It was v sadness that ns learned critical week of the death of Suzanne Farrington, Vivien Leigh’s just child. She passed far presumably at house in lower Zeals, Wiltshire, that unstated causes at age 81. Many world know of her, but couple of outside she family and immediate circle seem to recognize much about her. The death announcement in the Telegraph told united state that she lived a life the love and also laughter and is endured by her 3 sons, 12 grandchildren and also numerous friends, while a longer obituary in the same file focused an ext on Suzanne’s tenuous connection with her famous mother than her individual success as a woman, wife and mother.

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Who to be Suzanne Farrington, really? when conducting study for Vivien Leigh: an Intimate Portrait, conference Suzanne was prefer trying to with the summit of mountain Everest as soon as I wasn’t an competent climber. There to be a shroud of safety secrecy surrounding her the was closely held in place by numerous gatekeepers.

Vivien through Suzanne in 1935

“Have you talked to Suzie?” many human being asked me. I had actually not, ns said, yet I hoped to. I wondered about everyone ns interviewed around her. Is she nice? What’s she like? She was certainly nice, they said, however she never ever talks about Vivien, “I mean, she was usually abandoned by her mother.” and also there was frequently the included reminder that “she doesn’t look much like Vivien.” trader Faulkner called me of an embarrassing gaffe he made as soon as he met Suzanne when at Notley Abbey. “You’re not like your mother, are you?” he said to her, there is no thinking. “No,” she responded. “Thank God.”

Whether Suzanne’s reluctance to talk around her life stemmed native lingering feelings of resentment end the atypical connection she mutual with Vivien, or the consistent and unfair compare to her mother, or some other reason entirely, ns was conscious from the beginning and respected her desire for privacy. And so I defined to my interviewees that my goal was not to press for information about her private life yet rather to gain her blessing because that a project that was really near and also dear come me. See, in my experience, I discover it far better to meet people in human rather than rely on officially letters with lawyers or other intermediaries. Ns feel that a face-to-face conference (or also a direct email or call call) enables people to watch what I’m really about and helps me to assure them the I’m no some random crazy human out to compose a tabloid-style exposé ~ above their renowned relative or friend.

Vivien and also Suzanne at Suzanne’s wedding to Robin Farrington, December 1957

It to be a crushing blow, but I refused give up.

Some of my interviewees, after our meetings, were eager to help. Vivien’s sister-in-law, Hester St John-Ives (who sadly passed away just after Christmas critical year), was friendly with Suzanne and also offered come phone and vouch for me. She wasn’t maybe to reach her, but I greatly appreciated the kind effort. Others level out called me that Suzanne wouldn’t want to fulfill with me; and there were likewise those who didn’t feel favor they might even talk about Vivien due to the fact that they were great friends through Suzanne and had currently talked to x biographer periods ago.

Vivien v Suzanne and first-born grandchild, Neville Farrington, 1958

“I great you had been act this once Peter Hiley was still alive,” Hester stated to me if we had actually lunch at her home in Devon one January day ago in 2013. Hiley, who had operated for both the Vivien Leigh and also Laurence Olivier estates since the two of them to be still alive and married come one another, had been the link in between biographers prefer Hugo Vickers (and ns assume others) and also Suzanne. Alas, Hiley died in 2008, just a year after I released this website and a year before I made decision I to be going to embark ~ above the journey of posting a book about Vivien. Full disclosure: in 2009 ns hadn’t the little idea just how to go around getting a book published so even if Hiley had still been v us, I more than likely wouldn’t have known to get in call anyway.

In the end, i never gained to satisfy Suzanne. Yet as Mick Jagger as soon as aptly sharp out, “You can’t always get what friend want. Yet if girlfriend try, sometimes you just might find you get what you need.” Days prior to my submission deadline, ns was contacted through Hugo Vickers that had encouraged my enthusiasm from the beginning. Having presented Suzanne with second a letter I had written, she finally said yes. For the I’m eternally grateful.

This brings us earlier to the concern “Who to be Suzanne?” as a Vivien Leigh fan, I know I speak for plenty of when ns say that it would have actually been good if she’d opened up around her mommy in a documentary or something. Together a writer, in the absence of a direct interview, i relied ~ above interviews and quotes she offered to the push in the years before Vivien’s death (this one continues to be among the most popular short articles on this website for some reason).

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Suzanne and also her grandmother, Gertrude Hartley, early on 1970s

I think it’s herbal for us fans to great Suzanne had actually spoken more about her relationship with Vivien, however I likewise believe her quiet is come be same respected and also admired. By keeping herself indigenous the spotlight, Suzanne had the ability to live her very own life away from Vivien’s ever-present shadow. She put her family and friends first, and also reaped the benefits. Those of us who never had actually the privilege of conference her may never recognize who she really was. But she go bequeath united state with an especially gift in the type of her mother’s papers, now safely ensconced in ~ the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. And that, i think, is much more than enough.

If any of you had actually the privilege of conference Suzanne, you re welcome feel complimentary to comment. I’d love to hear her story!