Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
FilmPart of Humanities

‘And she wrote back’: Historical fandoms, archival practice and Vivien Leigh’s letters Seminar

16:00 - 18:00
15 October 2019
Lecture Theatre B, Avenue Campus 65 Highfield Rd Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Sofia Bull at .

Event details

Film Research Seminar Series, Autumn 2019

A cigarette case, a foldable lorgnette, a silver cup, an appointment diary, and a folder crammed with letters on blue, headed writing paper. These artefacts represent the most treasured possession of a community of female film fan collectors emergent in the 1950s dedicated to the memorialisation of transatlantic stage and screen star Vivien Leigh. Such artefacts chart private relationship with an object of fan adoration that spans continents, decades, and both amateur and national archival practices. Formally preserved in domestic spaces, many of these items – some props, some personal – have passed into the collections of the V&A in London, establishing a unique fan archive which now sits alongside Vivien Leigh’s own.

This paper will explore the history of such fan collecting, foregrounding new research from the AHRC Reframing Vivien Leighproject. Drawing on oral history research with members of the fan community the Vivien Leigh Circle, the paper focuses specifically on collections of fan correspondence with the star. Whilst many fans acquire individual letters, the collections I explore here have greater meaning precisely because they are collections rather than singular events: they constitute a sustained and evolving relationship between fan and star over time and space. The paper explores how their status as privately curated collections offers new insight about how historical practices of fandom form and shape fan identities.

Such illumination is twofold, however: as the letters reveal the historical practices of their recipients, they simultaneously offer insight into Leigh’s professional life and creative labour across a lesser-known period of her career in the 1960s. Her increasingly detailed responses to fan questions as intimacy develops over time give specific insight into her working choices, practices and geographical location in a period where she was struggling to find appropriate roles within Hollywood and Britain. The fan archive, therefore, gives new meaning to the ‘official’ star archive where new readings across both collections produce new interpretations of Leigh and her fandoms in 1960s popular culture.

Speaker information

Dr Lisa Stead, University of Exeter. Senior Lecturer in Film Studies

Privacy Settings