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Robert Osborne - April 2013
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Remind Me

Robert Osborne on Laurence Olivier

How one feels about our Star of the Month for April, the remarkable Laurence Olivier--later Sir Laurence and, after that, Lord Olivier--depends a great deal on when you first saw him in a motion picture. There was, for instance, the older Olivier of the 1970s and 1980s, showing up in films as a character actor with fake noses, hesitant gaits and unusual accents in a diverse range of roles ranging from the great god Zeus on Mt. Olympus in Clash of the Titans (1981) to a suave gentleman of the theatre playing a potentially murderous mind game with an unsuspecting Michael Caine in the mystery Sleuth (1972); there was also Olivier as an elderly pickpocket in Paris, charmingly looking after two teenage sweethearts hoping to elope in A Little Romance (1979). (He later said, "That's a period when I did what I could to bulk up the bank balance, after spending so many years for little pay in the theatre.")

But there are some to whom Olivier is most revered, and best known, for bringing Shakespeare to the screen both gloriously and in ways that made the dialogue by the great Will S. sound like normal, everyday conversation in such first-class films as Olivier's Henry V (1944), Richard III (1955) and Othello (1965).

However, even before any of those later incarnations, there was another Olivier: the "movie Hunk" whose talent as an actor was equal to his impossibly good looks, which he showed off in such distinguished fare as Wuthering Heights (1939), Rebecca (1940) and That Hamilton Woman (1941), all of that in prominent display in an era when those two qualities--great looks and great talent--rarely came in the same package.

Every Wednesday throughout April we'll show a total of 26 of Laurence Olivier's movies, including all of those I've mentioned as well as the film which brought him Hollywood's 1949 Academy Award® as the best actor of 1948, the British-made film Hamlet, a film Olivier also directed (a feat that put him in the Academy's history book as the only person to ever direct himself/herself into an Oscar®-winning performance).

This month such pleasures abound. We'll be showing his one and only encounter on screen with Marilyn Monroe, 1957's The Prince and the Showgirl, which was the subject of the 2011 film My Week with Marilyn in which Kenneth Branagh played Olivier. We'll even bring you some samples of Olivier back when he was still a puppy in his early twenties, making several films in Hollywood (including 1931's Friends and Lovers and 1932's Westward Passage) with which he, not his work, nor his looks caused any ripple whatsoever. It was, however, for him, "the calm before the storm."

Along the way we'll also talk about what was happening in Larry O.'s somewhat tempestuous life when those various films were being made. His was quite an extraordinary career, one we've never had the pleasure of saluting before. Finally, and happily, we say "At long last--Olivier."

by Robert Osborne

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