Truly, Madly is a heartbreaking story that did something I was not expecting going in. It made me feel for Laurence Olivier. Granted what I knew about him prior: he was married to Vivien Leigh, he clashed with and treated Marilyn very badly and he did not have a good reputation in later years.
Maybe he never had a great reputation but it’s the later years most people tend to talk about.
Olivier and Leigh were both married to other people when they meet and eventually left their spouses. In the annals of celebrity it seems a quieter precursor to the Ingrid Bergman scandal or Burton and Taylor. Maybe because at the time both were less well known than they would become?
Either way it was a deep and passionate love.
Stephen Galloway gives a lot of information on what lead to their union but also the things that began to tear it apart even before Vivien Leigh’s mental health became too much. Olivier’s desire for perfection and Leigh’s up and down career which could never match his even after Gone with the Wind and two Oscars.
He does also delve into a lot of behind the scenes stuff on their film and stage projects. While I’m familiar with Gone with the Wind and The Prince and the Showgirl the other stuff was all new to me.
None of this ever feels salacious either. When Galloway does start getting into her mental health I appreciated the details involved in actually trying to help her and not just the stories of her running off with other men, ramblings, etc. Etc. Because Olivier actually did try to help her for years.
And for the time period really that she got any help was impressive.
But the thing was in the end you couldn’t make her stick with it. And between the mental health, the drugs and the alcohol eventually it became too much. No one could really help her at the time and the story really is a tragedy. Not just Vivien Leigh personally but the story of their relationship as a whole.