The Ottawa Journal from Ottawa,  on April 21, 1979 · Page 172
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The Ottawa Journal from Ottawa, · Page 172

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Ottawa, Canada
Issue Date:
Saturday, April 21, 1979
Page:
Page 172
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IR LARK a 7 Why does Laurence Olivier; a great classical actoc take roles m such unlikely films as The Zfefcy Sleuth and the forthcoming A Little Romance? Partly for the an y Lr X J Moriev. challenge, writes Sheridan .JW X but mainly for the money n MAT Z2. LAURENCE wiQ celebrate ff lrs 72nd birthday. As a II I 1 two-time Uxar ww- 1 f ner.directorandstaraf the three mast success- fid Shakespearian L a player in SO and director of otfaer prtun, at stage productions. the first actor in the history of the theatre to be made a peer of the realm, and founder-director of Britain's National Theatre, Sir Laurence has a career that reads like a 20th-century history of acting. It is there-fare surprising to find him in his start ski tea, on a bicycle, playing a retired pickpocket in a new George Boy H2J picture called A Little Ro- duke, I've played a duke; if ever I've wanted to be the archbishop of Canterbury, I've played that too. I've played kings and generals and, sometimes, when I've felt miserable, I've been able to look forward to being Coriolanus or Archie Rice the seedy music hall comic he immortalized in Osborne's The Entertainer or anyone but me. And thafs a wonderful feeling for anybody to have." Laurence Kerr Olivier was born on May 22, 1907, at Dorking in Surrey. He began his career at age nine , playing Brutus in a school play. Drama critics were not out in force for this debut, but Dame Sybil Thom-dike (a family friend and, like Olivier, a clergyman's child) recognized in the boy "a born actor." His father was an Anglican vicar given to dramatic sermons from the pulpit, and Olivier was thus encouraged to make his name in drama. At 14 he was playing Kate in a Stratford all-male school production of The Taming of the Shrew, and by 1926 he was a permanent member of the Birmingham Repertory Company. His first film was made in 1930, by which time he already had considerable stage experience and was thus able to claim the lead in a "quota quickie" called Too Many Crooks. ("Quota quickies" were rapidly shot, short features made either in England or in Germany to satisfy a British government ruling that only a certain percentage of Hollywood productions could be shown in British - '- ".ifVrr.Uf " t first I was snobbish about films? Olivier has said. It was William Wyler's su-iVperb direction of Wuthering Heights in 1939, with Olivier as Heathcliff and Merle CoDectors of CXmer's more eccen-tric screen appearances may also like to note that later in the year hell be playkig the IbmimmI Professor Van Hekangto frank LangeUasDracula, and if at tins point you begin to wonder what Use greatest Shakespearian of our centnry is doing up there on the wide screen, the answer is that at last he's taking gome real money. For a man of 72. Olivier has some remark Oberon (above) as Cathy, that convinced Olivier of the medium's artistic merit Lord Olivier" ti- avoided using the 1 tie) really is. BETWEEN GOOD AND GREAT ACT- ably young children (the three by his mg, said Kenneth lynan, Oliviers years in the acting business and three severe illnesses in the last 10 years add up to an extremely eventful life, but Olivier has never shown signs of slowing down. In the mid-'70s when the National Theatre (which he created in 1963) passed into other hands, and the British film industry showed all its customary signs of terminal collapse, Olivier moved to television, becoming executive producer and sometimes also director umat.ua woe Joan Plownght are still m their teens) and itlisril Ins BOW BO an for one-time National Theatre adviser and for 20 years his most constant chronicler, "there is fixed an inexorable gulf which may be crossed only by the elect whose visas are in order. Laurence Olivier pole-vaults that gulf, hair-rais-lngly, in a single animal leap." "Olivier," said another critic, "always looks like a man who could lynch a crowd," their future. Last year he was to be seen in The Boys From Bmzilz not, by general reckon-Big, the most wonderful of films, but one which the Otrrier (as the and star of a whole run of drama "specials." Why? "Because ifs such a wonderful opportunity for me to carry on," he says. "I don't always like myself as I am, and if I hadn't been able to become an actor I'd have been in despair. But you ge t the chance, if you're an actor, to be somebody else. An awful lot of Lie- to a redoubt able 94BaIlion in its first 12 days of T T is appearance with Joan Fontaine in while a director XI 1940 in Rebecca, directed by Hitch- who has worked cock.won him his second Oscar nomination freauentlv with US. ToibhIi istisi1 the curious contrast him added, "Olivier is like a panther. ambition can be sublimated in act- Oirrier'a unashamed eom-ooney making and bis great paluiinaneest it would be mrnkhr precisely what kind Just when you think you know where he is and that you've got him cornered, he springs out at you from some totally different direction." Three marriages, four children, 60 "Vlivier and Marilyn Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl. ins. IT ever l V-rwhicn ne directed in Kti Hollywood made ner tne com- wanted to be a plete victim? he said after Monroe's death. ?She was exploited" of actor Sir Laurence (he has always -20- nubusdAPmntn

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