James W. Hicks, M.D.

Vivien Leigh’s Desires

In Flexible People on August 31, 2010 at 2:51 pm

A new biography of Vivien Leigh alleges that the actress, who starred in Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire, was bisexual. Advance reviews say that Ms Leigh, though married to Laurence Olivier, conducted numerous affairs, several with other women. She also reportedly went to male brothels with a gay director and solicited sex from male hustlers. All this suggests she might have been supersexual.

The authors also reportedly describe Ms Leigh as suffering from manic-depression througout her life. Hypersexuality is a common symptom of mania, reflecting both the increased sexual drive and decreased inhibition experienced during manic episodes. We will have to wait for the release of the book, Damn You, Scarlett O’Hara, in order to get a better sense of whether illness or personal preference contributed most to Ms Leigh’s sexual behavior.

As a side note, though some might think of bisexuality expressed during episodes of mental illness as pathological, it really provides further evidence of our innate bisexual potential, which the other symptoms of the illness have uncovered. I have seen this myself many times in my practice, when otherwise straight patients pursue sex with both men and women while manic.

  1. A book from some years ago, “Threesomes,” details the many years Leigh, Olivier, and Danny Kaye spent as an extravagant and committed triad. Olivier and Kaye’s attachment and homosexuality were well known in Hollywood, but in an era where such things were never aired publicly. The three often went to parties wearing identical (female) outfits, and they went out of their way to openly express their affection to one another. It may well be that Hollywood behavior has become more closeted as it’s become fodder for the press.

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