Vivien Leigh: Scarlett O’Hara vs. Blanche DuBois

One actor. Two film roles. You tell us which portrayal was the best. The most memorable. Or iconic. Or simply your favorite.

But before you pass judgment, a few words defending the “character” of each…

The case for Blanche DuBois

Film critic Pauline Kael summed it up best: “Vivien Leigh gives one of those rare performances that can truly be said to evoke pity and terror. As Blanche DuBois, she looks and acts like a destroyed Dresden shepherdess. [She] has this quality of hopeless, feminine frailty. …Blanche’s plea ‘I don’t want realism … I want magic!’ is central to A Streetcar Named Desire.” Blanche would appreciate your vote—she has always depended on the kindness of strangers.

The case for Scarlett O’Hara

After an exhaustive nationwide search to give Margaret Mitchell’s character life, Vivien Leigh emerged victorious garnering the Best Actress Oscar for 1939. Vivien deftly hit all the right notes to Gone with the Wind’s independent, brassy, conniving, resolute, vain, gorgeous Southern belle. Surely Scarlett would be insulted if you prefer Blanche DuBois to her, but in the end it really wouldn’t matter. After all, tomorrow is another day!

Now that you’ve heard the arguments for both it’s time to render your verdict!

  • Joel

    Wonderful performances from both Vivien’s!  But, I give the edge to Scarlett.

  • Tangomann

    Certainly Blanche! And with the help of Kazan and the rest of the original Broadway cast: Brando, 
    Hunter and Malden. Unforgettable.

  • Randallhorn000

    Scarlett or Blanche? Tough one. Ms. Leigh was compelling in both roles, and she had great co-stars, to say the least, in both films.  She carried both films, even with those fine actors surrounding her.
    My dad’s favorite film was GWTW, and it was through his eyes & enthusiam that I grew to love Scarlett O’Hara, through thick & thin. But then I discovered Streetcar, which really blew me away, and Blache broke my heart. (My dad, I think, never saw Vivien in Streetcar), so to me, I’d choose Blanche, while acknowledging Scarlett as an epic heroine, with all her faults, And added to memories of GWTW and Scarlett O’Hara, is the whole story of how Vivien Leigh got the part of Scarlett, and how she seemed THE perfect Scarlett, and going on to win her Oscar for her great performance. One last comment, I also really like Vivien Leigh in Ship of Fools. Her scenes with Lee Marvin are worth checking out.

  • Jeanne

     Impossible choice.  Both performances are unsurpassed on every level.  The actress at two different stages in her life and career.  A genius on every level of her art.  Ask Solomon.

    • Pepe38

      Right on…………………………………Just call me Sol!!!

      • Jeanne

         So “Sol”, what’s your verdict?

  • SoonerAlfie

    Scarlett takes this one, because Blanche was a dependent type without much depth to her character.  Scarlett’s character was like a ‘quilt of many colors,’ with surprising turns to her personality throughout the moviie (and book).  One would need 4 times the adjectives to describe Scarlett – when compared to those for Blanche.  As to the marvelous Vivien Leigh – she was compelling in every role she undertook.

    I, too, enjoyed her scenes with Lee Marvin in “Ship of Fools.”  In fact – whenever I watch it again – she and Simone Signoret are the two I look forward to seeing most…..both great actresses, late in their careers.

  • Striff

    I would have to say Scarlett. They are different roles, but I happen to be a romantic and Scarlett has to be it with me. Vivian Leigh lives all her roles she is the character in the movie, there will never be another, just like Bette Davis and all the others from the 30’s and 40’s. No one can surpass the acting back then.

  • Pepe38

    Two great performances by a truly brilliant actress. To choose one performance over the other is like choosing one child over another.
    Let’s be thankful we had the opportunity to see both.

  • Brygolf

    r u kidding  scarlett by a country mile

  • Brygolf

    ru kidding scarlett by a country mile

  • Frankiedc

    Vivien Leigh was not only one of the most beautiful actresses  in films, she also was one of the finest actresses. Like many of the other commentators on this site, I am torn between choosing between the two films in question. Scarlett was a wonderful characterization, selfish and generous, willful and altruistic, loving and hateful, child-like and spiteful. We see a dynamic change in her as the years progress. On the other hand, Blanche remains static throughout the film. She is literally at the end of her rope, and it is heartbreaking to see her descend into madness. Leigh’s performance is painfully real and especially brave coming at that time in her life.

    It is a shame she did not make more movies than she did.She was a delight in Cesar and CLeopatra, tragic in Anna Karenina, upsetting in the aforementioned Ship of Fools, and so sadly vulnerable in Waterloo Bridge.

  • Gemini09

    Both great roles but I think she is definitely remembered for Scarlett O”Hara as GWTW is one of the greatest movies of all time. My personal favourite is “Waterloo Bridge” – her vulnerability was so heartbreaking.

  • Bernard S.

    Blanche duBois could very well be the grand (or great grand) daughter of Scarlett O’Hara, flesh
    out by a great actress like Vivien Leigh, no wonder these screen personifications are so
    memorable or should I say so “iconic”. Vivien Leigh will be remembered FOREVER,
    as Scarlett O’Hara  AND as Blanche duBois. All three are ONE.  In the near future, how many
    people remember Blanche duBois  as played by Jessica Tandy ? Faye Dunaway ? Ann Margret?
    Jessica Lange ?—-How many will remember Lesley Ann Warren as Scarlett O’Hara ?
    Think about that ? Can we channel Tennessee Williams and Margaret Mitchell and ask them?
    Keep this up and we will have to depend on the kindness of strangers or straight to the looney
    bin !!
     

  • verneaux

    Scarlett for me.

    Blanche duBois is a somewhat troubling characterization. Kazan directed Jessica Tandy in the part on Broadway. Meanwhile, Vivien Leigh performed the part in London under Lawrence Olivier’s direction – resulting in a different interpretation… far away from the original author or director. In the film, Kazan does his best to bring her around, but Leigh was an extremely strong-willed actor.

    That said, I still think the performance has merit.

  • lobsterboyoboy

    hard to take either of these over-the-top performances very seriously by today’s standards (on other hand, how else to play them?) but great scenery-chewing out both sides of a gorgeous mouth

    • Dana Thompson

      Are you crazy? These were not over the top performances, I think you must have lived a sheltered life if you haven’t met these two women along life’s way

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PODTFFPVEUXYHXVGNS5G5FWKGI DIRK

    Blanche could be what an older Scarlett turned into!!

    • Stldjen

       There you go- lol.

  • Lady Lilac

    This is a very hard choice: Scarlett or Blanche.  Vivian Leigh is young and beautiful as the southern belle Scarlett.  As Blanche, she is a mature, southern belle who cannot face the reality of growing older.  Both roles are played to perfection.  Perhaps, Ms. Leigh could relate to Blanche emotionally.  I think she may have really understood her more than the character of Scarlett.  I think that Scarlett O’Hara will always be remembered since the book and movie were great hits.  Probably, more people have seen Vivian Leigh as Scarlett than Blanche. I like both performances, but i’ll choose Scarlett because Ms. Leigh’s beauty and talent gave this character immortality.

  • john

    SCARLETT

  • Pacerdad

    My pick is – Scarlett O’Hara.  One of the most iconic characters in silver screen history.

  • Gary Vidmar

    It’s hard to beat Leigh as Blanche when it comes to Deep South depravity. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2DJSEVY6QEXJ6G6YUFKE227VLI J W

    Blanche DuBois hands down, but Leigh will best be remembered for Scarlett O’Hara.
     

  • TrippyTrellis

    Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois and Olivia de Havilland as Catherine Sloper are the best female performances of all time. Bar none.

  • Robin2k

    Liegh was in every way fabulous as Scarlett, but Bette Davis was born to play her …”Scarlett” WAS Bette.  She was offered the role first, but in one of her fueds with her studio, stupidly turned it down.  She always regretted it. 

    • Dana Thompson

      I beg to differ, Bette Davis played “Jezebel” and that was phenomenal, I think that is why she wasn’t chosen for Scarlett,

      • Ralph Senensky

        Wrong! Selznick would have released the film through Warner Bros. if Bette and Errol Flynn played the two key roles. Bette wouldn’t do it with Errol as Rhett.

  • Martylee13045x

    It has to be Scarlett because she carries the entire mammoth film (making even Gable in his signature role a supporting actor)…and her work is as vital and gripping as ever (Blanche seems a bit tired and faded to me…coping with Marlon’s mumbles..given how badly method has dated).

  • Jsilvert

    Admittedly, a tough choice. I vote for Scarlett, however. Reason? Although Leigh was great, I can imagine another actress as Blanche. (In fact, Jessica Lange was very different but very good, and, of course, Jessica Tandy was said to be terrific on Broadway, though only those who saw the original production—and there can’t be too many left—know for sure.) But someone else as Scarlett? No way. Simply beyond my imagining.  

  • Stldjen

    GWTW would not have been the same movie without Leigh – she was the perfect match for that role and helped make it the great film that it is – on the other hand, she made the inner madness of DuBois come alive so effectively that it’s hard to keep your eyes off of her in Streetcar. I say it’s a tie!
    My understanding is that Leigh was bipolar. This condition might have helped her in her acting career.

  • Bruce Lagasse

    Each woman has a statement embodying her character:

    Blanche, whom life has walked all over:  “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”

    Scarlett, who grabs the worlld by the balls:  “As god is my witness, I will never go hungry again!” 

    I’ll go with Scarlett. 

  • Newellm

    Scarlett and Blanche were both perfect performances and both performances won Oscars. Vivien didn’t make as many films as she could have but these two performances by themselves are among the best in Oscar history. (I agree with the reviewer who mentioned Olivia DeHavilland as Catherine Sloper, too). Leigh was that rare combination of exquisite beauty and talent. Bette Davis could never have measured up to Vivien Leigh, especially in the looks department. Joanne Walley Kilmer is laughable (as a brown-eyed Scarlett). So was Ann-Margret as Blanche. Jessica Lange was a poor imitation of Vivien Leigh. I know that people say Jessica lange was better on stage. We’ll never know, but really, Blanche with a British accent?  think not. I saw Lois Nettleton on stage many years ago and she was great but not as good as Vivien Leigh.

  • dog888k

    What became of Scarlett after Rhett walked out?  She finally married into the Hubbards and morphed into Regina in The Little Foxes, which is all about Money, which was always in the back of Scarlett’s mind.  Bette and T Bankhead both played Regina, but could Viv have played her?

  • Sarah

    Scarlett O’ Hara was a tour de force. Best lead performance ever.

  • Dana Thompson

    Scarlett O’Hara of course, wow, what a performance, so was Blanche, but that was so, so sad

  • Dana Thompson

    Just for the record, I didn’t mind Joanna Whaley as Scarlett, I mean so much time had elapsed and it was later in Scarlett’s life

  • Trystan

    People are funny. The Blance performance teeters on the balance edge of sanity.. I believe it is the swingle best Actress performance ever turned in. It was also the beginning of Vivian’s descent into madness. She knew very well the performance she gave and it’s costs!

  • Cara

    As Scarlett, Vivian Leigh carries GWTW. She is in almost every scene. She took hold of that role and conquered it in true Scarlett style. GWTW hasn’t worn well on me. The book was written by a lost-causer in the bad old days of the 1930s when it was quite respectable to be blatantly racist. Many of the scenes in GWTW make me cringe with their fantastical version of the old south. Still, Vivian Leigh’s performance was incredible. I appreciate Streetcar as one of Tennessee Williams’ finest plays and film translations, and I don’t think anyone has ever done a better job than Leigh in creating the role of Blanche. Still, I have to go with Scarlett because of Leigh’s singular accomplishment.

    • KarenG958

      Very well said.

  • Tom

    I saw Faye Dunaway on stage some years ago as Blanche. Very effective. The initial question is a hard one because they are very different women (although the two quintessential Southern roles!) and she played them at different times in her life. Much as I LOVED Scarlett, I may have to go with Blanche. But what a killer choice. Both Oscars so richly deserved.

  • John

    The young Vivien Leigh plays the lovely Scarlett extremely well.
    The aging Vivien Leigh plays the aging Blanche extremely well.
    Just goes to show you that her acting ability endured the test of time.

  • Tom Kinnee

    “A Streetcar Named Desire” is one of the greatest classics of American drama, and the film version retained all the key people from the original Broadway production (Marlon Brando, director Elia Kazan) — in fact the only major change was the casting of Vivien Leigh (replacing the original stage Blanche, Jessica Tandy). But this is one of the extremely rare examples in which a movie star replacing the original stage star actually IMPROVED the piece (even Tennessee Williams agreed).. And the fact that Leigh had been iconic as the ultimate southern belle Scarlett only made her Blanche more devastating and perfect. And to see how Leigh’s performance as Blanche still resonates profoundly, simply watch Cate Blanchete’s brilliant performance in “Blue Jasmine” (Woody Allen’s modern reimagining of “Streetcar”).
    So I vote for Blanche as Vivien Leigh’s most monumental performance.

  • Capoman

    Scarlett O’Hara.

  • Tom K.

    Blanche Dubois ” depended on the kindness of strangers “.
    Scarlett O’Hara ” depended on her own resourcefulness ” .

  • Rita

    Both great performances but have to go with Scarlett O’Hara. No one will ever forget Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara and the movie is a classic for the ages.

  • Carlos Rodriguez

    When I first saw Streetcar, my first impression was, “Blanche appears to be an older version of Scarlett, if she were broken down and lost the strength that made her so self-resiliant.” They’re both wonderful performances, deserving of their Oscar’s. In my opinion, Scarlett is the iconic performance that she will always be remembered for.

  • Sally Stark

    It could only be Scarlett for me. The first time I actually SAW Vivien Leigh was her first appearance in GWTW. I still have a B/W close up of her, in an unused dress, and a sprig of faux narcissus in a cut glass vase.. Blanche DuBois is wonderful, but Scarlett? IMMORTAL

  • BILLYBOY53

    I VOTE FOR BLANCE DUBOIS. SHE IS JUST SCARLETT GROWN OLD, DISENFRANCHISED FROM TARA AND WITHOUT RHETT. NOBODY ELSE COULD HAVE PLAYED EITHER ROLE. VIVIEN LEIGH WAS PERFECT.

  • luke

    Ugh this is like Sophie’s Choice. I can’t choose I love them both!

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  • Roger3

    Blanche quite simply the greatest female performance ever commited to film….but Scarlett is the most brilliant and without a doubt, the most legendary performance ever given..by anyone. It should be in a capsule and launched into space. Forever.