Laurence Olivier

Laurence Olivier

by Donald Spoto
     
 

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Widely regarded as the greatest actor of the twentieth century, Laurence Olivier (1907-1989) was as troubled as he was talented. A man desperate for affection and approval, plagued with self-doubt and self-loathing, Olivier escaped his personal conflicts on the stage, where he perfected his skills to a remarkable degree. His interpretations of Shakespeare, Chekhov,

Overview

Widely regarded as the greatest actor of the twentieth century, Laurence Olivier (1907-1989) was as troubled as he was talented. A man desperate for affection and approval, plagued with self-doubt and self-loathing, Olivier escaped his personal conflicts on the stage, where he perfected his skills to a remarkable degree. His interpretations of Shakespeare, Chekhov, Coward and countless other playwrights on stage made theater history, and his performances in the films Wuthering Heights, Henry V, Richard III, and Spartacus are equally legendary. Spoto's biography of the actor recalls his astounding dramatic achievements and the painful experiences that shaped his character even as his talents were developing. Spoto examines Olivier's three tumultuous marriages, his rivalries with fellow actors John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson, and his ten-year love affair with Danny Kaye.

Editorial Reviews

New York Magazine
Well above the usual level of biographies. The new material adds to our understanding. Spoto provides anecdote and analysis, and one comes away from this biography with an increased respect for Olivier's artistry and dedication.
Los Angeles Times
An intelligent, sure-handed biography.
The Wall Street Journal
An astute and complex portrait, embroidered with credible psychological insight and an impressive understanding of Olivier's craft. A remarkable book.
San Francisco Chronicle
Fascinating! Spoto provides as complete a picture of Olivier's magnificent career as we are likely to get.
Sir John Gielgud
Rivetingly interesting, admirably researched, and exquisitely written. Wonderful.
Library Journal
Olivier's youthful stints on the London stage and in a few films were unpromising. He rose slowly to international fame and appeared in Wuthering Heights, Hamlet, Henry V, etc. His marriage to Vivian Leigh, the beautiful Scarlett, ensured sold-out theaters whenever they acted as a pair. Less attention goes to his two other actress wives, the first one a lesbian and the last, the more conventional Joan Plowright. Olivier had brief affairs with several young actresses and a long one with Danny Kaye. The only bedroom revelation here is not shocking. Spoto concentrates on Olivier's professional successes, including the major Shakespearean parts. As a director, the star had faults, like his jealousy of supposed rival actors and ruthlessness toward some cast members. Reader Frederick Davidson, although steady and suave in narrative passages, disappoints in quotations: a strained voice for Olivier and some of the men and coy inflections for Leigh and most of the women. Despite this limitation, the work's bounty of stage and film lore is recommended for drama collections and for popular biography shelves.--Gordon Blackwell, Eastchester, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
A biography of the late stage and screen star (1907-89) who was world renowned as actor, director, and producer but who, beneath the glamorous image, was often lonely and plagued by self-doubt. With 48 pages of b&w photographs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780815411468
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
05/01/2001
Pages:
528
Product dimensions:
6.04(w) x 8.94(h) x 1.13(d)

Meet the Author

Donald Spoto is the author of numerous biographies, including Blue Angel: The Life of Marlene Dietrich and Rebel: The Life and Legend of James Dean, both available from Cooper Square Press. He has also written biographies of Alfred Hitchcock, Princess Diana, and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

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