Sir Lawrence Olivier
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005

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Acting is a masochistic form of exhibitionism. It is not quite the occupation of an adult.

Autograph-hunting is the most unattractive manifestation of sex-starved curiosity.

Have a very good reason for everything you do.

I believe in the theater; I believe in it as the first glamorizer of thought. It restores dramatic dynamics and their relations to life size.

I believe that in a great city, or even in a small city or a village, a great theater is the outward and visible sign of an inward and probable culture.

I don't know what is better than the work that is given to the actor-to teach the human heart the knowledge of itself.

I often think that could we creep behind the actor's eyes, we would find an attic of forgotten toys and a copy of the Domesday Book.

I should be soaring away with my head tilted slightly toward the gods, feeding on the caviar of Shakespeare. An actor must act.

I'd like people to remember me for a diligent expert workman. I think a poet is a workman. I think Shakespeare was a workman. And God's a workman. I don't think there's anything better than a workman.

I'm rather bored by the subject-meaning me. It's a sort of a yoke, but at times you know, a yoke is a kind of comfort. And it's always there.

If he was lost for a moment, he would dive straight back into its honey.

It's just like a nursery game of make-believe.

Lead the audience by the nose to the thought.

Living is strife and torment, disappointment and love and sacrifice, golden sunsets and black storms. I said that some time ago, and today I do not think I would add one word.

My stage successes have provided me with the greatest moments outside myself, my film successes the best moments, professionally, within myself.

Surely we have always acted; it is an instinct inherent in all of us. Some of us are better at it than others, but we all do it.

The actor should be able to create the universe in the palm of his hand.

The office of drama is to exercise, possibly to exhaust, human emotions. The purpose of comedy is to tickle those emotions into an expression of light relief; of tragedy, to wound them and bring the relief of tears. Disgust and terror are the other points of the compass.

There is a spirit in us that makes our brass to blare and our cymbals crash-all, of course, supported by the practicalities of trained lung power, throat, heart, guts.

We ape, we mimic, we mock. We act.

We have all, at one time or another, been performers, and many of us still are - politicians, playboys, cardinals and kings.

When you're a young man, Macbeth is a character part. When you're older, it's a straight part.


Laurence 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.

He 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.

 Olivier, 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.

He 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).

As 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.

In 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.

Olivier 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.



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