Laurence Olivier Poster


Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (3)  | Trade Mark (5)  | Trivia (157)  | Personal Quotes (44)  | Salary (29)

Overview (5)

Born in Dorking, Surrey, England, UK
Died in Steyning, West Sussex, England, UK  (renal failure)
Birth NameLaurence Kerr Olivier
Nicknames Larry
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Laurence Olivier could speak William Shakespeare's lines as naturally as if he were "actually thinking them", said English playwright Charles Bennett, who met Olivier in 1927. Laurence Kerr Olivier was born in Dorking, Surrey, England, to Agnes Louise (Crookenden) and Gerard Kerr Olivier, a High Anglican priest. His surname came from a great-great-grandfather who was of French Huguenot origin.

One of Olivier's earliest successes as a Shakespearean actor on the London stage came in 1935 when he played "Romeo" and "Mercutio" in alternate performances of "Romeo and Juliet" with John Gielgud. A young Englishwoman just beginning her career on the stage fell in love with Olivier's Romeo. In 1937, she was "Ophelia" to his "Hamlet" in a special performance at Kronberg Castle, Elsinore, Denmark. In 1940, she became his second wife after both returned from making films in America that were major box office hits of 1939. His film was Wuthering Heights (1939), her film was Gone with the Wind (1939). Vivien Leigh and Olivier were screen lovers in Fire Over England (1937), 21 Days Together (1940) and That Hamilton Woman (1941).

There was almost a fourth film together in 1944 when Olivier and Leigh traveled to Scotland with Charles C. Bennett to research the real-life story of a Scottish girl accused of murdering her French lover. Bennett recalled that Olivier researched the story "with all the thoroughness of Sherlock Holmes" and "we unearthed evidence, never known or produced at the trial, that would most certainly have sent the young lady to the gallows". The film project was then abandoned. During their two-decade marriage, Olivier and Leigh appeared on the stage in England and America and made films whenever they really needed to make some money.

In 1951, Olivier was working on a screen adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's novel "Sister Carrie" (Carrie (1952)) while Leigh was completing work on the film version of the Tennessee Williams' play, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). She won her second Oscar for bringing "Blanche DuBois" to the screen. Carrie (1952) was a film that Olivier never talked about. George Hurstwood, a middle-aged married man from Chicago who tricked a young woman into leaving a younger man about to marry her, became a New York street person in the novel. Olivier played him as a somewhat nicer person who didn't fall quite as low. A PBS documentary on Olivier's career broadcast in 1987 covered his first sojourn in Hollywood in the early 1930s with his first wife, Jill Esmond, and noted that her star was higher than his at that time. On film, he was upstaged by his second wife, too, even though the list of films he made is four times as long as hers.

More than half of his film credits come after The Entertainer (1960), which started out as a play in London in 1957. When the play moved across the Atlantic to Broadway in 1958, the role of "Archie Rice"'s daughter was taken over by Joan Plowright, who was also in the film. They married soon after the release of The Entertainer (1960).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Dale O'Connor <daleoc@worldnet.att.net>

Spouse (3)

Joan Plowright (17 March 1961 - 11 July 1989) ( his death) ( 3 children)
Vivien Leigh (31 August 1940 - 6 January 1961) ( divorced)
Jill Esmond (25 July 1930 - 29 January 1940) ( divorced) ( 1 child)

Trade Mark (5)

Roles in Shakespeare adaptations
A handsome man with a magnificent speaking voice
Often played noble and fiercely proud leaders and royalty figures
Often directed himself in his films
Rich smooth voice

Trivia (157)

1985: When presenting at the Oscars, he forgot to name the Best Picture nominees. He simply opened the envelope and proclaimed, "Amadeus (1984)".
Even with his noble titles, he refused to carry on a conversation with anyone who would not address him as "Larry".
10/97: Ranked #46 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list.
Knighted in the 1947 King's Birthday Honours List, made a life peer in the 1970 Queen's Birthday Honours List, awarded the Order of Merit in 1981.
Father, with Jill Esmond, of son Tarquin Olivier.
He was seriously considered for the role of Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972) before Marlon Brando was cast.
Directed two actors to Oscar nominations: Himself (Best Actor, Henry V (1944)); Best Actor, Hamlet (1948); Best Actor, Richard III (1955)), and Jean Simmons (Best Supporting Actress, Hamlet (1948)). He won an Oscar for his turn in Hamlet, making him and Roberto Benigni the only two actors to have directed themselves in Oscar-winning performances.
Wife #1 Jill Esmond named Vivien Leigh --wife #2--as co-respondent in her 1940 divorce from Olivier on grounds of adultery. Leigh named Joan Plowright --wife #3--as co-respondent in her 1960 divorce from Olivier, also on grounds of adultery.
In the book "Melting the Stone: A Journey Around My Father" by his son Richard Olivier, Richard describes Laurence as being more interested in his work than in his children; he never looked back fondly on his career and would actually become depressed when he did not have a job.
His father, a clergyman, decided Laurence would become an actor.
2001: Ranked tenth in the Orange Film Survey of greatest British actors.
Ex-son-in-law of actress Eva Moore. She was Jack and Jill Esmond's mother.
Ex-brother-in-law of race car driver Jack Esmond.
Godfather of Victoria Tennant.
Attended the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, England.
While performing a live production of "Hamlet" he completely blanked during the "to be or not to be" soliloquy. He then sat down and remained there until he remembered the lines.
2014: His film version of Shakespeare's Hamlet (1948) is still, to date, the only film of a Shakespeare play to win the Oscar for Best Picture, and the only one to actually win an Oscar for acting (Olivier for Best Actor).
Father of four children: sons Tarquin Olivier and Richard Olivier, and daughters Julie Kate Olivier and Tamsin Olivier.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890- 1945". Pages 837-843. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
He was voted the 20th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
He is considered by many people to be the greatest English-speaking actor of the twentieth century, even more so than Marlon Brando and Spencer Tracy.
Said once that he always visualized the physical appearance of a character that he was going to play before he did anything else.
His acting in Hamlet (1948) is discussed by Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger's novel "The Catcher in the Rye".
The Olivier Theatre, the largest theatre in the new National Theatre complex on the south bank of the Thames, opened on 4 October 1976 with Albert Finney playing Christopher Marlowe's "Tamburlaine The Great", directed by Peter Hall. The Queen officially opened the National Theatre on October 25. Years later, Michael Caine met his former co-star at the theatre named after him, and asked him if he could get in for free. No, he could not, answered Olivier, but he told Caine that he would work on it.
Wanted desperately to stage "Guys and Dolls" in the early 1970s, as he dreamed of playing Sky Masterson, but after stringing him along for several years, the board of governors of the National Theatre vetoed any chance of a production. After years of being hamstrung by the board, Olivier resigned as artistic director in 1973 without being able to name his successor. The governors appointed Peter Hall, founder of the National Theatre's great rival, the Royal Shakespeare Company, as director to replace Olivier. The move is widely seen as an insult to Olivier, who had given up an incalculable fortune in potential earnings in the commercial theater and in motion pictures to make his dream of a National Theatre a reality. However, he was honored by having the largest auditorium in the under-construction National Theatre building named after him. "Guys and Dolls" was eventually staged by the National Theatre in 1982.
Was chosen to play Antonio in Queen Christina (1933) but was rejected by Greta Garbo after an initial meeting at the studio. The role later went to Garbo's former lover John Gilbert, whose career had hit bottom after the advent of sound. In his autobiography "Confessions of an Actor", Olivier says that he understands why she behaved the way she did, but in Felix Barker's 1953 "The Oliviers - A Biography", it was plain that Olivier and his career were hurt by being rejected by the biggest star in Hollywood. Olivier had had to sail from England to America, and then sail back, all under the harsh glare of the Hollywood publicity machine.
His oldest son Tarquin Olivier was 10 months old when Olivier left his mother, actress Jill Esmond, for Vivien Leigh in 1937. Despite Olivier virtually ignoring him after marrying Joan Plowright in 1961, Tarquin was extremely forgiving in his 1993 memoir "My Father Laurence Olivier". Tarquin contends that the rumors about his father were becoming more outrageous with each new biography and dismissed the stories that Olivier had had affairs with Danny Kaye and Kenneth Tynan as "unforgivable garbage".
His oldest son by Jill Esmond, Tarquin Olivier, says in his 1993 memoir "My Father Laurence Olivier" that he was shocked when meeting his father in California in the early 1980s that he was dissatisfied with his career and felt something of a failure. Olivier belittled his own achievements and held up the career of Cary Grant as the paradigm of greatness. Grant, who had a fortune estimated at $70 million by Look Magazine in its February 23, 1971, issue (an amount equivalent to $300 million in 2003 dollars), was the person who presented Olivier with his career achievement Oscar in 1979. The two were acquaintances, never friends.
According to Olivier in his autobiography "Confessions of an Actor", when he went to Hollywood in the early 1930s as the "next Ronald Colman", one studio wanted to change his name to "Larry Oliver". He often wondered what his career would have been like if he kept that less-distinguished name, whether his career would have been as sorry as the name.
According to producer Robert Evans, he could not obtain insurance for Olivier to appear in Marathon Man (1976). He went ahead with Olivier despite the obstacle. Evans and the rest of the production members, particularly Dustin Hoffman, were quite charmed by the man Hoffman called "Sir". Several years earlier, Evans -- as chief of production at Paramount -- had given the go-ahead to offer Olivier the role of Don Corleone in The Godfather (1972), but Olivier was unable to accept the role due to illness.
In his 1983 autobiography "Confessions of an Actor", Olivier writes that upon meeting Marilyn Monroe preparatory to the commencement of production of The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), he was convinced he was going to fall in love with her. During production, Olivier bore the brunt of Marilyn's famous indiscipline and wound up despising her. However, he admits that she was wonderful in the film, the best thing in it, her performance overshadowing his own, and that the final result was worth the aggravation.
Lifelong friends with Ralph Richardson, whom he met and befriended in London as a young acting student during the 1920s, he was dismayed that Richardson expected to play Buckingham in his film of Shakespeare's Richard III (1955). Olivier wanted Orson Welles, another friend, to play the role but could not deny his oldest friend. In his autobiography, Olivier says he wishes he had disappointed Richardson and cast Welles instead as he would have brought an extra element to the screen, an intelligence that would have gone well with the plot element of conspiracy.
Orson Welles wrote his novel Confidential Report (1955) during an extended stay with Olivier and his wife Vivien Leigh. Welles was appearing at Olivier's St. James theater in London at the time in his fabled production of Around the World in 80 Days (1956), which had been produced by Mike Todd in New York. Todd, who later made the film without Welles's participation, had offered to produce a film version of "Macbeth" to be directed by and starring Olivier, but he died in 1958 before the plans could be finalized.
In her autobiography "Limelight and After", Claire Bloom claims that her lover Olivier merely went through the motions during their affair in the mid-1950s. She thought Olivier seduced her as that was what a great actor was supposed to do.
Was gradually forced out of his position as head of the National Theatre by the board of directors after the board vetoed a production of Rolf Hochhuth's 1968 play "Soldaten" ("Soldiers"). The controversial play, championed by National Theatre dramaturge Kenneth Tynan, implied that Winston Churchill had arranged the death of General Wladyslaw Sikorski, prime minister of the Polish government-in-exile, and the fire-bombing of civilians during World War II. Olivier, who revered Churchill, backed his dramaturge, but Tynan was sacked and Olivier's position was undermined, thus compromising the independence of the National Theatre. After unsuccessfully canvassing Albert Finney, Olivier tried to interest Richard Burton in taking over the National Theatre after his imminent retirement from the post. Burton declined, seeing the great Olivier forced out of his beloved theater that he had built over two decades and for which he had become the first actor peer.
Turned down the role of Humbert in Lolita (1962). He originally agreed with Stanley Kubrick, his director on Spartacus (1960), to appear in his film of Vladimir Nabokov's controversial classic, but dropped out on the advice of his agent. Ironically, Kubrick shared the same agent.
Appeared with John Gielgud in "Romeo and Juliet" (1935) in which he and Gielgud alternated the roles of Romeo and Mercutio. Gielgud got the better reviews in the lead of Romeo, which spurred Olivier on to become a better actor.
1958: Was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Actor (Dramatic) for "The Entertainer", a role he recreated in an Oscar-nominated performance in the film version of the same name, The Entertainer (1960). This was his only nomination for a Tony, an award he never won.
Olivier delivered one of the more eccentric acceptance speeches in 1979, upon receiving an Oscar statuette for Lifetime Achievement. His rundown of thanked Academy bigwigs, colleagues and friends included kudos to "my very noble and approved good masters", a quote from Shakespeare's "Othello", Act I, Scene 3, line 77. (Olivier had received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for the role in 1966, losing out to Lee Marvin.) Characterizing the acceptance speech, John J. O'Connor of the 'New York Times' wrote, "Olivier lapsed into a curiously rambling, slightly sticky, extended metaphor about stars and firmaments.".
Modelled the accent for his character of George Hurstwood, an American living in turn-of-the-last-century Chicago in Carrie (1952), on Spencer Tracy.
His great-great-grandfather, Daniel Stephen Olivier, was from a French Huguenot family; they fled from France to England around the 17th century, as they were Protestants, who were being persecuted by the majority Catholics.
Was named the #14 greatest actor on The 50 Greatest Screen Legends list by the American Film Institute.
The first thespian to receive both a Best Actor Oscar (for Hamlet (1948)) and a Worst Actor Razzie (for Inchon (1981)).
Portrayals by other actors: Anthony Gordon in Marilyn: The Untold Story (1980); Anthony Higgins in Darlings of the Gods (1989); Andrew Clarke in Blonde (2001); Julian Sands in Kenneth Tynan: In Praise of Hardcore (2005); Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn (2011).
When he went to Hollywood in the early 1930s, studio executives wanted him to change his name to "Larry Oliver". He said that later on in his highly successful career, he would muse with his friends about what might have become of him, what kind of career he would have had, if he had changed his name to "Larry Oliver", as that name connoted a different type of actor. Actually, there was an American actor with that name who appeared six times on Broadway between 1930 and 1965, most notably in Garson Kanin's "Born Yesterday". The "real" Larry Oliver repeated his Broadway performance as the politician Norval Hedges in the 1950 movie version of the play, (Born Yesterday (1950)), his only film appearance (a senator on Broadway, Larry Oliver's character had been demoted to a Congressman for the film, but he was again bumped up to the Senate in the 1956 "Hallmark Hall of Fame" teleplay).
Won three Best Actor Awards from the New York Film Critics Circle: as the eponymous protagonists of Shakespeare's Henry V (1944) and Hamlet (1948), and as the mystery writer in Sleuth (1972).
Lord Olivier perfected an Italian accent in order to play Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972), and was signed to play the role. However, at the last moment, he fell sick and was replaced by Marlon Brando.
Luchino Visconti wanted to cast him in the title role of the Italian prince in The Leopard (1963), but his producer overruled him. The producer insisted on a box-office star to justify the lavish production's high budget and essentially forced Visconti to accept Burt Lancaster. A decade later, the two Oscar-winning actors competed again for the role of another Italian prince, Mafia chieftain Don Corleone, in The Godfather (1972), ultimately losing out to Marlon Brando, Olivier's only rival for the title of world's greatest actor.
Generally considered the greatest Macbeth of the 20th century for his second stage portrayal of the role in the 1950s, he had hoped to bring "The Scottish Play" to the big screen in the late 1950s, but the failure of his movie Richard III (1955) to make back its money frustrated his plans. Producer Mike Todd, Elizabeth Taylor's third husband, told Olivier in 1958 that he likely would produce the film with Olivier as Macbeth and Olivier's real-life wife Vivien Leigh as his Lady, but that hope died in the plane crash that claimed Todd's life. Thus, the infamous "Macbeth curse" prevented the greatest actor of the 20th century from realizing his dream. Movie critic Pauline Kael, who considered Olivier the "wittiest actor" in film history, considered it a tragedy and said that it showed that there was something fundamentally wrong with the commercial filmmaking industry, that it could deny such a great talent a chance to make such a potentially significant film. Olivier never directed another Shakespearean film after the "failure" of "Richard III".
Was the first thespian nominated for an acting Oscar in five different decades, from the 1930s through the 1970s, inclusive. Only Katharine Hepburn (1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1980s), Paul Newman (1950s, 1960s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s) and Jack Nicholson (1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s) equaled this feat. In contrast, Bette Davis' ten nominations and Spencer Tracy's eight were spread over four decades (1930s through 1960s, inclusive) while Marlon Brando's eight nominations were bunched into three decades (1950s, 1970s, 1980s).
Was nominated 13 times for the Academy Award, nine times as Best Actor, once as Best Supporting Actor, twice for Best Picture, and once as Best Director. In the acting field, only Jack Nicholson and Katharine Hepburn with 12 acting nominations each (Nicholson: 8 Best Actor and 4 Best Supporting Actor nominations; Hepburn, all in the Best Actress category) and Meryl Streep with 16 (13 in the Best Actress category) have more acting nods than Olivier (Bette Davis was nominated 10 times for an Academy Award, all of them Best Actress nods.).
2006: His performance as Richard III in Richard III (1955) is ranked #39 on Premiere magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time.
John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson were considered equal to Olivier in the classical repertoire -- and in Shakespeare. Gielgud was felt to have bested him due to his mellifluous voice, which Olivier himself said "wooed the world" -- but it was widely felt that Olivier as a stage actor exceeded both of them in contemporary plays such as John Osbourne's The Entertainer (1960). He also was, by far, the better regarded movie actor, winning one Best Actor Oscar among 10 acting Academy Award acting nominations (all but one in the Best Actor category) versus one Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Gielgud (among two supporting nominations) and two Supporting Actor nods for Richardson. Olivier also was a movie star (commanding a salary of $1 million in 1979 for Inchon (1981), approximately $3 million in 2006 dollars), whereas the other theatrical knights were not.
According to Time magazine of 21 April 1958, as an addendum to its cover story on Alec Guinness, in 1957 Olivier turned down a Hollywood offer of $250,000 for one motion picture. Instead of making the movie and pocketing the cash (worth approximately $1.7 million in 2005 terms), Olivier preferred to take on the role of Archie Rice in John Osborne's The Entertainer (1960) (a role written specifically for him) at the princely sum of £45 per week (worth $126 in 1957 dollars at the contemporaneous exchange rate, or $856 in 2005 terms).
He discovered Peter Finch when Olivier and his theatrical company, which included his wife Vivien Leigh, were conducting a tour of Australia in 1948. Olivier signed the young Aussie to a personal contract and Finch became part of Olivier's theatrical company, traveling back to London with his new employer, where he made his name as an actor. Finch then proceeded to cuckold his mentor and employer by bedding Olivier's wife, Leigh. Olivier was personally humiliated but, ever the trouper, he kept the talented Finch under contract; Finch, who had been born in London, flourished as a theatrical actor after the career break given him by Olivier. Finch and Leigh carried on a long affair, and since Leigh was bipolar and her manic-depression frequently manifested itself in nymphomania, some speculate that Olivier subconsciously might have been grateful for Finch's attentions to his wife, as he occupied Leigh's hours and kept her out of worse trouble and, by extension, saved Olivier from even worse embarrassment.
He wrote in his autobiography, "Confessions of an Actor", that sometime after World War II, his wife Vivien Leigh announced calmly that she was no longer in love with him, but loved him like a brother. Olivier was emotionally devastated. What he did not know at the time was that Leigh's declaration--and her subsequent affairs with multiple partners--was a signal of the bipolar disorder that eventually disrupted her life and career. Leigh had every intention of remaining married to Olivier, but was no longer interested in him romantically. Olivier himself began having affairs (including one with Claire Bloom in the 1950s, according to Bloom's own autobiography) as Leigh's attentions wandered and roamed outside of the marital bedchamber. Olivier had to accompany her to Hollywood in 1950 in order to keep an eye on her and keep her out of trouble, to ensure that her manic-depression did not get out of hand and disrupt the production of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). In order to do so, he accepted a role in William Wyler's Carrie (1952), which was shot at the same time as "Streetcar". The Oliviers were popular with Hollywood's elite, and Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando both liked "Larry" very much (that was the reason that Brando gave in his own autobiography for not sleeping with Leigh, whom he thought had a superior posterior: he couldn't raid Olivier's "chicken coop", as "Larry was such a nice guy.") None of them knew the depths of the anguish he was enduring as the caretaker of his mentally ill wife. Brando said that Leigh was superior to Jessica Tandy--the original stage Blanche DuBois--as she WAS Blanche. Olivier himself had directed Leigh in the role on the London stage.
1970: He became the first actor made a peer of the realm (the only others subsequently being Bernard Miles in 1979 and Richard Attenborough in 1993) when Harold Wilson's second Labour government secured him a life peerage to represent the interests of the theater in the House of Lords. He was elevated to the peerage as Baron Olivier of Brighton in 1970.
Alec Guinness played The Fool to his first Lear in 1946 when he was 32 and Olivier was 39. Olivier was generally considered less than successful in the role due to his youth and relative lack of maturity in classical roles (though his contemporaneous Henry V was a smash and hinted at his future greatness as an interpreter of William Shakespeare). However, Guinness received raves for his acting. Both actors would go on to knighthoods and Best Actor Oscars in their long and distinguished careers.
Alec Guinness wrote about an incident at the Old Vic when, in the company of Olivier in the basement of the theater, he asked where a certain tunnel went. Olivier did not really know but confidently decided to take the tunnel as it must come out somewhere nearby. In reality, the tunnel went under the Thames, and they were rescued after several hours of fruitless navigation of the dark, damp corridor. Guinness remarked that Olivier's willingness to plunge into the dark and unknown was characteristic of the type of person (and actor) he was. As for himself as an actor, Guinness lamented at times that he did not take enough chances.
Following a bad fall in March 1989, Olivier endured his final operation, a hip replacement. His sister Sybille died the following month at age 87. By early July, his one remaining kidney was in a precarious state, and he was given a maximum of six weeks left to live. At the time of his death, at 11:15 a.m. on July 11, 1989, he had been sick for the last 22 years of his life.
A memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey on 20 October 1989. Joan Plowright and the three children of his last marriage were the chief mourners, along with Tarquin, Hester, and Olivier's first wife, Jill Esmond, in a wheelchair. Olivier's trophies were carried in a procession: Douglas Fairbanks Jr. carried the insignia of Olivier's Order of Merit, Michael Caine bore his Oscar for lifetime achievement, Maggie Smith a silver model of the Chichester theatre, Paul Scofield a silver model of the National, Derek Jacobi the crown worn in Richard III (1955), Peter O'Toole the script used in Hamlet (1948), Ian McKellen the laurel wreath worn in the stage production of "Coriolanus", Dorothy Tutin the crown worn for King Lear (1983), and Frank Finlay the sword presented to Olivier by John Gielgud, once worn by the 18-century actor Edmund Kean. Albert Finney read from Ecclesiastes: "To everything there is a season... A time to be born and a time to die". John Mills read from I Corinthians: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels..." Peggy Ashcroft read from John Milton's "Lycidas". Gielgud read "Death Be Not Proud" by John Donne. Alec Guinness gave an address in which he suggested that Olivier's greatness lay in a happy combination of imagination, physical magnetism, a commanding and appealing voice, an expressive eye, and danger: "Larry always carried the threat of danger with him; primarily as an actor but also, for all his charm, as a private man. There were times when it was wise to be wary of him." He reminded the audience that Olivier has been brought up as a High Anglican, and said he did not think the need for devotion or the mystery of things ever quite left him. The climax of the service was Olivier's own taped voice echoing round the abbey as he delivered the St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V (1944). Its quiet resolution was the choir singing "Fear no more the heat o' the sun" from "Cymbeline".
In June 1967 he underwent hyperbaric radiation treatment for prostate cancer at St. Thomas' Hospital, London. On July 7, he discharged himself from the hospital, where he had been confined to bed with pneumonia as a complication of the cancer treatment, after Vivien Leigh died. In the following year, he had his appendix removed.
In July 1970, while playing Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice" at the National Theatre, he was hospitalized with pleurisy and a thrombosis of the right leg. In September 1974, he fell sick during a holiday in Italy with director Franco Zeffirelli, and after x-rays and blood tests back in England at the Royal Sussex Hospital he was diagnosed with dermato-poly-myositis, a rare muscle disorder. For three months, he remained critically sick in the hospital, and was told he could never act on stage again.
In May 1983 he flew to New York to receive an award at the Lincoln Center, where Douglas Fairbanks Jr. described him as "one hell of an actor". The next evening, Olivier and Joan Plowright went to Washington where, after a showing of King Lear (1983), President Ronald Reagan gave a small dinner party for them at the White House. In the summer of that year, Olivier again suffered from pleurisy, and stayed in St. Thomas's Hospital for three weeks for the removal of a kidney.
1973: He last appeared on the stage in Trevor Griffiths' play "The Party" at the National Theatre, a role in which he had to deliver a 20-minute soliloquy. He won rave reviews in the role.
Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck said that Olivier's 1964 turn as Othello at the National Theatre in London was the greatest performance he had ever seen. Though Olivier received an Oscar nomination in 1966 for his performance in the film version of the National Theatre production, many critics said that the performance captured on film was merely a shadow of what they had seen on stage. Other critics trashed the performance as rubbish, both on-stage and screen, accusing Olivier of making the noble Moor (Moors are considered Caucasian, that is, white under European classification systems developed in the 19th century) into a racist caricature akin to "Old Black Joe." For his part, Olivier had wanted to give Othello "Negritude" (Sammy Davis Jr. claimed that Olivier had come to see him perform multiple times and copied some of his mannerisms in his Othello) in order to comment on racism. He wanted the audience to dislike Othello until the very end, when he is destroyed by the tragedy Iago has hatched for him. Then, the audience would be complicit in Othello's destruction (as they had despised Othello too as a "negro" rather than as the white man in black face he had always been portrayed as by British actors), and their guilt at the destroyed innocent (and their shame over their own racism) would bring them to the point of catharsis. Olivier described it as pushing the audience away for most of the play before drawing them back into his palm.
Richard Burton, who was appearing on Broadway in 1960 in the original production of Alan Jay Lerner's and Frederick Loewe's smash musical "Camelot", hosted a New York reception for Olivier to honor his third marriage, to Joan Plowright. Olivier himself was appearing on Broadway in "Becket", in the title role, a role Burton would play in the film version (Becket (1964)). Playing the role on film that Olivier had originated on stage brought Burton his third Academy Award nomination, his first in 11 years.
He was offered roles in Coronation Street (1960) and Doctor Who (1963).
Was the first person to direct himself to a Best Actor Academy Award (in Hamlet (1948)).
His 1964 "Othello" at the National Theatre was acclaimed by many critics as the work of a master thespian operating at the top of his craft, but ironically, while playing the role on stage at the Old Vic, Olivier for the first time in his career became afflicted by stage fright. He had to ask other actors, particularly Robert Stephens, who played his Iago, not to look him in the eye, lest he be distracted and lose his ability to say the lines. Although he was afflicted by stage fright for the last 10 years of his stage career, he was determined to fight through it and not have it drive him from the stage. He succeeded, and last appeared on stage in 1974, in Trevor Griffiths "The Party", in which he had to deliver a 20-minute soliloquy.
He was asked by the the Ministry of Information to play the French-Canadian trapper Johnny in 49th Parallel (1941), a film commissioned by the Ministry to raise awareness of the Nazi threat in North America, particularly the United States. However, it was intended for Canadian consumption also, as many French-Canadians did not want to be at war with Germany and did not want to fight. Vichy France was an ally of Nazi Germany, and many French-Canadians in Quebec were pro-German. That's the reason Olivier, the biggest star in the film, was asked to play a French-Canadian who tells the Nazi officer he is a "Canadian" and not "French". It was felt Oliver would intensify the film's value as pro-British propaganda in Quebec ("Olivier", of course, is a French surname; his great-great-grandfather was of French Huguenot descent). When Canada resorted to conscription to swell the ranks of its army, there were draft riots throughout Quebec, so intense was the feeling against the United Kingdom, which of course had subjugated New France less than 200 years before. Anti-war sentiment was so rife throughout Canada that Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King declared that only volunteers would be shipped off to Europe.
When Olivier first arrived in Hollywood in 1932, his height was measured at exactly five feet ten inches and his weight at 145 lbs.
One of the 20th century's greatest orators, his last role as the Old Soldier in Derek Jarman's War Requiem (1989) had no dialogue.
Truman Capote pronounced his last name "Oliver".
According to Spartacus (1960) co-star Peter Ustinov, Olivier felt most comfortable acting when wearing a wig, a fake nose or having some other elaborate make-up put on. He often insisted on this, even when it was not particularly required for the role he played.
He was originally cast in Burt Lancaster's role in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961).
Was in frail health while filming The Boys from Brazil (1978), having recently undergone surgery for kidney stones.
The son of a high church Anglican, Olivier was a lifelong Conservative. In 1983, he wrote to congratulate Margaret Thatcher following her victory in that year's General Election. He declined the offer of a peerage from Harold Wilson's Labour government in 1967, despite Wilson's insistence that it was not a political honor. Olivier was finally persuaded when it was presented to him that he could best represent the interests of the National Theatre as a member of the House of Lords. (By that time, Olivier had lost some bruising battles withe the National's board of directors headed by the hereditary peer Oliver Lyttelton, 1st Viscount Chandos.) Wilson secured a life peerage for Olivier in the Queen's Birthday Honours of June 13, 1970, five days before he lost the general election to Edward Heath's Conservatives. When he took his seat in House of Lords, the Conservatives were in power. Aside from his maiden speech when he was introduced to the chamber, Olivier never spoke to the body again or used the Lords to help the National Theatre.
On the opening night of the National Theatre in October 1976, he gave a speech finishing with the words, "I thank you for your kind attention, and for the glory, and the luster, of your attendance." It was tinged with much hidden meaning as the few years leading to the opening had seen Olivier decline all attempts to involve him in the process of setting up the new building after much animosity between him and those in charge. It was the only time he ever set foot on the stage of the theatre which bears his name.
Attended St. Edward's School, Oxford, a top British Boarding school.
He was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute in recognition of his outstanding contribution to film culture.
Addressed President John F. Kennedy's inauguration on January 20, 1961.
The filmmakers wanted him to play Clive Candy in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), but he was prevented from being furloughed from the Navy to take the role by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who did not want the film to be made. Churchill did not want to bolster the production with an actor and star of Olivier's calibre as it felt the movie was critical of a type of British patriot. Olivier was allowed to take a leave from the Navy to make a film about Shakespeare's patriotic King Henry V in Henry V (1944). Roger Livesey was cast instead. A generation later, he played Olivier's father Billy Rice in The Entertainer (1960), though he was less than a year older than him.
Following the election of a new Labour government in the mid 1970s, Olivier found his tax rate almost doubled. Michael Caine advised him to to leave England, but Olivier was unwilling to do so. Caine then suggested he do every job offered to him - so Olivier appeared in many projects he otherwise would have passed on.
Became friends with Wuthering Heights (1939) co-stars David Niven, Geraldine Fitzgerald and, eventually, Merle Oberon.
Was considered for the role of Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966) but Paul Scofield, who went on to win a Best Actor Oscar for his performance, was cast instead.
Ex-stepfather of Suzanne Farrington.
Was commissioned as a Lieutenant, and trained as a pilot, in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, but never called into service, and was ultimately released from his obligation in 1944. To show his solidarity with Allied servicemen, he made Henry V (1944).
Was director John Frankenheimer's first choice for the lead in Seconds (1966), but the producers did not want Olivier as he was not a box office draw. Rock Hudson was cast instead.
Was director Luchino Visconti's first choice for the Prince in The Leopard (1963), but the Italian producers wanted an international box office star to make the film more marketable. Burt Lancaster, a Top Ten box office star in the United States, was cast instead.
The Laurence Olivier Awards, first established in 1976 as the Society of West End Theatre Awards, were renamed in his honour in 1984, with Lord Olivier's permission. The Olivier awards are managed and financed by the Society of London Theatre. They are the British equivalent of the Tony Award. The award features a bust of Laurence Olivier as Henry V at the Old Vic in 1937 and was designed by the sculptor Harry Franchetti.
Admitted to the Order of Merit in 1981, the first actor so honored in its 79-year-long history. The Order of Merit recognizes distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture. Admission into the order is the personal gift of the sovereign of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms and is limited to 24 living recipients at one time from these countries plus a limited number of honorary members. Seven years after Olivier's death, John Gielgud was made a member of the Order, the second actor so honored.
Was awarded a life peer on June 13, 1970 in the Queen's Birthday Honours as Baron Olivier, of Brighton in the County of Sussex, the first actor to be accorded this distinction.
Was awarded a Knight Bachelor on June 12, 1947 in the King's Birthday Honours, becoming at age 40 the youngest actor so honored. Sir Cedric Hardwicke, knighted at age 41, had previously held the record.
Jourdain Olivier, an ancestor, arrived in Britain in 1688 as chaplain to William of Orange.
Garson Kanin and Katharine Hepburn acted as witnesses for the Olivier's 1940 marriage to Vivien Leigh.
Olivier was knighted in July 1947 while working on Hamlet (1948).
He was honored as Turner Classic Movies Star of the Month for April 2013.
Dustin Hoffman has said that, contrary to rumors that he and Olivier did not get along while making Marathon Man (1976), Olivier and then-wife Joan Plowright took Hoffman to dinner several times, and presented him with Olivier's personal copy of "The Complete Works of Shakespeare" once filming ended.
A member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).
He appeared in two Best Picture Academy Award winners: Rebecca (1940) and Hamlet (1948). He also directed the latter.
He has three roles in common with his Hamlet (1948) co-star Peter Cushing: (1) Olivier played Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1940) while Cushing played him in Pride and Prejudice (1952), (2) Cushing played Rudolf Hess in You Are There: The Escape of Rudolf Hess (1953) while Olivier played him in Wild Geese II (1985) and (3) Cushing played Professor Van Helsing in Horror of Dracula (1958), The Brides of Dracula (1960), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972), The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974) while Olivier played him in Dracula (1979).
He directed Russell Thorndike in Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948) and Richard III (1955) and his sister Sybil Thorndike in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957).
He has two roles in common with Kenneth Branagh, who played him in My Week with Marilyn (2011): (1) Olivier played King Henry V in Henry V (1944) while Branagh played him in Henry V (1989) and (2) Olivier played the title character in Hamlet (1948) while Branagh played him in Hamlet (1996). In each case, Olivier and Branagh directed the relevant film.
He directed Esmond Knight in four of his five films: Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948), Richard III (1955) and The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). The only film that he directed in which Knight did not appear was Three Sisters (1970).
He has three Shakespearean roles in common with Ian McKellen: (1) Olivier played Hamlet in Hamlet (1948) while McKellen played him in Hamlet (1970), (2) Olivier played King Richard III in Richard III (1955) while McKellen played him in Richard III (1995) and (3) Olivier played King Lear in King Lear (1983) while McKellen played him in King Lear (2008). The two great actors also played the role of Creakle in TV adaptations of Charles Dickens's "David Copperfield" (Laurence Olivier in David Copperfield (1970) and Ian McKellen in David Copperfield (1999)).
He played a Nazi war criminal, Dr. Christian Szell, in Marathon Man (1976) and a survivor of the Holocaust, Ezra Lieberman, in The Boys from Brazil (1978). He received Academy Award nominations for both films - Best Supporting Actor for the former and Best Actor for the latter - but did not win either award.
He only appeared in two Shakespearean theatrical films which he did not direct himself: As You Like It (1936) and Othello (1965). He played Orlando in the former and the title character in the latter.
His uncle Sydney Olivier, 1st Baron Olivier served as the Governor of Jamaica from May 16, 1907 to January 1913 and as the Secretary of State for India from January 22, 1924 to November 3, 1924 in the first British Labour government under the leadership of Ramsay MacDonald. In contrast to his uncle, Laurence Olivier was a supporter of the Conservative Party.
His elder sister Sybille Olivier was born on July 26, 1901 and died in April 1989 while his elder brother Gerard Dacres Olivier was born on September 5, 1904 and died on November 28, 1958.
His father Gerard Kerr Olivier was born on April 30, 1869 and died on March 30, 1939 while his mother Agnes Louise Crookenden Olivier was born on December 1, 1871 and died on March 27, 1920.
Although he played Eileen Herlie's son in Hamlet (1948), he was almost eleven years her senior in real life.
Although he played Joan Plowright's father in The Entertainer (1960), they married several months after the film was released.
He made five films with Felix Aylmer: The Temporary Widow (1930), As You Like It (1936), Adventure for Two (1943), Henry V (1944) and Hamlet (1948). He also directed the latter two films.
He made six films with John Laurie: As You Like It (1936), Clouds Over Europe (1939), Adventure for Two (1943), Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948) and Richard III (1955). He also directed the latter three films.
He died only nine days after Franklin J. Schaffner, who directed him in both Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) and The Boys from Brazil (1978).
Of the five films that he directed, Three Sisters (1970) was the only one in which he did not play a member of a royal family. He played Dr. Ivan Chebutikin in that film while he played King Henry V of England in Henry V (1944), Prince Hamlet of Denmark in Hamlet (1948), King Richard III of England in Richard III (1955) and Prince Michael of Carpathia in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957).
All five of the films that he directed were adaptations of plays: Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948) and Richard III (1955) were all based on the plays of the same names by William Shakespeare, The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) was based on the play "The Sleeping Prince" by Terence Rattigan and Three Sisters (1970) was based on the play of the same name by Anton Chekhov.
Along with Spencer Tracy, he is one of only two actors to receive nine nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor. He was nominated for Wuthering Heights (1939), Rebecca (1940), Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948), Richard III (1955), The Entertainer (1960), Othello (1965), Sleuth (1972) and The Boys from Brazil (1978). He only won the Academy Award for Hamlet (1948).
Although he was 47 when he played the title character in Richard III (1955), King Richard III of England was only 32 years old when he was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485.
He played Claire Bloom's husband in both Richard III (1955) and Clash of the Titans (1981).
He has two roles in common with his The Bounty (1984) co-star Liam Neeson: (1) Olivier played Zeus in Clash of the Titans (1981) while Neeson played him in the remake Clash of the Titans (2010) and its sequel Wrath of the Titans (2012) and (2) Olivier played General Douglas MacArthur in Inchon (1981) while Neeson played him in Battle for Incheon: Operation Chromite (2016).
He received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Dr. Christian Szell in Marathon Man (1976). Kenneth Branagh was nominated for the same award for playing Olivier in My Week with Marilyn (2011).
He played three English kings: Henry V in Henry V (1944), Richard III in Richard III (1955) and William III in Peter the Great (1986).
He had three Shakespearean roles in common with Orson Welles: (1) Welles played Othello in Othello (1951) while Olivier played him in Othello (1965), (2) Welles played King Lear in Omnibus: King Lear (1953) while Olivier played him in King Lear (1983) and (3) Welles played Shylock in The Merchant of Venice (1969) while Olivier played him in The Merchant of Venice (1973).
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6319 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
He was the director Michael Anderson's choice to play Adolf Hitler in a Columbia Pictures epic, "16th of December: The Battle of the Bulge", which had the blessing of Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Defense Department, but the project was abandoned after Warner Brothers appropriated the title for the film Battle of the Bulge (1965) starring Henry Fonda.
He worked with Raymond Massey in Fire Over England (1937) and 49th Parallel (1941), with his son Daniel Massey in The Entertainer (1960) and with his daughter Anna Massey in Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965), David Copperfield (1970) and A Little Romance (1979).
He was only nine days younger than Daphne Du Maurier, who wrote the 1938 novel "Rebecca". He played Maximilian de Winter in the film adaptation Rebecca (1940).
Is one of 13 actors who have received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of a real-life king. The others in chronological order are Charles Laughton for The Private Life of Henry VIII. (1933), Robert Morley for Marie Antoinette (1938), Basil Rathbone for If I Were King (1938), José Ferrer for Joan of Arc (1948), Yul Brynner for The King and I (1956), John Gielgud for Becket (1964), Peter O'Toole for Becket (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968), Robert Shaw for A Man for All Seasons (1966), Richard Burton for Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), Kenneth Branagh for Henry V (1989), Nigel Hawthorne for The Madness of King George (1994), and Colin Firth for The King's Speech (2010).
He and his A Bridge Too Far (1977) co-star Robert Redford are the only people to act in and direct different Academy Award for Best Picture winners: (1) Olivier played Maximilian de Winter in Rebecca (1940) and directed Hamlet (1948), in which he also played the title role and (2) Redford played Johnny Hooker in The Sting (1973) and Denys Finch Hatton in Out of Africa (1985) and directed Ordinary People (1980).
He played Gladys Cooper's brother in Rebecca (1940) and her husband in That Hamilton Woman (1941).
Although he played Robert Duvall's grandfather in The Betsy (1978), he was only 23 years his senior in real life.
He appeared in films with all three of his wives: Jill Esmond in No Funny Business (1933), Vivien Leigh in Fire Over England (1937), 21 Days Together (1940) and That Hamilton Woman (1941) and Joan Plowright in The Entertainer (1960), Uncle Vanya (1963) and Three Sisters (1970).
He has two roles in common with his A Bridge Too Far (1977) and The Bounty (1984) co-star Anthony Hopkins: (1) Olivier played the title character in Othello (1965) while Hopkins played him in Othello (1981) and (2) Olivier played Professor Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula (1979) while Hopkins played him in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).
He has two roles in common with Angus Macfadyen: (1) Olivier played Crassus in Spartacus (1960) while Macfayden played him in Spartacus (2004) and (2) Olivier played Zeus in Clash of the Titans (1981) while Macfayden played him in Jason and the Argonauts (2000).
He was cast as Ben Greene in Magic (1978) but had to withdraw due to illness. He was replaced by Burgess Meredith.
He appeared in four films with Michael Caine: Battle of Britain (1969), Sleuth (1972), A Bridge Too Far (1977) and The Jigsaw Man (1983).
He appeared in five films with Edward Fox: Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), Battle of Britain (1969), A Bridge Too Far (1977), The Bounty (1984) and Wild Geese II (1985).
Along with Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Kenneth Branagh, Clint Eastwood and Roberto Benigni, he is one of only seven men to receive Academy Award nominations for both Best Actor and Best Director for the same film: Welles for Citizen Kane (1941), Olivier for Hamlet (1948), Allen for Annie Hall (1977), Beatty for both Heaven Can Wait (1978) and Reds (1981), Branagh for Henry V (1989), Eastwood for Unforgiven (1992) and Benigni for Life Is Beautiful (1997).
Although he would play Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding of the Royal Air Force in Battle of Britain (1969) a quarter century later, Olivier was by all accounts one of the worst pilots in the history of the British military. He joined the Royal Navy during the Second World War and more than once survived near catastrophe during his flying lessons (reportedly destroying five planes). Eventually, the actor and the navy came to the mutual conclusion that he could serve his country better on the ground, and he was granted leave to aid the war effort by making films.
Laurence Olivier won Oscar nominations for films released in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and the 1970s.
Son of Gerard (1869-1939) and Agnes (née Crookenden) Olivier (1872-1920).
Paternal grandson of Henry (1826-1912) and Anne (née Hardcastle) Olivier (1827-1912).
Paternal great grandson of Henry (1796-1864) and Mary (née Crampton) Olivier (1796-1858).
Appeared in seven Oscar Best Picture nominees: Wuthering Heights (1939), Rebecca (1940), 49th Parallel (1941), Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948), Romeo and Juliet (1968) (which he provided voice dubbing) and Nicholas and Alexandra (1971). Rebecca and Hamlet both won. He was nominated for Best Actor for his performances in Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, Henry V and Hamlet (which he won). These represent his first four Best Actor nominations.
Was the first actor to have won both an Oscar and a Razzie, having won the Oscar for Best Actor for Hamlet (1948) and the Razzies for Worst Supporting Actor for The Jazz Singer (1980) and Worst Actor for Inchon (1981).
Pictured on one of a set of eight British commemorative postage stamps celebrating the 200th anniversary of The Old Vic Theatre, issued 30 August 2018. The stamp shows Olivier in a 1967 performance of "The Dance of Death". Other performers appearing on stamps in this set are Glenda Jackson, Albert Finney, Maggie Smith, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson Sharon Benson, Judi Dench, John Stride, and Richard Burton.
He has two Shakespearean roles in common with Anthony Hopkins in filmed performances: (1) Olivier played Othello in Othello (1965) while Hopkins played him in Othello (1981) and (2) Olivier played King Lear in King Lear (1983) while Hopkins played him in King Lear (2018). Hopkins also dubbed Olivier's voice in the 1991 restored edition of Spartacus (1960) for a previously deleted scene whose sound had been lost during years.
He was offered the role of Benjamin Rand in Being There (1979), but passed when he read the completed script. He said he didn't want to be in a movie where Shirley MacLaine has to masturbate. Melvyn Douglas won an Oscar for the role.
He was briefly considered to play the Grail Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), but he was too ill to commit to the role and died shortly after the film's release.
He was offered the role of Julius Caesar in Cleopatra (1963), but he was busy running The National Theatre.
He was offered the part of Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), but turned it down in order to direct The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) instead. In retrospect, he said that it was a sensible decision to go off and do love scenes with Marilyn Monroe rather than tough it out in the jungles of Ceylon with David Lean.
He has appeared in three films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Wuthering Heights (1939), Rebecca (1940) and Spartacus (1960).
Stated that his early Hollywood films weren't very good and did little to further his career.
Friends and colleagues observed how Olivier's temper could be both unpredictable and frightening.
As a child, Laurence Olivier felt he was never loved very much by his own father - who saw Olivier as the unwanted addition to the family. The actor claimed that his father would display cold indifference toward him, either by dismissing his son as having no aptitude for anything or by ignoring him altogether.

Personal Quotes (44)

Acting is illusion, as much illusion as magic is, and not so much a matter of being real.
Without acting, I cannot breathe.
Of all the things I've done in life, directing a motion picture is the most beautiful. It's the most exciting and the nearest than an interpretive craftsman, such as an actor can possibly get to being a creator.
If I wasn't an actor, I think I'd have gone mad. You have to have extra voltage, some extra temperament to reach certain heights. Art is a little bit larger than life - it's an exhalation of life and I think you probably need a little touch of madness.
Work is life for me, it is the only point of life - and with it there is almost religious belief that service is everything.
[In 1979] You must have - besides intuition and sensitivity - a cutting edge that allows you to reach what you need. Also, you have to know life - bastards included - and it takes a bit of one to know one, don't you think?
[the only acting advice he would give] What is acting but lying and what is good lying but convincing lying?
Acting is a masochistic form of exhibitionism. It is not quite the occupation of an adult.
I'm England, that's all.
[on Method acting] All this talk about the Method, the Method! WHAT method? I thought each of us had our OWN method!
[to a young actress who complained she was not taken seriously because she was a blonde] But my dear, it was your decision!
[January 1970] 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.
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.
[first address to the House of Lords, 1971] 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.
[first address in the House of Lords, 1971] 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.
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.
We have all, at one time or another, been performers, and many of us still are - politicians, playboys, cardinals and kings.
The actor should be able to create the universe in the palm of his hand.
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.
[on whether he harbored any resentment at his forced retirement from the stage after he was fired by Britain's National Theater] I should be soaring away with my head tilted slightly toward the gods, feeding on the caviar of Shakespeare... An actor must act.
My stage successes have provided me with the greatest moments outside myself, my film successes the best moments, professionally, within myself.
[May 1958, on playing Macbeth at age 30 and age 48] When you're a young man, Macbeth is a character part. When you're older, it's a straight part.
I like to appear as a chameleon. So all my career I've attempted to disguise myself.
I'm afraid I probably outrage the Method people.
[upon seeing Dustin Hoffman's "method" acting technique of not sleeping and making a mess of himself to get into character while shooting Marathon Man (1976)] Dear boy, it's called acting.
[When asked by Barry Norman why he had taken on the role of the Mahdi in Khartoum (1966), for which he was so obviously ill-suited] One doesn't do everything for artistic reasons, dear boy.
[to 1979 Academy Awards show writer Buz Kohan, after receiving his honorary Oscar] God, I mucked that up. I had no idea what I was saying but I didn't want to stop.
[upon being awarded his second honorary Academy Award in 1979, an Oscar statuette for Lifetime Achievement, "for the full body of his work, for the unique achievements of his entire career and his lifetime of contribution to the art of film," presented by Cary Grant] Oh, dear friends, am I supposed to speak after that? Cary, my dear old friend for many a year - from the earliest years of either of us working in this country - thank you for that beautiful citation and the trouble you have taken to make it and for all the warm generosities in it. Mr. President and governors of the Academy, committee members, fellows, my very noble and approved good masters, my colleagues, my friends, my fellow students. In the great wealth, the great firmament of your nation's generosities, this particular choice may be found by future generations to be a trifle eccentric, but the mere fact of it - the prodigal, pure, human kindness of it - must be seen as a beautiful star in the firmament which shines upon me at this moment, dazzling me a little, but filling me with warmth and the extraordinary elation, the euphoria that happens to so many of us at the first breath of the majestic glow of a new tomorrow. From the top of this moment, in the solace, in the kindly emotion that it is changing my soul and my heart at this moment, I thank you for this great gift which lends me such a very splendid part in this, your glorious occasion. Thank you.
[1989] Time I was gone. Time I was dead.
[on ex-wife Vivien Leigh] We were like brother and sister, just as she always wanted. But fortunately, occasional incest was allowed.
[on Spencer Tracy] I've learned more about acting from watching Tracy than in any other way.
[on Marilyn Monroe] There were two entirely unrelated sides to Marilyn. You would not be far out if you described her as schizoid; the two people that she was could hardly have been more different. She was so adorable, so witty, such incredible fun and more physically attractive than anyone I could have imagined, apart from herself on the screen.
[on Vivien Leigh] Parts seem to haunt more actresses than actors. Poor darling Vivien was very much haunted. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) didn't do her any good at all.
[on Vivien Leigh] Apart from her looks, which were magical, she possessed beautiful poise; her neck looked almost too fragile to support her head and bore with it a sense of surprise, and something of the pride of the master juggler who can make a brilliant maneuver appear almost accidental. She also had something else: an attraction of the most perturbing nature I had ever encountered.
[on actress Ann Harding] The pretty and highly regarded Ann Harding, a woman of great charm, integrity and beauty.
[on Charles Laughton] The only actor of genius I've ever met.
[on Alec Guinness] He's an actor, that fellow, a superb actor. But over and above that he does his homework. However idiosyncratically I saw Alec playing a part, I would be very, very cautious about criticizing it, because I know that every point about it would be backed by a complete marshaling of all available evidence. He really does his homework.
[on Michael Caine] Wonderfully good company, ceaselessly funny and a brilliant actor.
[on Marilyn Monroe] A professional amateur.
[on needing to reshoot their torture scene in Marathon Man (1976) because Method actor Dustin Hoffman had gotten excessively drunk the first time so he'd look really out of it] Oh, why doesn't he just *act*?
[on Marlon Brando] Brando acted with an empathy and an instinctual understanding that not even the greatest technical performers could possibly match.
[on Marilyn Monroe] Look at that face - she could be five years old.
[on Inchon (1981)]People ask me why I'm playing in this picture. The answer is simple. Money, dear boy. I'm like a vintage wine. You have to drink me quickly before I turn sour. I'm almost used up now and I can feel the end coming. That's why I'm taking money now. I've got nothing to leave my family but the money I can make from films. Nothing is beneath me if it pays well. I've earned the right to damn well grab whatever I can in the time I've got left.
[In 1983] If you're 75, which I am, it's damned hard to find parts. Lear is the only star part for an old man that I know of - I've never heard of a good play about Methusaleh. I played the title role only once before the Old Vic. I was 39. When you're younger, Lear doesn't feel real. When you get to my age, you 'are' Lear in every nerve of your body.

Salary (29)

Too Many Crooks (1930) £60
Potiphar's Wife (1931) £180
As You Like It (1936) £600 a week
Wuthering Heights (1939) $20,000
Rebecca (1940) $50,000
49th Parallel (1941) £2,000 (for 2 weeks)
The Demi-Paradise (1943) £3,517
The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fifth with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France (1944) £20,000
Hamlet (1948) £50,000
Carrie (1952) $125,000
The Devil's Disciple (1959) $100,000
The Moon and Sixpence (1959) $100,000
Spartacus (1960) $250,000
Khartoum (1966) £250,000
The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) $240,000
Lady Caroline Lamb (1972) £20,000 (for 5 days)
Sleuth (1972) $200,000
Marathon Man (1976) $135,000 (plus a percentage of the profits)
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976) $75,000 (for 2 days)
A Bridge Too Far (1977) $200,000
The Betsy (1978) $400,000
The Boys from Brazil (1978) $725,000
Dracula (1979) $750,000
The Jazz Singer (1980) $1,000,000
Inchon (1981) $1,000,000
Clash of the Titans (1981) $300,000
The Jigsaw Man (1983) $1,000,000
The Bounty (1984) $100,000
Wild Geese II (1985) $300,000

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