Vivien Leigh

Vivien Leigh in a dress


One of Vivien Leigh's nicknames was The Puss, and not without reason.

Throughout her life, the actress slightly struggled with keeping balance. It wasn't something serious enough to cripple her in any way as she didn't ice skate for a living, but on stage she had to be careful while doing more physically challenging work.

Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh sit on the floor and petting their cat New Boy who sit at their lap and seems visibly scared of something.
Oliviers and New Boy

She also could not ride a bike if her life depended on it because very quickly after starting she would lose balance and flip.

Despite that, many people saw a cat in her - she had a hypnotizing grace with every move she made. She was a very body-conscious person with great attention to detail, always making sure that even the slightest gestures and movements are proper.

Another way in which the cat came alive inside her was during her mental illness attacks. The worse her illness was becoming, the more she was acting like a cat. In this case, she wasn't becoming a pussycat, but a wounded predator mounting its last offence.

There were no pets in young Viv's home. The first contact with cats came when she got sent to convent at the age of six. Because she was the youngest child in its history, the sisters were compassionate and allowed her to take the convent cat to her room to sleep with her every night.

Shortly before marrying Laurence Olivier, she took in an ugly homeless cat which she named Old Tom. When the World War 2 broke out and the pair went from the United States to England, they left him behind.

Another homeless pet joined the Leigh family after the pair got married. He was a black-and-white cat named Tissy.

Yet another one was was Duffy. We find out about him from Olivier's letter to his beloved during the war. The actor testified that he feels pain in his hand and suspected that he must have had hurt himself while chasing Duffy.

When the actress became ill with tuberculosis in 1946 and had to go through rehabilitation for nine months in the couple's Notley Abbey home, Laurence took initiative and bought her another one. This time, it was a Seal Point Siamese named New Boy, named after New London Theatre.

If Vivien had her favorite cat, New Boy was surely it. It was the only one who moved a lot with her. When she was coming to theatre to work, often it would come to serve as a lucky charm (Vivien's mother Gertrude was extremely superstitious and she passed some of that attitude to Viv).

When she was about to take photographic sessions, she took it as well and was willing to share the spotlight with him.

It even went to Australia with the married couple, but that place proved to be its death. The killing blow was not provided by one of the deadly animals that reside on that continent, but by a local car that run over it.

Because Leigh was torn apart by the animal's premature death, her husband bought her another one of the same breed whom she named Armando.

Ending a string of Siamese cats was Poo Jones, Vivien's final pet who outlived her. The latter part of its name it could thank Jones Harris for. Harris was a family friend.

After the actress's untimely death, the cat stayed with her housekeeper for the time being and later was handed to Peter Haviland Hiley, one of the Olivier family's closest friend. Hiley helped Vivien with endless tasks during her life and this was his last contribution to a person he was extremely attached and devoted to.