of this other more conspicuous contributions to the war effort was his
joyously jingoistic film production of Henry V (1944), for which he
served as producer, director, and star. Like all his future film directorial
efforts, Henry V pulled off the difficult trick of retaining its theatricality
without ever sacrificing its cinematic values. ‘Henry V’
won Olivier an honorary Oscar, not to mention major prizes from several
other corners of the world. The King bestowed a Knighthood upon him
in 1947, and he served up another celluloid Shakespeare the next year,
producing, directing and starring in Hamlet (1948). This time he won
two Oscars: one for his performance, the other for the film itself a
feat only once again repeated by Roberto Benigni for ‘Life Is
stage work took precedence during the 1950s and 1960s, during which
time he directed himself in only two other films: the spellbinding Richard
III (1955) a film laden with the theatre's acting great (Gielgud is
especially moving as Clarence); and ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’
the other British films, there are some razor-sharp character studies,
such as the courteous, cautious policeman in ‘The Magic Box’
(1951), the investigating inspector in ‘Bunny Lake Is Missing’
(1965) and the failed teacher in ‘Term of Trial’ (1962).
It is also a treat for future generations to have on film his seedy
music hall ‘has been’ in ‘The Entertainer’ (1960),
the theatrical version of which (1957-58) had marked his induction into
the changing drama of the mid-century. His Mahdi in ‘Khartoum’
(1966) is really out acted by the quieter, more cinematic performance
of Charlton Heston as General Gordon; this was symptomatic of how Olivier's
mesmeric theatricality (and he is by no means alone in this matter in
the history of British cinema) could sometimes seem too coarse for the
intimacy of the cinema.
personal life was never personal. He was married to Jill Esmond in 1930
and they finally divorced to allow Olivier to marry Vivien Leigh in
1940. They became one of the cinemas most famous double acts, appearing
in both films and plays together. Vivien suffered from depression and
during the couples tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1948 she suffered
dreadfully from it. Laurence was later to remark he ‘had lost
her’ in Australia. They both had affairs in the 1950’s and
eventually divorced in 1960.
then married Joan Plowright in 1961, his co-star in ‘The Entertainer’.
Together the couple had three children, Richard Kerr, Tamsin Agnes Margaret
and Julie-Kate. Both daughters are actresses. The couple were married
until his death from cancer in 1989.. He was knighted in 1947 and in
1970, he became Lord Olivier and assumed a seat in the House of Lords
the following year. Four years later, suffering from a life-threatening
illness, he made his last stage appearance.
Larry continued making two or three films a year well into his seventies
and eighties, and was nominated twice more for Best Actor and once for
Best Supporting Actor (none of them, it should be noted, for Shakespearean
films!). He even did some TV, receiving five Emmy Awards, most notably
for the delightful "Love Among the Ruins" (1975) in which
he co-starred with Katharine Hepburn.
was involved with Richard Attenborough in ‘A Bridge Too Far’
(1977). His portrayal of the Dutch doctor caught up in the midst of
a dreadful conflict was both sensitive and strong. He, by this stage,
had both British and Danish Knighthoods. One of his best performances
I felt (there are many!) came late in his film career as he played Ezra
Lieberman, the Nazi Hunter, in ‘The Boys from Brazil’ (1978).
Gregory Peck (brilliant every time) was outshone by Larry as he quietly
and thoughtfully went about the task of tracking down Josef Mengele.
The following year his ‘Van Helsing’ in the film ‘Dracula’
(1979) was thoughtful and although the film was poor Olivier hid not
shame himself in role. By this stage he had established a record of
near-unparalleled achievement on stage, screen and TV, and was so heaped
with honours that nothing could have diminished him – even if
the critics were having a go!
should also be noted that even with wealth of noble titles, he refused
to carry on a conversation with anyone who wouldn't address him as "Larry".
was nominated 13 times for US Academy Awards and won 4
was nominated for 8 British Academy Awards and won 2
the way he also collected 5 Emmy's, 3 Golden Globes and countless other
he wasn't around last year when he was ranked 76th in Empire magazine's
‘The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time’ list.This fact makes
me smile (and I know he would have smiled to) and is truly a comment
on Empire and its readership. Oh and just so it’s all put into
Sarandon was ranked 10
Nicole Kidman was ranked 39
Jane Fonda 65 (what!)
not Larry - Clint Eastwood was 87...
‘We have all, at one time or another, been performers, and many
of us still are - politicians, playboys, cardinals and kings’
'I should be soaring away with my head tilted slightly toward the gods,
feeding on the caviar of Shakespeare. An actor must act.'
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'
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'
of a actor (1982)
The Boys from Brazil
Richard III (1965)
That Hamilton Woman (1941)