage and marriage was the key to everything else. With her cobalt-blue eyes and peachy skin, she floated above the boatloads of Englishwomen who washed up on Indian shores—the “Fishing Fleet,” as they were collectively known: single women arriving each winter season in search of husbands. She had captured Ernest’s heart from the start, despite the tut-tuts of his colleagues, horrified he might marry a woman country-born, whose grandmother had grown up in an orphanage and may even have been a “half-caste” at that.
None of this meant anything to the couple’s restive daughter. Vital and charismatic, the young Vivian Hartley1 was the most memorable of the three. Photos from the time show a raven-haired girl with brilliant eyes, but fail to capture the energy others noted, the eagerness and excitement that could sometimes carry her away, which it did when she played a lion in one of her father’s theatricals and bit her mother in the leg.
As the Hartleys crossed the narrow girder bridge that forded Tully’s Creek and headed for the mighty port, their car crawling past hordes of migrants who were transforming this storied “city of palaces” into a synonym for urban squalor, did Vivian realize she was leaving her country for good? As they reached the docks and began boarding the seven-thousand-ton City of Baroda, with its hundred crewmen and two hundred passengers, all strictly segregated by race and class, did she understand she was bidding farewell to everything she had grown up with? And as the Baroda slipped from its berth, easing into the swirling Hooghly River—past jetties laden with bales of cotton and tea, past every vestige of the landscape she knew and loved—did she know she would never come home again?
Spring came late to England, where the ship docked in April, and with the dull, damp weather came the fog and the rain and the cold. Historians look back on the 1920s as the time of the Bright Young Things, the British version of America’s flappers; but traces of the Great War, which had only just ended after four years of hell and the loss of twenty million lives, were all around. The euphoria of victory was long gone, and three million demobilized soldiers faced chronic unemployment, many left to wander the streets like ghosts, some mutilated, others carrying the shards of psychic wounds as sharp as shrapnel.
This was the London Vivian discovered. And yet, even as empty shells of human beings scrambled to survive, the city teemed with life. Bright lights sparkled outside the theaters, dozens in the capital alone. Here was Pretty Peggy, the story of a poor newsboy who switches identities with a millionaire; there was The Shop Girl, starring twenty-year-old Evelyn Laye and a real-life marching band; and a little farther off was The Beggar’s Opera, which ran for a staggering 1,463 performances, the kind of hit that would have turned the older Larry green with envy. Vivian was in a frenzy of excitement as her parents took her out each day—to tea, to the theater, to the incense-filled Roman Catholic churches that Gertrude adored. London was heaven until it turned to hell.
Six months after arriving, Vivian and her mother drove out of the city, across the river Thames, over the lush fields that had not yet been plowed under for housing as the sprawling city gobbled up everything in its path to make way for new residents, all the way to the village of Roehampton, seven miles to the southwest, where they stopped outside a large Tudor estate hidden behind forbidding walls. This was the Convent of the Sacred Heart, a boarding school where Gertrude handed Vivian over to the reverend mother general before returning to the city alone.
The girl was distraught. What could she possibly have done wrong? How had she so alienated her parents that they would abandon her to a prison like this? In truth, they had little choice. For the affluent Anglos in India, this was the way of the world, the only solution to their terrible predicament: how to be both part of India and fully British. Gertrude would later regret her decision, but for a woman of her age and class, bringing up her own daughter was out of the question: the child would have been marginalized at best or would have learned to speak English with the “chichi” accent the upper classes abhorred, a revelation that she wasn’t quite “pukka.”
Gertrude was faced with “an agonising dilemma that few [Anglo mothers] could solve,” writes the historian Anne de Courcy, “whether to abandon the husband who needed them, to live in England, probably on very little money, so that they could be with the children in the school holidays, or to stay with the husband they loved and leave their children with others.” She left her child with others, with sisters who knew little of nature and less of nurture. After visiting her a few times, taking her to lunch or dinner or the zoo and then returning her to the convent amid a storm of tears, she and Ernest set sail for Calcutta.
Vivian was in torment. Woken each day at 6:30 a.m., with only a kitten to give her love (the nuns’ one concession to her loneliness), she began her morning with the sound of a clanging bell and a voice chanting “Precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ,” to which she and the other girls would reply: “Wash away our sins.” Mass followed, with the Angelus recited three times a day and the constant refrain: “Hail Mary, full of grace, / The Lord is with Thee.” An only child, used to a retinue of servants who functioned like serfs, she now shared her quarters with the other girls, scattered among twenty unheated dormitories, their beds ranked in serried rows with only the flimsiest of curtains to keep them apart. After having her own governess and amah (or nanny), she was forced to scrub and clean and adhere to a code of conduct so severe she couldn’t even bathe without wearing a shift; nudity itself was an offense before God. Breakfast was bread and butter and a cup of coffee; too much fraternization among the children was discouraged; letters home were scrutinized and strictly censored. For punishment, a safety pin would be jabbed into Vivian’s ear. “There was rigid discipline,” writes one of her biographers, Hugo Vickers. “Good Catholics were urged to dwell ‘constantly in the spiritual presence of death’ and St. Teresa was quoted as having exclaimed at each striking of the hour: ‘An hour nearer to death. An hour nearer to heaven or hell.’”
Was it surprising, in the midst of this, that the girl dreamed of escape, both literal and metaphorical? “If Vivian, in her misery and her loneliness, concocted a grander existence for herself, there was nothing to contradict the fantasy,” says the actress Victoria Tennant, daughter of the Oliviers’ longtime manager, Cecil Tennant. “It’s the stuff of movies and books: Orphans make up stories about being princesses as a compensation for the barrenness of their own reality. Maybe she just had to make up who she was.”
When Ernest, back in India, took pity on his child and sent her an expensive doll, it arrived with its head shattered, a heartbreaking emblem of Vivian herself. Sixteen months passed before she saw her father again, sixteen long months before he and her mother returned, almost strangers, to visit the child they had left behind.
Over the years, Vivian adjusted—more than that, she came to embrace her new home and grew popular with the other girls. Years later, indeed, her convent friend Maureen O’Sullivan expressed surprise at the warmth with which Vivian spoke of her past, in contrast to herself. Still, the damage was done: the rift ran deep, the crack was permanent. Vivian would remain at Sacred Heart for eight years before leaving for good, hungry for the kind of love no nun could ever give her.
This was the young woman Larry would see for the first time when she was twenty-one, the adult version of the child who had gone through almost as much heartache as himself. By then she had a new life, a new career and a new name: Vivien Leigh.
- "[W]ell rounded and entertaining. . . To the couple’s tale of passion [Stephen Galloway] adds compassion, along with the requisite lashings of gossip. . . Galloway splices this material seamlessly with old interviews and enough new ones with those Of That Era, such as Korda and Hayley Mills, to inject some pep and freshness."—New York Times
"Galloway, the former executive editor of the Hollywood Reporter, lifts himself clear of previous chronicles, including Olivier’s own self-lacerating memoirs, by supplementing firsthand accounts with retrospective diagnoses by experts like Kay Redfield Jamison and by tracing a genetic link to Leigh’s great-uncle, housed in a Kolkata asylum for much the same symptoms. More lucidly than ever, we can see how, in the grip of her own brain chemistry, Leigh quite literally lost her mind."—The Washington Post
- "Between the tabloid intrigue and the Shakespearean end is a compelling portrait of two people trying their best."—Vanity Fair
- "[Truly, Madly] is very much Leigh’s story, told most poignantly as the book narrows its scope to chronicle her decline. . . Galloway juggles the complex story energetically. He’s at his best when he takes a forensic approach to the relationship and to Leigh’s struggles."—USA Today
- "Gripping."—Wall Street Journal
- “In this deeply researched dual biography, Stephen Galloway uncovers the story of how the two stars–among the most famous in the world in their time—came together, captivated the world, and were ultimately torn apart. It's a fascinating look at the dueling powers of dizzying fame and true love.”—Town & Country
- "[A] richly detailed account of the fiery ascent and demise of one of Hollywood’s most glamorous couples. . . This page-turning biography is one to get swept up in."—Publishers Weekly
- "[A] dishy narrative about the tumultuous marriage of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. . . A good choice for lovers of theater and cinema—and for those who live for the drama."—Kirkus Reviews
- "[Truly, Madly] will greatly appeal to cinema buffs, theater aficionados, and fans of the doomed lovebirds."—Library Journal
- "A haunting, irresistible read."—People Magazine
- "Galloway traces the legends’ epic 20- year love story from its smoldering start to its bittersweet finish."—Closer
- “Stephen Galloway’s irresistible narrative begins with a brazen act of incendiary passion between two of the world’s most brilliant actors. But their love story turns self-destructive, faithless, and vengeful as Leigh descends into a madness that Olivier is powerless to prevent. As they turn on each other, Galloway captures with clear-eyed compassion all of the anguish of two beautiful people stripped of hope and pretense.”—GLENN FRANKEL, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Shooting Midnight Cowboy: Art, Sex, Loneliness, Liberation, and the Making of a Dark Classic
- “A juicy show-business story like this demands a skilled storyteller and scrupulous researcher. Stephen Galloway is both of those things, which is why his book is so valuable.”—LEONARD MALTIN, film critic and historian, author of Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide
- “This is a wonderful read with elegant prose and eloquent dish. Stephen Galloway has for many years been one of the foremost chroniclers of the American film industry. Here, he draws back the curtain on the passionate, complicated relationship between two of its most beloved stars, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, a dream pairing that turned into a nightmare.”—WILLIAM FRIEDKIN, Oscar-winning director of The French Connection and The Exorcist
- “One of the classic real-life movie star love stories, deeply romantic and inescapably tragic, is brought to vivid life in Stephen Galloway’s engrossing book. Thoroughly researched and engagingly written, it pulls us into the maelstrom and shows us the truth.”—KENNETH TURAN, NPR film critic
- “Galloway is a gifted storyteller, whose eye for the tiny details that reveal raw human emotion and struggle is extraordinary.”—JANICE MIN, Contributing Editor, TIME
"[S]teamy and spellbinding. . . Truly, Madly is full of dish, glam and eccentricities. . . [A] fab read. Warning: have a handkerchief in hand."
—Los Angeles Blade
- On Sale
- Mar 22, 2022
- Page Count
- 432 pages
- Grand Central Publishing