February 25, 1991 12:00 PM

A & E (Thurs., Feb. 21, 9 P.M. ET)


Here we go again with another expose of a troubled showbiz marriage. But this Australian miniseries about Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier is a literate tragedy, more like Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald than the recent television sobstick of Lucy & Desi.

We meet the famous British acting couple at the end of WW II, when their romance was in full bloom. (Both had been married to other people when they became lovers in 1936.) The acrimony suddenly comes out of nowhere and continues to grow as they depart for a personally disastrous goodwill tour of Australia with the Old Vic repertory company. Leigh’s behavior grows more unstable and her drinking heavier as Olivier gets caught up in his career and the responsibility of his new knighthood.

Mel (The Pallisers) Martin bears a resemblance to Leigh, but Anthony (Reilly—Ace of Spies) Higgins gives the more finely tuned performance as Sir Laurence. Outshining both is Jerome (Bangkok Hilton) Ehlers as ambitious Aussie actor Peter Finch.

Good period re-creation and clever dialogue mark this mini (which concludes the following night at 8 P.M. ET). Its pace, however, is as slow as the old-time ocean voyages that bookend the story.

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