Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM (/ ˈ l ɒr ə n s ˈ k ɜːr ə ˈ l ɪ v i eɪ /; 22 May 1907 – 11 July 1989) was an English actor and director who, along with his contemporaries Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud, was one of a trio of male actors who dominated the British stage of the mid-20th century.
Laurence Olivier, Actor: Sleuth. Laurence Olivier could speak William Shakespeare's lines as naturally as if he were "actually thinking them", said English playwright Charles Bennett, who met Olivier in 1927. Laurence Kerr Olivier was born in Dorking, Surrey, England, to Agnes Louise (Crookenden) and Gerard Kerr Olivier, a High Anglican priest. His surname came from a ...
- Early life and family
- Early career
Laurence Olivier could speak William Shakespeare's lines as naturally as if he were \\"actually thinking them\\", said English playwright Charles Bennett, who met Olivier in 1927.
Laurence Kerr Olivier was born in Dorking, Surrey, England, to Agnes Louise (Crookenden) and Gerard Kerr Olivier, a High Anglican priest. His surname came from a great-great-grandfather who was of French Huguenot origin.
One of Olivier's earliest successes as a Shakespearean actor on the London stage came in 1935 when he played \\"Romeo\\" and \\"Mercutio\\" in alternate performances of \\"Romeo and Juliet\\" with John Gielgud. A young Englishwoman just beginning her career on the stage fell in love with Olivier's Romeo. In 1937, she was \\"Ophelia\\" to his \\"Hamlet\\" in a special performance at Kronberg Castle, Elsinore, Denmark. In 1940, she became his second wife after both returned from making films in America that were major box office hits of 1939. His film was Wuthering Heights (1939), her film was Gone with the Wind (1939). Vivien Leigh and Olivier were screen lovers in Fire Over England (1937), 21 Days Together (1940) and That Hamilton Woman (1941). There was almost a fourth film together in 1944 when Olivier and Leigh traveled to Scotland with Charles C. Bennett to research the real-life story of a Scottish girl accused of murdering her French lover. Bennett recalled that Olivier researched the story \\"with all the thoroughness of Sherlock Holmes\\" and \\"we unearthed evidence, never known or produced at the trial, that would most certainly have sent the young lady to the gallows\\". The film project was then abandoned. During their two-decade marriage, Olivier and Leigh appeared on the stage in England and America and made films whenever they really needed to make some money. In 1951, Olivier was working on a screen adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's novel \\"Sister Carrie\\" (Carrie (1952)) while Leigh was completing work on the film version of the Tennessee Williams' play, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). She won her second Oscar for bringing \\"Blanche DuBois\\" to the screen. Carrie (1952) was a film that Olivier never talked about. George Hurstwood, a middle-aged married man from Chicago who tricked a young woman into leaving a younger man about to marry her, became a New York street person in the novel. Olivier played him as a somewhat nicer person who didn't fall quite as low. A PBS documentary on Olivier's career broadcast in 1987 covered his first sojourn in Hollywood in the early 1930s with his first wife, Jill Esmond, and noted that her star was higher than his at that time. On film, he was upstaged by his second wife, too, even though the list of films he made is four times as long as hers. More than half of his film credits come after The Entertainer (1960), which started out as a play in London in 1957. When the play moved across the Atlantic to Broadway in 1958, the role of \\"Archie Rice\\"'s daughter was taken over by Joan Plowright, who was also in the film. They married soon after the release of The Entertainer (1960).
- Laurence Kerr Olivier
- May 22, 1907 in Dorking, Surrey, England, UK
Cambridge University Press
Laurence Olivier and National Cinema
Laurence Olivier was one of the best-known and most pioneering actor-directors of Shakespeare on screen. This is the first study to provide a comprehensive analysis of Olivier's Shakespearean feature films and his unique Shakespearean star image.
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During the reign of Elizabeth I, a young man's fervent devotion to the crown and to his sweetheart, a lady-in-waiting, lead him to battle for England's victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588. Director: William K. Howard | Stars: Laurence Olivier, Flora Robson, Vivien Leigh, Raymond Massey. Votes: 1,696.
Jul 07, 2021 · Laurence Olivier, a towering figure of the British stage and screen, acclaimed in his lifetime as the greatest English-speaking actor of the 20th century. He was the first member of his profession to be elevated to a life peerage, and he won three Academy Awards.
Laurence Olivier on stage and screen. Laurence Olivier (1907–1989) was an English actor who, along with his contemporaries Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud, dominated the British stage of the mid-20th century. He also worked in films throughout his career, playing more than fifty cinema roles.ProductionDateRoleTheatre (London, unless otherwise noted)Unfailing InstinctAugust 1925Armand St CyrBrighton Hippodrome and tourAugust 1925PolicemanBrighton Hippodrome and tourOctober 1925AntonioCentury Theatre and London area tourOctober 1925Century Theatre and London area tour
It is a principle theme of "Laurence Olivier; the Biography" by Donald Spoto, 1991, that Olivier was bisexual, and that 1950 "he was deeply involved in a homosexual affair with Danny Kaye." Spoto states that Olivier wrote a letter to Vivien Leighin 1961 "weakly describing as merely transitory and unimportant the sexual intimacy between him and ...
Jul 16, 2021 · From the beginning of Laurence Olivier’s life in the theatre, there were rumors about his sexuality. The most intimate friend of his youth was the actor Denys Blakelock, who was openly gay. Writing years later of their relationship, Olivier admitted: “I embraced this unaccustomed happiness with an innocent young gratitude“.
- Stephen Rutledge
- Leigh Takes to The Stage, 1935
- Leigh and Olivier Meet, 1936
- An Affair Begins, 1937
- Leigh's Symptoms Begin to Show, 1938
- Gone with The Wind, 1939
- Leigh and Olivier Marry, 1940
- Criticism of Their Relationship, 1941
- Return to England and Illness, 1944
- Miscarriage and Breakdown, 1944-45
- Turning Point, 1947
Vivien Leigh took her first major step into the public eye when she was cast as Henriette in the 1935 play The Mask of Virtue. Leigh’s performance led to film offers that quickly transformed the young actress into one of Hollywood’s most beloved starlets. Born Vivian Mary Hartley, the future Hollywood actress took her first role at the age of three, reciting “Little Bo Peep” in her mother’s amateur theatre group, according to Vivien: The Life of Vivien Leighby Alexander Walker. Over time, the India-born actress developed a passion for acting and changed her stage name after marrying her first husband, Herbert Leigh Holman, a barrister who disliked the theatre. Her husband’s disapproval for her passion in theater was just one aspect of Leigh and Holman’s unhappy marriage. This would ultimately lead to a love affair between Leigh and Laurence Olivier that continues to haunt Hollywood to this day.
Leigh and Olivier first met after one of the actress’s stage performances in The Mask of Virtue in London in 1936. Olivier, 28, stopped by to congratulate the rising star, then in her early 20s, on her performance. Though Olivier was married to actress Jill Esmond at the time and Leigh was also married with a child, the pair took an immediate liking to one another. “That's the man I'm going to marry," she once told a friend after her initial meeting with Olivier, according to Michelangelo Capua in Vivien Leigh: A Biography.
From then on, Leigh was taken with Olivier’s “charm and magnetism,” according to Vivien Leigh: A Biography, and Olivier was drawn to her in a way he was with no other woman. Olivier admitted he had settled for Esmond out of fear he wouldn’t do any better than her. It is said that the couple’s relationship was not intimate and that Esmond preferred women, according to Laurence Olivier: A Biography by Donald Spoto. Still, they had a son, Tarquin, who was born in August of 1936. "I couldn't help myself with Vivien. No man could," Olivier said in Lord Larry: A Personal Portrait of Laurence Olivier. "I hated myself for cheating on Jill, but then I had cheated before, but this was something different. This wasn't just out of lust. This was love that I really didn't ask for but was drawn into." One year after Leigh and Olivier met, they were both cast in Fire Over England, where they played love interests. The pair began to spend time together on and off set, during which they ultimately g...
The following year was a crucial time for Olivier and Leigh, as both actors were trying to broaden their careers. When Olivier was offered the part of Heathcliff in the 1939 film adaptation of Wuthering Heights, he left Leigh behind in England, where she began to show the first signs of a lifelong mental illness. Because there was no diagnosis or treatment for bipolar disorder at the time, Leigh did not receive help for her condition. During the filming of the 1938 film A Yank in Oxford, Leigh suffered frequent mood swings and gained a repuation as unreasonable and difficult to work with. Despite this, Leigh was offered the part of Isabella, a secondary character in Wuthering Heights. Leigh turned down the offer, disappointed she was not offered the lead role of Cathy, according to A. Scott Berg in Goldwyn: A Biography. During their time apart, Leigh and Olivier exchanged steamy love letters. According to The Guardian, in an undated letter experts believe to have been written betwee...
Eventually, Olivier’s success spread to Leigh when he recommended her to a theatre agent for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. After some consideration, Leigh was offered the part and she gladly accepted, heading to Los Angeles for filming. Working with her co-stars proved to be difficult, though, as some felt her manic behavior often made it hard to work with her. Leigh often wrote to Olivier, who was filming in New York at the time, to discuss this and other worries. She felt the film would end up being a failure in her career and was worried about the final outcome, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In a letter to Leigh, Olivier advised her not to think down on herself. “You have got to be damn smart to make a success of your career in pictures which is ESSENTIAL for your self-respect,” he wrote, according to The Guardian. “... I am afraid you may become just boring. Never to me … But to yourself and because of that to others.” It seemed to be Olivier’s letter...
The next year was filled with good news for the couple. Leigh became the first British woman to win a best actress Oscarfor her performance as Scarlett O’Hara. The couple also received the news that the divorces they’d requested from their spouses in England had been granted. Even though neither Olivier nor Leigh had custody of their respective children, they were now free to marry whenever they pleased. Until this point, Leigh and Olivier had been forced to keep their relationship out of the public eye. In a letter to Leigh, Olivier advised her it was for the best, according to the Guardian. “We are a popular scandal, or rather a public one,” he wrote. “Therefore it is only reasonably good taste to be as unobtrusive as possible. Can you dance and be gay and carry on like the gay happy hypocrite days? No my love you cannot. Why because of your fame, tripled with our situation—quadrupled with the fame thereof [sic].” The couple wed soon after on August 31, 1940, in Santa Barbara, Cal...
Leigh and Olivier went on to star together in films such as 21 Days Together (1940) and That Hamilton Woman (1941), as well as a stage performance of Romeo and Juliet on Broadway. Critics, as in a 1940 article written in TIME magazine, excoriated the couple’s performance on Broadway and connected the adulterous start of their relationship to their roles onstage. Romeo and Julietbecame a major financial flop for the couple, who had invested tens of thousands of dollars in their own savings to the project.
The couple returned to England in 1943 to help with the war effort. According to Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait by Kendra Bean, Olivier joined the Fleet Air Arm and Leigh went on a tour through North Africa in 1944 to entertain the armed forces stationed in that region. Shortly after the tour, Leigh became sick with coughing fits and fevers and was soon diagnosed with tuberculosis in her left lung. The actress spent several weeks in the hospital, during which time Olivier wrote to her constantly. "Please please my angel send me word of what the doctor said, + if it is possible ask him to send me a report," he wrotefrom Paris. "You're the only person in the world who could make hideously selfish me love another more than I do myself."
Though she was advised to stop acting, Leigh persisted with her longtime passion. While filming Caesar and Cleopatra in 1945, Leigh learned she was pregnant but soon suffered a miscarriage, which is said to have happened after the actress slipped on set. This sent her into a deep depression, and Leigh was so distraught that she would sometimes fall into hysteric crying fits on the floor. This would be the first of many bipolar disorder breakdowns to come. At this point, Leigh had learned to recognize her symptoms before an episode, which involved several days of hyperactivity followed by a deep depression and a breakdown consisting of shivering fits and swear-filled tirades, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Often, Leigh would not remember any of this happening but would feel sorry for those around her once they told her what she had done. Leigh took a break from filming and was never able to fully recover enough to continue the focus on the role of Cleopatra. During this time pe...
Despite Leigh’s work suffering, Olivier’s career was skyrocketing and he went on tour with actor Ralph Richardson for stage performances of Henry IV andOedipus. Leigh, not feeling well enough to work again just yet, accompanied Olivier to watch his performances. Olivier was later knightedin a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, which granted Leigh the title of Lady Olivier. This proved to be a huge turning point in the couple’s marriage, as Olivier thrived and Leigh’s depression only worsened.