Saturday, 22 May 2010

On this day...

English actor of both stage and screen, Laurence Olivier was born in 1907. Raised by a strict Anglican father, Olivier's theatrical promise was seen from childhood. Indeed, an early role as Brutus in his school's production of 'Julius Caesar' showed him 'already a great actor', and he later portrayed Puck 'very well, much to everyone's digust'. It was therefore decided that acting should be Olivier's future profession, and he attended the Central School of Speech and Drama - such training landing him a place in the Birmingham Repertory Company. Following a string of menial roles, such as that of bell-ringer, Olivier made his stage breakthrough in 1930 in 'Private Lives', however it was his subsequent Shakespearean performances that were to define his career.

Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo, Lear - each tragic hero only endeared Olivier to the theatre-going public, and such was his success, that he soon became embroiled in the world of Hollywood. Yet his work was always of an accute literary nature, performing in such films as 'Pride and Prejudice', 'Rebecca' and the heavily acclaimed 'Gone With the Wind'. Yet he always returned to what he knew best, and his patriotic 1944 depiction of Henry V, was regarded by many as his crowning achievement. At his death in 1989, he became one of the few actors to have been buried in Poets' Corner.

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