Biographer of British royalty, Holden ( Charles, Prince of Wales , etc.), here splendidly conveys the dynamic, versatile and appealing character of the first lord of British theater and international film. Contending that there is no single Olivier persona, the author presents him in the countless guises he has assumed, from repertory apprentice to classical Old Vic actor, always avowedly ``working from the outside in,'' masking his identity in a dazzling variety of stage, screen and TV parts. Equally successful are his roles as founder-director of the National Theatre, feudal squire and peer of the realm. Recounted with great sensitivity also is Olivier's romantic but tragic marriage to Vivien Leigh. Holden's narrative is spiced by anecdotes and appraisals contributed by the performer's friends and colleaguesactors Richardson, Gielgud, Noel Coward, Dame Sybil Thorndike and directors Alexander Korda and Tyrone Guthrie among them. Since his appearances in Long Day's Journey into Night on stage in 1972, the film Marathon Man in 1976 and a televised Lear in 1983, ill health has limited the 81-year-old Olivier to cameo parts. His recent years, Holden shows, have been enriched by marriage to Joan Plowright and fatherhood. Photos not seen by PW. (October)
Holden, biographer of Prince Charles and other British royalty, here branches into theatrical royalty. Combining thorough research with interviews, he covers the ups and downs of Olivier's lengthy career, including all his great Skakespearean roles and the string of lucrative film and television roles that have filled his illness-plagued later years. After Olivier's marriage to Vivien Leigh ended in divorce, his subsequent marriage to Joan Plowright gave him stability and purpose. Holden concludes that his difficulty in finding the man behind the mask may indicate that Olivier ``has spent his life acting the role of Laurence Olivier.'' Marcia L. Perry, Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield, Mass.
Holden, the biographer of Prince Charles, presents both an onstage and offstage portrait of Olivier, the great actor who has also been stage and screen director, impressario, founder of the National Theatre, Oscar-winning Hollywood star, and the only man of his profession to be named a lord. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)