Olivier & Leigh – spinning a fantasy

The romance of the century – tempestuous, turbulent, tumultuous and heartbreaking – is a label that fits several iconic marriages, none more so that the ill-starred match between the two Hollywood legends Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.  ‘Truly Madly’ is the latest book, by a former Hollywood Reporter editor, to rake over the details.

  Leigh is etched in public memory for her Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind and Blanche du Bois from Streetcar Named Desire; Olivier for Shakespeare and a raft of screen hits. Their marriage lasted on paper for twenty years, during which she had breakdowns diagnosed as “manic depression”, which sent her into rounds of electroshock therapy, a cycle of excited derangement followed by suicidal depression. Both drank excessively and both had affairs, she with Peter Finch and he with Dorothy Tutin.

 Both came out of dysfunctional backgrounds, he the son of a tyrannical and eccentric clergyman with his mother dying when he was 12; and Leigh never recovering from being sent aged six to boarding school by her parents in India. They both abandoned their first spouses to be together and then set out on a high-profile stormy marriage with two careers and her illness constantly pulling them apart.  

 Olivier was born 22 May 1907 5am Dorking, England with a 12th house Sun Mercury in Taurus. He had a Virgo Moon opposition Saturn in Pisces square Pluto which hints at a bleak emotional life and battened down feelings. His explosive Mars Uranus in his 8th house would do nothing for his stability or ability to relate at an intimate level.

  Vivien Leigh was born 5 November 1913 5.16pm Darjeeling, India and had a Scorpio Sun on her Descendant square an Aquarius Moon and Uranus on her Midheaven which is an awkward combination, even without the erratic Uranus thrown in for good measure. She had a wide Air Grand Trine of Moon trine Saturn trine Venus in Libra; and Mars Neptune plus Pluto in Cancer – so she’d wobble between Water and Air, emotionally intense and then detached.  

  Despite all the protestations of lifelong passions there is remarkably little in the way of affectionate compatibility between them. Both may have been mesmerised by the other’s career since her Moon fell on his Midheaven; and his Midheaven in her 10th. His Sun was in her 1st which is helpful though her Saturn sat on his Ascendant which was less so.  Her Venus Sun were in his 5th so for a romantic fling and fun it would be OK but her Venus also squared his 8th house Mars Uranus which would produce fireworks.

  It was the tangle of their Nodes which probably cemented the ‘meant-to-be-together’ feeling. His Moon was conjunct her South Node and his Saturn conjunct her North Node with his Pluto square – so his neediness would prevent her developing. Her Neptune was conjunct his North Node in Cancer so his journey towards being a more caring personality would have been distracted by her delusional behaviour.  

  Their relationship chart didn’t have much going for it either. There was an illusory and ultimately disappointing Venus Neptune in a highly-strung opposition to Uranus in a volatile, angry square to Mars. And a ‘fated’ Yod of composite Sun sextile Pluto inconjunct Uranus.

 She stayed lifelong friends with her first husband Leigh Holman, 3 Nov 1900, another Scorpio who was a better match for her with his Jupiter in her 7th; and her final partner Jack Merivale, a Sagittarius, looked after her with care.

  Olivier moved latterly onto actress Joan Plowright, 28 October 1929, for a thirty year match. Like Vivien Leigh, she had a Sun Scorpio with Venus in Libra and like him a Virgo Moon though it wouldn’t all be smooth sailing. The key plus point was her Jupiter sitting on his Ascendant which is mutually supportive, fosters friendship and would boost his image – in contrast to Vivien Leigh’s Saturn in the same place.  

  Not sure why this is a fascination especially in such grim times – put it down to displacement activity. But I’m always intrigued by the myths of unattainable bliss sold by the influencers of the time which turn out to be gratingly different from the reality.  

7 thoughts on “Olivier & Leigh – spinning a fantasy

  1. very interesting regarding the nodes, would be hard to find a Hollywood couple with such dysfunction lasting a few years these days, never mind 2 decades. Perhaps also because both are fixed signs, and she with enough airy detachment and he with a over-dutiful moon to keep at it.
    His native moon-Saturn opposition couldn’t have been easy on Joan Plowright – their Virgo moons may help bring them together, but she also has to deal with his Saturn, unless he is able to – maybe better in his latter years. (It took me a long time to understand this about my own rel with my ex, who has moon conjunct Pluto, both opposed Saturn; what drew us together also made our emotional lives way too heavy. Always easier to analyze someone else’s issues than one’s own 😉 )

  2. VL has the same Asc/Sun/Moon combo as me, I also have an angular Uranus, but on my descendant with Venus. Her chart ruler is in her 6th house of health, I have Pluto/NN in the same position (no problems). Apart from the obvious Venus Mars square in the synastry, all of her outer planets aspect LO’s Venus and her BML aspects his Sun (Mercury) and Saturn. What’s sad is her Saturn square to his Moon – they wouldn’t find it easy to give up on each other and the Venus/Neptune aspects in the synastry and composite would keep drawing them back in.

    The trouble with astrology is that like social sciences, especially psychology, it goes by the statistical norm. So X aspect shows this trait in most people or Y transits tend to trigger these events. That’s how things are tested. But we then try to apply these findings to celebrities, sometimes from another time in history, who live lives very much outside of the statistical norm. That Saturn square Moon may not work for a couple with similar charts to LO and VL who lived very conventional lives, with regular backgrounds. But for a couple from a more chaotic background living the up and down life of a celeb, it might glue them together despite everything. Add in other mental health issues and it probably applies even more.

    Does that make sense?

  3. There’s a Dick Cavett interview w JP and “Larry” where that Jupiter effect on his Asc can clearly be seen (heard!). Decades later in the Dames documentary it’s clear JP bore the cross that apparently was Olivier.

    Wondering -as ever- about the Yod situation. I see Nodes highlighted in Marjorie’s synastry read between LO VL, but no mention of nodal Yodding in the composite chart, where Uranus and the N Node point to the Sun, and Uranus and the S Node point to Pluto. Given the presence of Uranus in the Yod from the Sun Pluto sextile I wonder if the post presents the classic Yod as the leading one ( and also for brevity) or if Marjorie is less keen on Nodal yods overall ( I recall mention of a Yod with a Node getting some debate recently).

  4. I’m a fan of Leigh’s work and I appreciate this article! I’ve read several biographies, some of which are trash. I’d love to see a synastry chart between Vivian & her daughter. Vivian barely cared for her & stated herself she was “a b*tch” to her own daughter.

    Something not right happened at that boarding school. Vivian often took cats to bed to cuddle with, so I (and some biographers) wonder if she had toxoplasmosis instead of bipolar disorder.

    Vivian Hartley saw Leigh Holman and told a friend she would marry him. The friend told Vivian Leigh was engaged to someone else, Leigh said she did not care. We know the outcome.

    Vivian & Laurence fell in lust at first sight. More than one biographer said that he & Vivian’s husband would discuss who would take Vivian to bed “that night.”

    I don’t think Leigh Holman remarried. Dude was definitely a cuckhold in my opinion.

  5. THANK YOU for providing so much distracting “displacement activity” day after day! Your site is the first that I look at in the morning — even ahead of the weather!

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