Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Vintage Bride: Vivien Leigh, Part One

Vivian Mary Hartley first met Herbert Leigh Holman, a barrister, in the winter of 1932. It was February and she had just announced to her parents her intention of becoming an actress. Leigh Holman was 31 and Vivien was 18.

Vivien's first glimpse of her future husband happened when she and friends went to Holcombe (a town in England) to observe the Dartmouth Draghounds. Holman rode through town, cutting a romantic figure on horseback and saluting one of Vivien's friends as he passed them. He had "pale, serious eyes and blond wavy hair" and bore a strong resemblance to the film star and stage actor, Leslie Howard.


The pair were formally introduced at the South Devon Hunt Ball held on Torquay Pier. For this event, Vivien chose to wear a sea-green ball gown that matched her eyes. Five months later, Holman proposed to Vivien and she accepted. Her engagement ring was a small diamond ring.


The couple exchanged vows in a Roman Catholic ceremony held on Tuesday, December 20th, 1932 at St. James Church, Spanish Place, in London. Ernest Hartley, Vivien's father, walked her down the aisle.


Vivien wore a long-sleeved, white satin gown and carried a bouquet of roses mixed with baby's breath and fern leaves. Her hair was styled in the latest fashion, covered by a crocheted Juliet cap with a floor-length veil attached. Vivien's wedding band was "an eternal ring of diamonds."

Two of Vivien's wedding attendants with matching ringlets and ruffles
The bridesmaids' dresses, like the bride's dress, were made from satin, but were peach in color with puffy sleeves. The bridesmaids carried bouquets of chrysanthemums.


After the reception, held at a London hotel, Vivien changed from her wedding dress into "a blue suit trimmed with silver fox fur." The couple then embarked on a three week honeymoon, traveling through Austria and Germany, before returning to London and settling into life as Mr. and Mrs. Holman.

The Happy Couple
Their union produced one daughter, Suzanne, born in 1933. Vivien left Holman in 1937, moving into a new home with the also married Laurence Olivier. The couple would later divorce in 1940, leaving Vivien free to marry Olivier. Leigh Holman never remarried.

Items in quotation marks are from Anne Edwards' book, Vivien Leigh: A Biography


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