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Laurence Olivier

Laurence Olivier

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Also Known As: Laurence Kerr Olivier, Sir Laurence Olivier (Lord Olivier) Died: July 11, 1989
Born: May 22, 1907 Cause of Death: natural causes
Birth Place: Surrey, England, GB Profession: actor, director, producer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

He was by wide consensus the greatest actor of the 20th century. In an age when the "legitimate" theater held firm to primacy over motion pictures, and classical theater over modern, Laurence Olivier crossed seamlessly between both, even bridging the gap between popular culture and the Shakespearean and classic drama canon of which he was master. His official, glamorized coupling with multiple Oscar-winner Vivien Leigh - "the King and Queen of the theater," as contemporary Sir John Gielgud once dubbed them - proved far darker than the fairy tale advertised to the public, even as countless rumors swirled around his eclectic extracurricular relationships. His legacy as the definitive Heathcliff and Hamlet, his acclaim even a generation later as the vengeful cuckold in "Sleuth" (1972) and a ruthless Nazi doctor in "Marathon Man" (1976), would see him earn 14 Oscar nominations, three statues, five Emmys out of nine nominations, two British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards out of 10 nominations - only a few indicators of his titanic impact on his craft and indeed on Western culture.

He was by wide consensus the greatest actor of the 20th century. In an age when the "legitimate" theater held firm to primacy over motion pictures, and classical theater over modern, Laurence Olivier crossed seamlessly between both, even bridging the gap between popular culture and the Shakespearean and classic drama canon of which he was master. His official, glamorized coupling with multiple Oscar-winner Vivien Leigh - "the King and Queen of the theater," as contemporary Sir John Gielgud once dubbed them - proved far darker than the fairy tale advertised to the public, even as countless rumors swirled around his eclectic extracurricular relationships. His legacy as the definitive Heathcliff and Hamlet, his acclaim even a generation later as the vengeful cuckold in "Sleuth" (1972) and a ruthless Nazi doctor in "Marathon Man" (1976), would see him earn 14 Oscar nominations, three statues, five Emmys out of nine nominations, two British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards out of 10 nominations - only a few indicators of his titanic impact on his craft and indeed on Western culture.

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
2.
  Richard III (1955) Director
3.
  Hamlet (1948) Director
5.
  Henry V (1944) Director

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 War Requiem (1989) Old Soldier
3.
 Wild Geese II (1985) Rudolf Hess
4.
 Jigsaw Man, The (1984) Admiral Scaith
5.
 Bounty, The (1984) Admiral Hood
6.
 Wagner (1983) Pfeufer
7.
 Clash of the Titans (1981) Zeus
8.
 Inchon (1981) General Douglas Macarthur
9.
 Jazz Singer, The (1980) Cantor Rabinovitch
10.
 Dracula (1979) Van Helsing
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Stage acting debut in "The Taming of the Shrew" aged 14
:
Professional stage acting debut in "The Ghost Train"
1926:
With Birmingham Repertory Company
1929:
Broadway acting debut
1929:
Film acting debut in "Murder for Sale"
1944:
Appointed co-director of Old Vic Theatre
1944:
Film directing debut with "Henry V"
:
Founded National Theater (Britain)
1983:
Honored at Film Society at Lincoln Center
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

All Saint's Choir School: -
St Edward's School: -
Elsie Fogerty's Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Arts: -

Notes

"Sometimes the gods come down and blow in your ear--and you can do no wrong. Other times, you have to provide a performance. You just can't wait around for them to blow." --Laurence Olivier quoted in The Hollywood Reporter, March 15, 1991.

"Acting is a masochistic form of exhibitionism. It is not quite the occupation of an adult." --Laurence Olivier.

He joined the Fleet Air Arm of Royal Navy in 1941.

Olivier was knighted in 1947.

He was made baron in 1970.

Received the Order of Merit from Queen Elizabeth II; the first actor to be so honored.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Jill Esmond. Actor. Married in 1930; divorced in 1940.
wife:
Vivien Leigh. Actor. Married on August 30, 1940; divorced in 1960.
companion:
Dorothy Tutin. Actor. Had relationship when they appeared together in the film "The Beggar's Opera" (1953).
companion:
Claire Bloom. Actor. Played Lady Anne to his "Richard III" (1955); Bloom recounts their affair in her memoirs.
wife:
Joan Plowright. Actor. Married from March 17, 1961 until Olivier's death.
companion:
Sarah Miles. Actor. Miles wrote about their relationship in her memoirs.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

mother:
Agnes Crookenden Olivier.
father:
Gerard Olivier. Clergyman, schoolmaster.
son:
Simon Tarquin Olivier. Director. Mother, Jill Esmond.
son:
Richard Kerr Olivier. Producer. Mother, Joan Plowright.
daughter:
Tamsin Olivier. Restaurateur, former actor. Mother, Joan Plowright; owns The Engineer, a restaurant.
daughter:
Julie-Kate Olivier. Actor. Mother, Joan Plowright.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Olivier" Weidenfeld & Nicolson
"Laurence Olivier" Prentice-Hall
"Sir Larry: The Life of Laurence Olivier" New York Times Books
"Laurence Olivier" Morgan-Grampian Books
"Confessions of an Actor" Simon & Schuster
"On Acting" Simon & Schuster
"Laurence Olivier: A Biography"
"Enchantment: The Life of Laurence Olivier HarperCollins
"Darlings of the Gods: One Year in the Lives of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh"
"Laurence Olivier" St. Martin's Press
"The Real Life of Laurence Olivier" Applause Books
"Laurence Olivier" Cooper Square Press
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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