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Sir Laurence Olivier
Birth: May 22, 1907
Mole Valley District
Surrey, England
Death: Jul. 11, 1989
Horsham District
West Sussex, England

Academy Award Winning Actor. For six decades he performed in, directed, and produced Shakespearian plays, eventually being regarded as one of the foremost Shakespeare interpreters of the 20th century, and also played significant roles in film and television productions. Considered one of the greatest actors of all time, he performed more than 120 roles on stage, included Richard III, Macbeth, Romeo, Hamlet, Uncle Vanya, and Archie Rice in "The Entertainer." His three Shakespeare films as actor-director, "Henry V" (1944), "Hamlet" (1948, for which he won the 1949 Academy Award for Best Actor), and "Richard III" (1955), are regarded by many as being among the cinema's greatest film productions. An Anglican clergyman's son, he was born Laurence Kerr Olivier in Dorking, Surrey, England, the youngest of three children and was raised in a strict and religious home. In 1918 he moved with his family to Letchworth, in Hertfordshire, England where his father became the new church minister at St. Mary's Church. He received his primary education at the choir school of All Saints', Margaret Street, London. He became determined early on to master Shakespeare and played the role of Brutus in his school's production of "Julius Caesar" at the age of 9. When he was only 12 years old, his mother died. A year later he attended to St Edward's School at Oxford, England, again appearing in school drama productions. In 1924 he attended the Central School of Speech and Drama and two years later he joined the Birmingham Repertory Company. Given only minor tasks at first, he eventually acquired more significant roles and by 1927 he was playing Hamlet and Macbeth. In 1930 he married Jill Esmond, a rising young actress, and their only son, Simon Tarquin, was born six years later. Their marriage was not a happy one and they divorced ten years later. His stage breakthrough came in NoŽl Coward's "Private Lives" in 1930, followed by Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" in 1935. In 1939 he starred in a production of S.N. Behrman's "No Time for Comedy", which was his first prominent role on Broadway. The same year he travelled to Hollywood, California to begin filming William Wyler's "Wuthering Heights" in the role of Heathcliff. Although there were disagreements between him and the producer, Samuel Goldwyn, the film was a hit and he was praised for his performance, with a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor. After World War II broke out in 1939, he wanted to join the British Royal Air Force but was still contractually obliged to other parties. He took flying lessons and accumulated over 200 hours. After two years of service, he rose to the rank of Lieutenant, as a pilot in the British Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm but was never called to see action. After divorcing his first wife in 1940 he married actress Vivian Leigh, who he had worked with and became attracted to three years earlier in the film "Fire Over England." In 1944 he and fellow actor Ralph Richardson were released from their naval commitments to form a new Old Vic Theatre Company at the New Theatre (later the Albery, now the Noel Coward Theatre) with a nightly repertory of three plays, initially Henrik Ibsen's "Peer Gynt," Bernard Shaw's "Arms and the Man" and Shakespeare's "Richard III," rehearsed over 10 weeks amid the German V1 rocket attacks. Later that year he filmed "Henry V," which, in light of the patriotic nature of the story of the English victory, was viewed as a psychological contribution to the British war effort. In 1947 he was made a Knight Bachelor, the youngest actor to be knighted, and by 1948 he was on the Board of Directors for the Old Vic Theatre. After World War II, apart from his Shakespeare trilogy, he had made only sporadic film appearances. In 1957, he directed and acted in "The Prince and the Showgirl" with Marilyn Monroe and starred in John Osborne's play "The Entertainer," with Joan Plowright. In 1960 they repeated their stage roles in the film version of "The Entertainer" for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In 1961 he and Plowright married after he had divorced Vivian Leigh the previous year, and they would have three children, Richard Kerr, Tamsin Agnes Margaret, and Julie-Kate. In 1970 he directed his final film "Three Sisters." Retiring from the stage in 1973, his work on screen continued until the year before his death in 1989. Aside from his Shakespeare trilogy, he appeared in nearly 60 films, including Alfred Hitchcock's "Rebecca" (1940, with Joan Fontaine), Alexander Korda's "That Hamilton Woman" (1941, with Vivian Leigh), Robert Z. Leonard's "Pride and Prejudice" (1940, with Greer Garson), Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (1960, with Kirk Douglas and Peter Ustinov), Stuart Burge's "Othello" (1965, with Maggie Smith), Basil Dearden's "Khartoum" (1966, with Charlton Heston), Joseph L. Mankiewicz's "Sleuth" (1972, with Michael Caine), John Schlesinger's "The Marathon Man" (1976, with Dustin Hoffman), Richard Attenborough's "A Bridge Too Far" (1977), Franklin J. Schaffner's "The Boys from Brazil" (1978, with Gregory Peck and James Mason) and Terrence Young's "Inchon" (1981, with Jacqueline Bisset, which turned into a financial loss and received bad reviews). One of his last feature films was "Wild Geese II" (1985), in which he played Rudolf Hess in the sequel to "The Wild Geese" (1978). For television, he starred in "Long Day's Journey into Night" (1973), "The Merchant of Venice" (1973), "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1976), "Brideshead Revisited" (1981), and "King Lear" (1983), among others. He also narrated Thames Television's "The World at War," a 26-part documentary on World War II, that began in 1973. In 1988 he gave his final performance at the age of 81, as a wheelchair-bound old soldier in Derek Jarman's film "War Requiem" (1989). He died of renal failure at this home in Ashurst, West Sussex, England at the age of 82. In addition to knighthood, he received many honors over the course of his career, including twelve Oscar nominations, with two awards (1949, for Best Actor and Best Picture in "Hamlet"), plus two honorary Academy Awards including a statuette and certificate, five Emmy awards from the nine nominations he received, three Golden Globe awards, a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award, a life peer in the Queen's Birthday Honors as Baron Olivier, of Brighton in the County of Sussex (June 1970, the first actor to be accorded this distinction), and the Order of Merit (1981), the first actor to be so honored. In 1984 the Laurence Olivier Awards, organized by The Society of London Theatre, were renamed in his honor.
 (bio by: William Bjornstad) 
Family links: 
  Agnes Louise Crookenden Olivier (1871 - 1920)
  Jill Esmond (1908 - 1990)*
  Vivien Mary Leigh (1913 - 1967)*
*Calculated relationship
Westminster Abbey
City of Westminster
Greater London, England
Plot: Poets Corner
GPS (lat/lon): 51.49947, -0.1285
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 1668
Sir Laurence Olivier
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Sir Laurence Olivier
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Sir Laurence Olivier
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