Jack Merivale


Vivien & Jack Merivale, lived together from 1959 – 1967

In John Russell Taylor’s book, Vivien Leigh, he describes the relationship between the two: “She called him Angel, he called her Angelica. For Jack it was hard to remember when he had felt so young. She was so very beautiful and softly shining as she responded to his affection.

Feb. 26, 1961 (a letter to Jack)

In fact my darling it is the 26th and what does that matter when this should have been written on February 14th–St. Valentine’s Day. It really only matters that I love you. Thank you dear dear one– you have made what is nearly a year now– a time of happiness that I never thought possible. My very best and most beloved of Angels I hope you will look back on it with gladness too– you are so closely precious to me and I love you sweet darling Jack-

Your Vivien

I do love my lilac today and thank you for it.

The significance of Jack Merivale is, quite simply and sentimentally, that he brought Vivien love and understanding at the time when she was most desperately in need of it. With her own precipitate announcement that she was willing to give Olivier a divorce she severed the last link and cut herself adrift from all hope of a reconciliation. From now on, she was on her own.

Except for Jack. He and she had scarcely met for twenty years, so the instant spark at their first meeting in New York to start rehearsing the new production of Duel of Angels took them both by surprise. Jack did not know any more than anyone else about the state of the Oliviers’ marriage, or for that matter her health problems, physical and psychological. Even after their affair had begun during rehearsals, Vivien might say that she loved him, but seemed to be still obsessed with Olivier. And her moods became more and more uncontrollable. She was drinking, refusing to sleep and flying into inexplicable rages or sunk in gloom.

When Olivier’s request for divorce came, Jack was on hand, and in the following weeks Vivien became more dependent on him than ever, and more loving. For all her problems, he loved her; she seemed to love him; and in June he wrote to Olivier to tell him so and, in effect, to take over responsibility for her.”

When Jack and Vivien were separated due to their respective careers, they kept up an intimate correspondence. The following is one of Vivien’s love letters to Jack:

Angel Darling– I have been longing for the day to finish so that I could write to you. Abel arrived at noon and we talked over the script. Delbert Mann at 2:30– I had a session with him over it– then to the office with the lot of them to hear the new songs! and new ideas! oh, dear on me wonders how anything ever gets settled. I come home (great Heavens!)– back! at 6:30 bewildered as tiiw U siykd ever get through it. I feel so alien to this medium and not at al sure of what is right and what is not. Everyone seems to have a different view of what they believe right for a musical–they all have the experience I lack . . I feel utterly lost and wish only for news of you — Sweet — sweet one– you were naughty to put that lovely pressie in my pocket but I do thank you — what an angelic generous thought — I hope you are alright in the flat with Mrs. Mac and Poo Jones — are they treating you kindly and fondly? My sainted boy — goodnight– I love you — I love you so deeply — I read your letters all of the time to give me courage — How dearly and clearly you write– unlike your most loving — Angelica.

Do you think Poo Jones misses me at all? I do him dreadfully –please play an extra game with him for me.

WHO IS JACK MERIVALE?
Long time friend of the Oliviers stretching back over twenty five years. He had acted in the ill-fated production of Romeo and Juliet on Broadway in 1940.

WHAT IS HIS HISTORY?
Tall, bearded Jack Merivale with his cut-glass Guardee looks is reminiscent of Peter Townsend. He was born in Canada but educated at Rugsby and Oxford. It was while he was at Oxford that he decided to give up studying and take up acting as a full time career studying first with the Old Vic.

WAS HE FAMOUS?
The fact that Merivale, with his looks, has never emerged as a star is probably due to innate shyness in being the son of famous parents.

WHY DID VIVIEN CHOOSE HIM?
Vivien had once said, “I need a man in my life. To be alone is nothing.”

ED NOTE: Gwen Robyns’ biography Light of a Star provided the above answers.

WHAT HAPPENED TO JACK MERIVALE AFTER VIVIEN DIED?
He concentrated on his theatre work and in 1986 married an actress named Dinah Sheridan. He died from renal failure in London in 1990.
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