Though he retired from the stage in because of illness, he never stopped working as a serious actor. All were rivals, and Sir Ralph remained one of Lord Olivier's closest friends and a frequent adviser. One could elevate Sir John for his poetic bearing and voice and Sir Ralph for his gift for eccentric characterizations, but neither they nor any of their contemporaries could match Lord Olivier in matters of boldness and bravery.
Sir John admired the way Lord Olivier ''dashes with a part'' and ''wrings its neck. Throughout his career, Lord Olivier was known for his feats of physical as well as emotional courage. In his film ''Hamlet,'' he leaped from a foot platform to catch the conscience of Claudius. In Strindberg's ''Dance of Death,'' he fell to the floor in a faint with such conviction that audiences thought he had a stroke onstage.
He could have added that it also took determination.
Though in hindsight, Lord Olivier was accepted as a natural actor, to a large extent he willed himself to his position of greatness. He learned how to use his voice and body in the interest of his art, perfecting accents, experimenting with makeup and challenging himself in his choice of roles. But in films he came to be regarded as a quintessential romantic hero - his Heathcliff still makes hearts beat faster - even his looks were, to a certain extent, a tribute to the persuasiveness of his performance. As the critic James Agate wrote, Lord Olivier was ''a comedian by instinct and a tragedian by art.
In , he combined the sublime and the ridiculous on a single bill: after his famous eye-gouging performance in ''Oedipus'' he offered a cameo as Mr. Puff in Sheridan's ''Critic,'' an evening commonly referred to as ''Oedipuff. Although others would credit him for his honesty Noel Coward emphasized the ''impeccable truth'' of his characterizations , he confessed that for him acting was a form of lying.
Other actors spoke of their need to express themselves, but he said he was not conscious of any need other ''than to show off. Onstage he could project supreme self-confidence, but in private he was tormented by doubt and guilt, both of which he traced back to his boyhood, which was the beginning of a life lived in the imagination.
His mother, Agnes Crookenden Olivier, died when he was 12 years old. He and his older brother and sister were brought up by their father, Gerard Olivier, an Anglican clergyman, schoolmaster, strict disciplinarian and, in his son's words, ''a strangely opportune encourager.
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For reasons that always remained unfathomable to his son, when Laurence was a young teen-ager his father decided that he would not, as he had thought, follow his elder brother, Richard, to India, but that he would stay in England and become an actor. Lord Olivier often told the story as if it were a divine intervention; but even at that early age he was already an actor.
In the audience were Sybil Thorndike and her husband, Lewis Casson. As Dame Sybil recalled: ''He had been onstage for only five minutes when we turned to each other and said: 'But this is an actor - absolutely an actor. Born to it. Additional certification was given by his performance as Kate in ''The Taming of the Shrew,'' a school production later presented at Stratford-on-Avon. As one critic said, Kate was performed ''boldly and vigorously,'' ''with dark flashing eyes and a spiteful voice. With False Noses. Criticizing his performing as ''overgesticulative,'' Miss Fogerty suggested that he had one physical weakness, and she pointed to a place under his brow and over his nose.
Not only did that provoke the young man to lift his head and improve his bearing, but it also made him use false noses in performance. As Coward analyzed: ''I cannot think of any other living actor who has used such quantities of spirit gum with such gleeful abandon. I believe that this rather excessive determination to be old before his time was the result of an integral shyness in his character. The next year, he made his professional debut as a policeman in ''The Ghost Train'' at the Brighton Hippodrome, and in his first entrance he tripped over a door sill and sailed headlong across the stage into the footlights.
As he recalled, he received the largest laugh in his career. Othello Burge title role ; Khartoum Dearden as the Mahdi. Inchon Terence Young as Gen. The Three Sisters released in U. Memo from: David O. Selznick , edited by Rudy Behlmer, New York, Lasky, Jesse Jr. Bragg, Melvyn, Laurence Olivier , London, ; rev. Keleher, L. McDonald, N. Donaldson, P.
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Cardiff, J. The most starstruck and showy of the theatrical knights, he always flirted with the movies both as performer and director. But the more thoughtful performer, such as his James Tyrone in Long Day's Journey into Night , saw the threat of popular success.
He admits in his autobiography that, unlike stage work, "films and television do not usually tax one's energies beyond their normal capacities," yet it is evident that Olivier gave to most of them the benefit of a meticulous technique. Hollywood offered him stardom in his days as a jeune premier , Goldwyn casting him as a lumpen Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and MGM planning an appearance opposite Garbo in Queen Christina. This might have tipped Olivier inescapably toward a movie career, but Garbo rejected him in favor of old lover and slipping star John Gilbert, and thereafter, perhaps pettishly, he elected for character roles.
That Olivier took film playing less seriously after his Hollywood days is evident in two wartime propagandist roles, a Russian in The Demi-Paradise and a French-Canadian trapper in 49th Parallel. Both embarrassingly dated now, they show a boyish glee in accent and disguise at the expense of character. Henry V made at government request to bolster morale , Hamlet , and Richard III are inspired popularizations, using only half the text but conveying the essence of Shakespeare with a combination of film production values and visual flair.
Olivier's adaptation of Henry V is highly praised by Andre Bazin. He describes its success in solving the dialectic between cinematic realism and theatrical convention: "The beginning traveling shot is to plunge us into the theater, to the courtyard of an Elizabethan inn. In the unlikely vehicle of the new retro-science-fiction romp Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow , he returns to the big screen from beyond the grave.
In a move which could spark a trend and prove a cash cow to the estates of long-dead film stars, Lord Olivier has been resurrected 15 years after his death. The first-time director Kerry Conran has used a combination of computer graphics and old film footage to bring him to life as the evil Dr Totenkopf. Revealing details of Olivier's role at the annual Comic-Con International sci-fi convention in the United States this week, Jude Law said he was honoured to play alongside the late great actor, even if it was a posthumous partnership.
And he's referred to throughout the movie, so you know eventually you're going to get to see this bad guy. It builds up, and you only see him in the last minutes, and he's in hologram form. Although another actor supplies Dr Totenkopf's voice, Law believes Olivier brings added "authority" to the film, due for release in September.
Set in s Art Deco New York, nearly a decade after Olivier had made his Hollywood debut, the metropolis is lavishly recreated using old photographs and digital enhancement.