Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM (May 22, 1907 - July 11, 1989) was an English actor and director, esteemed by many as the greatest actor of
the 20th century.
was born in Dorking. He attended the Central School of Speech Training and
Dramatic Art. His stage breakthrough was in Noel Coward's Private Lives (in 1930), and in Romeo and Juliet (in 1935) alternating the roles of Romeo and Mercutio with John Gielgud. His film breakthrough was his portrayal
of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights in 1939.
He was founding
director (1962-1973) of the National Theatre of Great Britain.
On July 25, 1930, he married actress Jill Esmond, whom Olivier biographer Donald Spoto described
as "a diffident lesbian." They had one son, Tarquin, and were
divorced on January 29, 1940.
On August 31, 1940 he married actress Vivien Leigh. They were divorced on December 2, 1960.
On March 17, 1961 he married actress Joan Plowright; they had one son and two daughters.
He was not notably faithful in his marriages, and had extramarital affairs
with both men and women: Joan Plowright said "I have always resented
the comments that it was I who was the homewrecker of Larry's marriage
to Vivien Leigh. Danny Kaye was attached to Larry far earlier than I."
Olivier reportedly was also intimate with playwright Noel Coward.
Among his honours
are 10 Oscar nominations. He won both Best Actor and Best Picture
(as the producer) for Hamlet in 1949, and two honorary Oscars (1947, for Henry V; 1979). He was created a Knight Bachelor in 1947, and a life peer in 1970 (the first actor to be accorded this distinction), and was
admitted to the Order of Merit in 1981.
He died in Steyning,
West Sussex, England, of complications of a neuromuscular disorder and cancer.
Lord Olivier is
interred in Westminster Abbey, London, England. The Awards, organised by The Society of London
Theatre, were renamed in his honour in 1984.
is an actor who many consider to be the greatest in the English-speaking
world during the twentieth century. Though Sir was based mostly in England,
he made a significant number of Hollywood films. He was nominated for Academy
Awards as either an actor, producer or director twelve times, winning
twice, while also being honored with two special Oscars. In his long
and versatile career, Olivier appeared in more than 120 stage roles,
nearly 60 films and more than 15 television productions.
The son of a clergyman,
he was well educated, and introduced to the arts at an early age. He
made his acting debut at the age of fifteen at the all-boys, All Saints
Choir School. He continued playing Shakespearean and other classical
roles while in training. Olivier's next big step was joining The Birmingham
Repertory company in 1926. He had also acted on Broadway and was recognized
by the American film industry. He had his chance at early Hollywood stardom when he played the
lead in Yellow Ticket. By the time he made Fire Over England, he was a hot commodity,
made even hotter by his well-publicized affair with his costar, the
beautiful and talented Vivien Leigh. Tongues wagged wilder than usual
because both Olivier and Leigh were married to other people at the time.
They later freed themselves in order to marry each other, a union that
lasted for more than 20 years.
As a sought after actor,
Olivier heeded the call to Hollywood again and was considerably
more successful. He starred as Heathclifff in the scintillating romance,
Wuthering Heights (1939), and became
an international matinee idol. He followed that hit with several others,
including Rebecca and That Hamilton Woman.
Olivier's most productive period came from directing and producing.
He did this, while also starring in Henry V (1944) and Hamlet (1948). He won Best
Film and Best Actor awards for Hamlet from the Academy.
No matter what country has produced his films, Olivier remains an international
star whose talent belongs to all nations.
Burdened by ill health
for more than a decade, Olivier fought cancer and other ailments while
working at a furious pace. He was knighted in 1947, and in 1970 he was
made "Baron Olivier of Brighton," for services to the theater,
which allowed him to sit in the House of the Lords. If that wasn't enough,
in 1981 he was given the Order of Merit. In America, the Academy of
Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestowed its version of knighthood
on "Lord Larry," awarding him a special Oscar "for the
full body of his work, the unique achievement of his entire career and
his lifetime of contribution to the art of film.
Laurence Kerr (BARON OLIVIER OF BRIGHTON).
British actor and director (b. May 22, 1907, Dorking, Surrey England--d.
July 11, 1989, Steyning, West Sussex. England), was the founding director
(1962-73) of the British National Theater and was hailed by many as
the greatest actor of the 20th century.
dazzled audiences with brilliant acting, athleticism, and elaborate
costumes, makeup, and vocal techniques. Olivier, who began acting as
a child, attended the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic
Art and worked with the Birmingham Repertory Company (1926-1928). His
breakthrough came in Noel Coward's Private Lives (1930), and in Romeo
and Juliet (1935). in which he alternated the roles of Romeo and Mercutio
with John Gielgud, he began his distinguished classical career. Olivier
gained international movie stardom and the first of 10 Academy Award
nominations for his portrayal of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights (1939).
He followed this with popular romantic leads in Rebecca and Pride and
Prejudice (both 1940).
codirector (1944-49) with Ralph Richardson of the rejuvenated Old Vic
Theatre Company, Olivier specialized in Shakespearean roles, many of
which he transferred to the screen. both as actor and as director. These
included Henry V (1944), for which he received a special Oscar-: Hamlet
(1948). which won Oscars for best actor and best picture. Richard 111(1955).
and Othello, (1965). Olivier also starred in several plays and films
with his second wife, Vivien Leigh.
1957 he broke away from classical roles and achieved new success with
his portrayal of the seedy third-rate vaudevillian Archie Rice in John
Osborne's The Entertainer (filmed 1960). In 1962 Olivier was named actor-manager
of the new National Theatre, where he appeared in such varied plays
as Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, August Strindberg's Dance of'
Death and Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters. He retired from the stage
in 1974 to focus on motion pictures and television. Although critics
derided much of his later work. Olivier received Oscar nominations for
Sleuth (1972), The Marathon Man (1976) and The Boys from Brazil (1978).
He also garnered five television Emmy awards, most notably for adaptations
of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night (1973), Love Among
the Ruins (1975), and Brideshead Revisited (1982). In 1983 he starred
in an acclaimed television staging of King Lear.
was repeatedly stricken by debilitating illnesses in the 1970s and 1980s.
hut he continued to act- making his last television appearance in War
Requiem (I988). He published his memoirs in 1982, followed by On Acting
(1986). Olivier was knighted in 1947, and in 1970 he was elevated to
a life peerage, the first of his profession to be so honoured. As a
final tribute from the nation, it was announced that Olivier would be
the fifth actor in history to be buried in Westminster Abbey.