Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sir Laurence Olivier

To redress the balance after the frightening Entertainer photo

Below with Greer Garson on the set of Pride and Prejudice. The other leading actor of his day was Sir John Gielgud. They were very different: Sir Larry - physical, sexy and you could see and marvel at the wheels working, whereas Sir John was more ethereal, cerebral and not sexy. It always reminded me of the difference between those two great dancers: Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly with the same differences.

I remember being stunned when Sir Larry walked on stage holding a rose (which his wife had just given him)
as Othello and somehow he had morphed into Paul Robeson with the deep baritone voice to match. The again in the Dance of Death when he did a Hitler - like skip in a dramatic part of the play.
Sir John was more subtle and could take you by surprise. In Ivanov at a matinee at the Phoenix theatre he made the hair on the back of my neck stand up three times - probably my most thrilling experience in in the theatre
.., where as

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15 comments:

Four Dinners said...

According to David Niven's 'The Moon's A Balloon' Olivier was 'overacting horribly on Wuthering Heights' and being horrible to Merle Oberon.

Producer Sam Goldwyn put his arm around him in front of Director William Wyler and said "Willy, I may have to close this production down as this actor is so ugly!"

Oliver was apparently charm itself to all, including Oberon, from then on.....

Pat said...

Four.D: he had to learn that in films less is more. Although at one time he was considered to be a far greater actor than Vivien Leigh she could teach him a thing or two about screen acting. Ditto Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Jimmy Bastard said...

Whatever happened to so many brilliant actors that once trood the boards, and brought a nation to its feet with applause?

R. Sherman said...

I don't think I've seen anything he's been in, which I've not loved. Truly, a genius.

Cheers.

Pat said...

Jimmy: sadly they got old and died and they don't seem to make them like that anymore.

Randall: he was also very courageous. He had a young family late in life and worked on through pain and discomfort for years to provide for them.

Leigh Russell said...

The fashion in acting has changed. Actors are expected to appear 'natural' these days. In older films great actors appear to be overacting, but it is really that they are acting in a different, more dramatic, style.

Maggie said...

They were simply wonderful actors....all. Thanks for these, and how wonderful that you were able to see them in action.

Kevin Musgrove said...

(you can throw rocks at me for this one!)

With the exception of those cases that were cinematic versions of his stage acting I haven't seen a film performance by Olivier that I actually liked.

Pat said...

Leigh: that's very true but there was the odd lovable old ham: Robert Newton leaps to mind when he'd had one over the eight. And Donald Wolfit.

Maaggie: I was lucky and they are unforgettable.

Kevin: it is a purely personal thing. I believe it's possible to admire someone's acting ability whilst being unable to warm to them. That's what I meant about being able to see the wheels working. The acting I admire is when one is lifted out of one's consciousness and transported to another place - un wittingly. A rare experience but unforgettable when it happens.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

It is interesting about these two actors. Olivier certainly was a Borgeous man, but as you said, one could always see the wheels turning....
Sir John, to me, was a much better sctor in every respect, even thpigh he was not the great 'beauty' Olivier was....He had a depth that was natural to him. I wish I had seen that performamce that raised the haors on your neck.
I must say, I think "Archie" was probab;y Olivier's greatest performance....
I really found his later performances not very good, especially when he chose to do a German accent and worse, his version of a "Jewish" accent was truly repugnan...as in OY!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I forgot to say that I always felt Vivien Leigh never received the accoldaes she deserved...On stage as well as film, being in Olivier's shadow,...And also, it seems to me there was and maybe still is a great prejudice towards a beautiful woman like Leigh, because she was such a great great Beauty, the assumption being she no doubt cannot really be a great actress. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.
I saw her on stage on Broadway in both "Anthony and Cleopatra" and "Ceasar & Cleopatra"...she was brilliant! Olivier rather chewed the scenery...!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I apologize for all the typing errors....They seem to be getting worse...lol!
GORGEOUS....!

Pat said...

Naomi: we are in complete agreement about Vivien, Olivier and Gielgud. It was so unjust the way Olivier was lionised whilst Vivien was patronised. Her iconic performances as Scarlet and Blanche Dubois are there for the world to judge.

Kath said...

I agree with Maggie, they were all fantastic to watch. Certainly something I believe we are lacking in nowadays. There's nothing like Golden Hollywood!

Pat said...

Kath: they really were the Glory Days.