TCM Summer Under the Stars: Day Twenty-Six — Laurence Olivier

Beauty with a ‘stache.

He possessed sculptured features – complete with cleft chin – expressive eyes, and an acclaimed acting talent that was once called “the greatest of our century.”  In a career that spanned six decade, Laurence Olivier was the total package.


Laurence Kerr Olivier was born on May 22, 1907, in Dorking, Surrey in England, the youngest of three children born to a minister and his wife. His mother, to whom he was devoted, died when Olivier was 12 years old; of this tragic event he once said, “Perhaps it’s good for a person, when they’re young, to have a blow that takes them some getting over. And that probably does something for your character, or your guts, or your courage or something.” Olivier showed an early affinity for acting, playing Brutus in a school production of Julius Caesar at the age of 10, and later portrayed Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Young Larry.

Olivier spent a year at the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art. When he left the school, he worked with small touring company, and then signed on as a bit part player, understudy, and assistant stage manager for the London company operated by actress Sybil Thorndike.

Later, he joined the Birmingham Repertory Company, where he was seen in such productions as All’s Well That Ends Well and Uncle Vanya. Over the next several years, his roles and his reputation grew in stature, which attracted the attention of Hollywood, resulting in a contract from RKO.


  • Olivier was the youngest actor to ever be knighted.
  • In 1970, Queen Elizabeth made Olivier a Peer of the Realm.
  • Olivier was cast as Antonio in Queen Christina (1933), but the film’s star, Greta Garbo, rejected him after their first meeting at the studio. The part was ultimately played by John Gilbert.
  • Olivier was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, and won for Best Actor in Hamlet; he is one of only two actors to direct themselves in an Oscar-winning performance.
  • Olivier’s three wives were all actresses – Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright.

    With second wife, Vivien Leigh.

  • He was, reportedly, seriously considered for the role of Don Corleone in The Godfather.


While there are several first-rate films airing on Olivier Day, I didn’t need to spend much time selecting my pick: Wuthering Heights. If a movie makes me cry, it’s tops in my book. And Wuthering Heights always makes me cry.

The story concerns a great love between a gypsy stable boy and the daughter in the family where he’s employed. It’s really lovely. If you’ve never seen it, you simply must.

And join me for Day 27 of Summer Under the Stars!

See it.

~ by shadowsandsatin on August 26, 2020.

4 Responses to “TCM Summer Under the Stars: Day Twenty-Six — Laurence Olivier”

  1. I don’t know that I am up to Heathcliffe this evening but I do know I am ready for Mr. Darcy this afternoon.

  2. […] Day 26: Laurence Olivier […]

  3. Olivier is one of my very, very favorite actors. I loved his Shakespeare, I loved his comedy, his romantic leads, just adore him.

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