Laurence Olivier

Laurence Olivier

82 (passed away Jul. 11th, 1989)
May. 22nd, 1907
Born in
Dorking, Surrey, England, UK
5' 10

Laurence Olivier's Main TV Roles

Show Character(s)
Brideshead Revisited (UK) TV Show
Brideshead Revisited (UK)
The World at War (UK) TV Show
The World at War (UK)

Main Movie Roles

2014 - For No Good Reason
2013 - Love, Marilyn
2004 - Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
2002 - The Kid Stays in the Picture
2000 - The Filth and the Fury
1989 - War Requiem
1985 - Wild Geese II
1984 - The Bounty
1981 - Clash of the Titans
1980 - The Jazz Singer
1979 - Dracula
1979 - A Little Romance
1977 - A Bridge Too Far
1976 - The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
1976 - Marathon Man
1972 - Sleuth
1971 - Nicholas and Alexandra
1969 - Battle of Britain
1968 - Romeo and Juliet
1968 - Romeo and Juliet
1968 - Romeo and Juliet
1966 - Khartoum
1965 - Bunny Lake Is Missing
1960 - Spartacus
1960 - The Entertainer
1955 - Richard III
1952 - Carrie
1948 - Hamlet
1948 - Hamlet
1941 - That Hamilton Woman
1940 - Rebecca
1940 - Pride and Prejudice
1940 - 21 Days
1939 - Wuthering Heights
1938 - The Divorce of Lady X
1937 - Fire Over England
1936 - As You Like It

Guest TV Roles

Show Name
Characters Played
Ep Count
Himself - Actor
[Complete List]


He could speak William Shakespeare (I)'s lines as naturally as if he were "actually thinking them", said English playwright Charles C. Bennett, who met Laurence Olivier in 1927. 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 (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 (I), 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).

  • His father, a clergyman, decided Laurence would become an actor.
  • Even with his noble titles, he refused to carry on a conversation with anyone who wouldn't address him as "Larry."
  • Was chosen to play Antonio in _Queen Christina (1933)_ (qv) but was rejected by 'Greta Garbo' (qv) after an initial meeting at the studio. The part later went to Garbo's former lover 'John Gilbert (I)' (qv), 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.
  • 'John Gielgud' (qv) and 'Ralph Richardson (I)' (qv) 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 (II)' (qv)'s _The Entertainer (1960)_ (qv). 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)_ (qv), approximately $3 million in 2006 dollars), whereas the other theatrical knights were not.
  • He was asked by the the Ministry of Information to play the French-Canadian trapper Johnny in _49th Parallel (1941)_ (qv), a film commissioned by the Ministry to raise awareness of the Nazi threat in North America, particularly the U.S. 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 ancestors were Hugenots). 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' (qv) 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.
  • Was the first person to direct himself to a Best Actor win (in _Hamlet (1948)_ (qv)).
  • His acting in _Hamlet (1948)_ (qv) is discussed by Holden Caulfield in "Catcher in the Rye".

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