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Vivien Leigh and Her Fans

        Throughout her career, British actress Vivien Leigh appeared in 20 films, acted in countless theater productions, and amassed a devoted fan base throughout the world that is still active today, over 40 years after her death. In all of her dealings with fans and admirers, Vivien showed the utmost grace and class, replying to countless letters and autograph requests. Here are some examples of the letters Vivien wrote in response to her fans.

The letter above is written on Vivien’s personal stationery; however, when traveling she would often make use of the stationery of her hotel:

     Interaction and correspondence with her followers reached its high point in April of 1963, during Leigh’s run on Broadway in Tovarich, with the founding of the Vivien Leigh Society. With a basic $2.50 annual membership fee, one would receive “2 large journals a year, news bulletins, membership photo-cards, and autographed photo’s from Ms. Leigh from time to time when Ms. Leigh can do this for us in addition to access to the library and photograph order department maintained by the VL Society.” The Society was the second organized, membership-driven fan base for Vivien, the first had been active from 1948-1953.

      In their bi-annual publications, the Vivien Leigh Society covered reviews of stage performances, screenings of films, information about current and possible future projects, as well as occasional messages from Vivien and her family. They also orchestrated write-in campaigns against magazines and publications that published “unfounded reports about our Honorary President.” Stating that: “It is time we put a stop to these ridiculous reporting measures.”

     Over the past year, I have had the opportunity of meeting and getting to know an avid Vivien Leigh fan and active member of the Vivien Leigh Society, Robert Rosterman. I first met Mr. Rosterman in October of 2010 at the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum. He was a wonderful man with amazing stories to share. Throughout his life he corresponded with Vivien Leigh, via mail and telegram. He shared stories of Vivien sending him a Christmas telegram and the joy he experienced when getting letters from her in the mail.

     Based in Chicago, Mr. Rosterman attended multiple performances of Duel of Angels. After the show one night, he waited outside of the exit used by the performers and had the opportunity to meet Ms. Leigh. On another occasion they met again at a bar in Chicago, he offered to buy her a drink and to his delight, she said yes! They both had a “Scarlett O’hara Cocktail,” and he shared with her his yearly tradition of drinking a “Scarlett O’Hara” on December 15th, the anniversary of the premier of Gone With the Wind. He said that she was completely unaware of the drink’s existence and didn’t really care for it, claiming that it was “too sweet”. He also met her backstage in New York after a performance of Tovarich, and she recognized him by name from their previous encounters.

      Later in his life, long after Vivien’s passing, Mr. Rosterman was traveling when he received an urgent phone call from the super of his apartment complex. His building had been infested with a type of bed bug and everything contained in his apartment had to be liquidated. He said that by the time he was back in Chicago, all of his prized possessions were long gone. After finishing his stories, he looked me square in the eye with a huge smile and said, “But, I’ve still got the memories, and they are wonderful, wonderful memories!”

Robert Rosterman sitting with Vivien Leigh biographer Anne Edwards in Marietta, GA in June of 2011. Photo courtesy of the City of Marietta.

   

     Earlier this summer, Mr. Rosterman passed away. Fortunately he shared his stories with many people and his memories and experiences with Vivien Leigh will live on. Before the infestation of his apartment, he donated a handful of his letters from Vivien to the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum. These letters are still there and on display. He was also interviewed in Sally Tippett Rain’s documentary, “The Making of A Masterpiece.” For more information about the Vivien Leigh society, visit Leigh Mill’s website vivien-leigh.com

Robert Rosterman at the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum in October of 2011.

This post was part of The Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Appreciation Blogathon hosted by http://www.vivandlarry.com 

Link to all blogathon posts: http://www.vivandlarry.com/events/let-the-vivien-leigh-and-laurence-olivier-appreciation-blogathon-begin/