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A finalist for the Sheridan Morley Prize that has been called "probably the best Olivier book for general readers" (Kirkus Reviews), Philip Ziegler's Olivier provides an incredibly accessible and comprehensive portrait of this Hollywood superstar, Oscar-winning director, and one who is considered the greatest stage actor of the twentieth century. The era abounded in great actors--Gielgud, Richardson, Guinness, Burton, O'Toole--but none could challenge Laurence Olivier's range and power. By the 1940s he had achieved international stardom. His affair with Vivien Leigh led to a marriage as glamorous and as tragic as any in Hollywood history. He was as accomplished a director as he was a leading man: his three Shakespearian adaptations are among the most memorable ever filmed.
And yet, at the height of his fame, he accepted what was no more than an administrator's wage to become the founding Director of the National Theatre. In 2013 the theatre celebrates its fiftieth anniversary; without Olivier's leadership it would never have achieved the status that it enjoys today. Off-stage, Olivier was the most extravagant of characters: generous, yet almost insanely jealous of those few contemporaries whom he deemed to be his rivals; charming but with a ferocious temper. With access to more than fifty hours of candid, unpublished interviews, Ziegler ensures that Olivier's true character--at its most undisguised--shines through as never before.
full makeup as Othello 45. With Denys Lasdun, the architect who designed the National Theater 46. As James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey into Night 47. With Kenneth Tynan, as imagined by cartoonist Mark Boxer 48. With Lord Cottesloe at the National Theater’s topping-out ceremony 49. With Peter Hall on the Southbank site 50. As John Tagg in The Party 51. With Michael Caine in Sleuth 52. With Sarah Miles in Term of Trial 53. With Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man 54. With Gielgud and
carried a story about the rivalry between the two theaters and reported that Hall proposed to denounce the National if it didn’t offer its rival some tangible support. Plowright felt certain that Hall himself was the origin of the story, and wrote to remonstrate. Three days later Olivier fired the second barrel. It was Stratford that had sabotaged the negotiations for some sort of merger; it was the National that had been responsible for Stratford getting “its bloody dough . . . all of which
he had continued the battle so that the new buildings were now at last under construction. “For that building London, Great Britain and the theatrical profession would be eternally grateful.” This was not hypocrisy—Olivier appreciated the importance of Chandos’s contribution—but in many ways he was glad to see Chandos go. Their relationship had never recovered from the imbroglio over Hochhuth. Recently things had got even worse. According to Max Rayne, Chandos’s successor, Olivier had suggested
Theater Royal. “That’s the man I’m going to marry,” she is said to have announced. Her companion pointed out that she was already married. “That doesn’t matter. I’ll still marry him one day.” Jean-Pierre Aumont, the French actor, claims to have seen them at separate tables in a restaurant, exchanging glances across the room. “That couple are madly in love,” he announced. His companion, who knew them both, laughed dismissively and said they’d never even met. “Whether they had met or not didn’t
to accept that there was a limit to what he could achieve and in 1940 he had not even begun to learn the lesson. By the time the play opened in San Francisco he was mentally and physically at his limit. The result was a debacle. For the end of the balcony scene Olivier had devised a dramatic exit from the Capulet garden that involved him bounding lithely over the wall and disappearing into the night. Unfortunately he was so much weakened by his efforts that he missed his footing and was left