Great Performances

Laurence Olivier: A Life (1983)

TV Episode  -   -  Biography | Drama | Music
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A multi-award winning biography covering the life and career of actor/director Laurence Olivier.

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Melvyn Bragg ...
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A candid, comprehensive interview with Sir Laurence Olivier - the only such profile the actor/director ever allowed - offers an intimate visit with the legendary star of stage and screen. Running nearly two hours and forty minutes, this landmark biography follows Olivier's entire life and career from childhood on, capturing his genius for future generations. Clips shown from his films include "Wuthering Heights," "Rebecca," "Pride and Prejudice," "Henry V," "Hamlet," "Richard III," "The Entertainer," "Othello," "Sleuth," and "Marathon Man." Key partnerships, on and offstage are recalled by Olivier and by Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Sir John Gielguld, Sir Ralph Richardson, his wife Joan Plowright and other friends and colleagues. Multi-award winner including the British Academy Award, The New York International Film and TV Festival Gold Medal Award, and the Primetime TV Emmy Award for Best Documentary. Written by alfiehitchie

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1983 (UK)  »

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magnificent documentary/interview with one of the greats
23 November 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Laurence Olivier: A Life" remains one of the best documentaries I have ever seen, right up there with a wonderful interview with Orson Welles I saw on TBS and never saw again.

Olivier is absolutely captivating as he talks about his life and career, which is punctuated with stills, clips, and interviews with his wife, Joan Plowright and actors John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson. I confess that I had a little problem understanding Richardson.

Laurence Olivier displays self-deprecating humor as he tells some hilarious stories on himself - getting caught in his pant legs on stage, breaking his ankle while demonstrating a riding maneuver to Irishmen, and William Wyler laughing his head off at Olivier's snobbery toward film-making. In one interview with a colleague, when he realizes that he played a certain part in a play, he bursts out laughing at the thought of it. Most poignant is the careful way he speaks of his marriage to Vivien Leigh, which is juxtaposed with film footage and photos of this beautiful couple. "I won't say it was the happiest I've ever been, because I'm happy now...but it was a life." "Laurence Olivier: A Life" is truly a no-miss. It tells the story of a brilliant actor who was a charming, funny, private and flawed man. It is a positively riveting, living document.


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