THEY were a Hollywood power couple, leading actors of stage and screen.

When Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh came to Glasgow in 1953, the city sat up and took notice.

Full houses, enthusiastic receptions wherever they went and a great deal of love from the press and public alike marked their Scottish appearances.

They both enjoyed working in Scotland – on a previous visit in 1944 they had looked into the story of 19th century socialite Madeleine Smith, tried for the poisoning of her French lover with arsenic, with a view to turning her story into a movie; and after starring in Macbeth at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 1955, they went back to check out locations for a possible movie. Neither project happened sadly.

Glasgow Times:

In October 1953, however, Olivier and Leigh appeared together in The Sleeping Prince, a tour of Terence Rattigan’s play before it opened in London.

Our sister newspaper The Herald reported: “It cannot be said that The Sleeping Prince is Rattigan at his best, yet it has many amusing situations and lines which create much genuine laughter, and it provides excellent material for Vivien Leigh.

“Hers is a sparkling and beautifully light performance. Perhaps Laurence Olivier’s material is not quite so good, but he has some fine moments.”

The Evening Times critic said the Oliviers at the King’s was the peak of the current theatrical season in Glasgow.

“Such a peak gives us a view of unique finesse in acting, and of the rising standards of a dramatist who has already scaled considerable heights,” said the reviewer.

Olivier was back in Glasgow on his own in November 1957, in a show billed by the Evening Times as “the biggest theatrical event of next week – and possibly the whole season.”

Glasgow Times:

Having been successful in London, The Entertainer - John Osborne’s story of a down-at-heel, third-rate music hall performer, came to Glasgow as part of a provincial tour.

“I cannot recollect any other play which has caused quite the same kind of stir as this piece,” wrote our reviewer under an article which was accompanied by a Coia cartoon impression of the great actor.

The Herald’s drama critic described it as “enormously, brilliantly, stunningly theatrical”, adding: “In the present state of the theatre it would be foolish to ask more.

“No doubt there is an element in the fascination of [Olivier’s] performance of schadenfreude; to see the great man, knighthood and all, going through the routine of a fill-in act at the end of the pier.”

However, Olivier was not so happy, according to Terry Coleman in his book Olivier: The Authorised Biography.

“Olivier wrote to Tony Richardson that in Glasgow all his acts had been received in stoniest silence except for the occasional hiss and that he had had the uncomfortable feeling he was about to be booed.”

Glasgow Times:

The book also reveals that Leigh had visited Olivier in Glasgow during his run of The Entertainer and the hotel had prepared ‘a menu in her honour - soupe Blanche duBois and meringues Scarlett O’Hara’ - which ‘bored her’, writes Coleman.

The passionate and ultimately tragic and terrible love story of Leigh and Olivier began in 1936, when they met after one of the former’s stage performances in London. Both were married, and Leigh had a child, but they were instantly attracted to one another. They began an affair and married in 1940, but their relationship became plagued by unhappiness and ill-health.