Cecília Meireles immortalized Vivien Leigh’s passage through Brazil

You are like the face of roses: different in each petal.

Where was your perfume?

Nobody knew.

Your lip smiled to all the winds and the whole world was happy.

I, only I, found the dewdrop that fed you, like a secret that falls from the dream…

Then I opened my hands, – and it was lost.

Now, I believe I am going to die.”

Cecilia Meireles, 1962

The poem above, translated literally from Brazilian Portuguese, is called Vivien Leigh at Sunset (also literal translation), was written by the celebrated Brazilian poet after a surprise visit by the actress to the hospital where she was hospitalized. The little pearl in the biography of the actress who will complete 55 years of death in July, is only known in Brazil, but it is as delicate and beautiful a tale as was the British star, Vivien Leigh.

In 1962, newly separated from Laurence Olivier and already secretly dealing with bipolarity, Vivien embarked on a long and painful theatrical tour of South America, accompanied by her boyfriend, Jack Merrivale. Exhausted, emotionally drained, she dealt with the avidity of fans and the Latin press, excited to see Scarlett O’Hara and Blanche Dubois in person. Always polite, smiling, and reserved.

The tour first arrived in São Paulo on May 7, 1962, with Shakespeare and Alexander Dumas on the schedule at the Teatro Municipal. A few days later, she landed in Rio de Janeiro, where she gave interviews and met actress Maria Fernanda, daughter of the poet Cecília Meireles, who was then successfully and locally performing in the play Streetcar Named Desire. At the time, a meeting was held for the three interpreters of the main character, Vivien (who had received her second Oscar as Blanche), Maria Fernanda, and Henriette Morineau.

Vivien became very fond of Maria Fernanda, who, in addition to having studied in London, had also played Scarlet O’Hara on Brazilian television. But the star noticed that the Brazilian looked sad and asked what was happening. Maria Fernanda explained that her mother, the poet Cecília Meireles, was sick, and hospitalized, because of cancer.

Moved by it, in secret, Vivien discovered by herself the hospital where Cecília Meireles was hospitalized and went to visit her, taking flowers and waiting by her bedside, in silence until she woke up. This is the moment Cecilia later recalled “Your lip smiled to all the winds and the whole world was happy“.

Your lip smiled to all the winds and the whole world was happy.

Cecilia Meireles about Vivien Leigh


While she was in the country, Vivien visited the writer in the hospital every day, thus creating a friendship between them that would last until the poet’s death, two years later. Before passing away, Cecília would publish this poem in honor of the English actress, which is not one of her best known, but still is very sweet, remembering the flowers and the surprise of finding Vivien Leigh at her side in the hospital.

The star’s sensitivity and affection touched everyone for small gestures like this. Her beauty was internal and external and more than that, completely genuine.

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