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Laurence Olivier

Laurence Olivier

Sir Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier of Brighton (May 22, 1907 - July 11, 1989) was an English actor and director, esteemed by many as the greatest actor of the 20th century.

Laurence Olivier was born in Dorking. He attended the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art. His stage breakthrough was in Noel Coward's Private Lives (in 1930), and in Romeo and Juliet (in 1935) alternating the roles of Romeo and Mercutio with John Gielgud. His film breakthrough was his portrayal of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights in 1939.

He was founding director (1962-1973) of the National Theatre of Great Britain.

On July 25, 1930, he married actress Jill Esmond, whom Olivier biographer Donald Spoto described as a diffident lesbian. They had one son, Tarquin, and were divorced on January 29, 1940.

On August 31, 1940 he married actress Vivien Leigh. They were divorced on December 2, 1960.

On March 17, 1961 he married actress Joan Plowright; they had one son and two daughters. He was not notably faithful in his marriages, and had extramarital affairs with both men and women: Joan Plowright said "I have always resented the comments that it was I who was the homewrecker of Larry's marriage to Vivien Leigh. Danny Kaye was attached to Larry far earlier than I." Olivier reportedly was also intimate with playwright Noel Coward.

Among his honours are 10 Oscar nominations. He won both Best Actor and Best Picture (as the producer) for Hamlet in 1949, and two honorary Oscars (1947, for Henry V; 1979). He was knighted in 1947, was made a life peer in 1970 (the first actor to be accorded this distinction), and was admitted to the Order of Merit in 1981.

He died in Steyning, West Sussex, England, of complications of a neuromuscular disorder and cancer.

Lord Olivier is interred in Westminster Abbey, London, England. The Laurence Olivier Awards, organised by The Society of London Theatre, were renamed in his honour in 1984.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2004.

Laurence Olivier Facts

Birth NameLaurence Kerr Olivier
BirthdayMay 22, 1907
BirthplaceDorking, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
Date of deathJuly 11, 1989 (age 82)
Height5' 10½" (1m79)  How tall is Laurence Olivier compared to you?
Awards1983 Golden Globe Awards: Cecil B. DeMille Award
1979 Academy Awards: Honorary Award
1977 Golden Globe Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Motion Picture (for Marathon Man)
1949 Academy Awards: Best Actor (for Hamlet)
1949 Golden Globe Awards: Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama (for Hamlet)

Selected Filmography

A Bridge Too Far
Right Now
Jesus of Nazareth
Apocalypse Now
David Copperfield
Clash of the Titans
Pride and Prejudice
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