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Laurence Olivier

Actor / Filmmaker

Born: 22 May 1907
Died: 11 July 1989
Birthplace: Dorking, England
Best known as:

The British acting legend who made the 1944 film Henry V

English actor Sir Laurence Olivier has been hailed as one of the 20th century's greatest classical actors and interpreters of William Shakespeare. Dark-eyed, strong-jawed and intense, Olivier rapidly became a stage star in London and New York during the early 1930s. By the end of the decade he had also become a glamorous Hollywood movie star, thanks to his performances in Wuthering Heights (1939), Pride and Prejudice (1940, as Fitzwilliam Darcy), Rebecca (1940, directed by Alfred Hitchcock) and That Hamilton Woman (1941). His love affair and then marriage to Gone With the Wind (1939) star Vivien Leigh only heightened his American celebrity, but he seemed more at home on the London stage. During World War II he served in the Royal Navy, but he's mainly remembered for directing, producing and starring in a screen version of Shakespeare's Henry V (1944), a triumph that earned him a special Oscar. His notable Shakespeare roles on screen include Hamlet (1948) and Richard III (1955), and in his later years he was in a rash of what have been described by film critic David Thomson as "lavishly paid cameos," including: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976), A Bridge Too Far (1977), The Boys From Brazil (1978), A Little Romance (1979), Clash of the Titans (1981) and The Bounty (1984). During his career Olivier also served as co-director (with Ralph Richardson) of the Old Vic Theatre and as the director of the British National Theatre.

Extra credit:

The London version of Broadway's Tony Award is called the Olivier Award... He was married to Jill Esmond (1930-40), Vivien Leigh (1940-60) and Joan Plowright (1960-89)... For the 1989 Jude Law-Gwyneth Paltrow fantasy Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Laurence Olivier was "resurrected" to play the villain Dr. Totenkopf, thanks to manipulated documentary film footage... Laurence Olivier was knighted in 1947, made a peer of the realm in 1970 and awarded the Order of Merit in 1981.

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