The first time I saw Vivien Leigh was in the epic movie Gone With The Wind. From the first minute, I was hooked.
Vivien brought Margaret Mitchell's heroine, Scarlett, to life in a vibrant way no other actress could possibly have achieved. George Cukor, the first director of the film, recalled that Leigh had "a kind of indescribable wildness about her". Vivien transcribed her "wildness" brilliantly into the role of a lifetime.
From the first time Vivien read the book, Gone With The Wind, she decided she'd be the one to play Scarlett. And it was this sort of determination that allowed her to capture the role.
David Selznick and George Cukor auditioned hundreds of unknowns and many known actresses for the role of Scarlett. Alexander Walker writes in his biography of Leigh: "The search for Scarlett had taken 2 years, cost $92,000 and included 1,400 candidates of whom ninety had been tested." After they filmed "the burning of Atlanta", and Vivien read for Selznick, he wrote to his wife: "... shhh: she's the Scarlett dark horse and looks damn good."
I don't think anyone imagined the lasting legacy Leigh created in Gone With The Wind. She went on to win the Academy Award for her portrayal of Scarlett, the first of two Oscars (the second was for Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, another Southern belle).