Although she made her film debut as a small role in Things are Looking Up (1935), Leigh did not gain much attention until her performance in Sidney Caroll’s play The Mask of Virtue, for which she received excellent reviews. It was during this time that she first met Laurence Olivier, and they began their affair while acting as lovers in Fire Over England (1937), even though the both of them at the time were still married. Under the then moral standards, their relationship had to be concealed from the public eye.
Leigh first received attention in the United States for the 1938 film A Yank at Oxford, but she also made a reputation of being troublesome. During the time, Hollywood was widely searching for a suitable actress to play the role of Scarlet O’Hara, and from nowhere came Leigh, “the Scarlet dark horse and looks damn good,” wrote David O. Selznick himself. Eventually, Gone with the Wind brought Leigh enormous fame, and earned her an Oscar for Best Actress at the 12th Academy Awards.
Take a look at the actress, then young and very stunning, during the 1930s: