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Laurence Olivier was born in Surrey, England in 1907. He discovered acting as a child, and played Shakespearean roles as a teen. In 1926, he joined The Birmingham Repertory Company, and the following year played the leads in Hamlet and Macbeth. In 1930 he married an actress, Jill Esmond, and while they were married 10 years and had a son, they were never happily married (Olivier wrote in his autobiography that he was impotent on their wedding night, which he attributed to his strict religious upbringing). He starred in Private Lives on the stage in 1930, and that made him a star. He appeared in five movies in 1930 and 1931 alone, but none were very notable, and he focused more on the stage, having success in 1935 where he alternated the roles of Romeo and Mercutio with John Gielgud (but he was jealous that Gielgud received better reviews than he did, and he did not act with him again!). In 1937 he starred in Fire Over England with Vivien Leigh, and after the film was finished, they started having an affair, even though both were married. In 1939 she starred in Gone With the Wind and he in Wuthering Heights, and after those two great triumphs, they both divorced their spouses and were married. Wuthering Heights (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film) was Olivier's greatest film role. Prior to this movie, he had one major failing as a movie actor, which was that he acted as if he was on the stage, which detracted from his appearances because he appears to be over-acting when delivering his lines. He approached the role of Heathcliff in the same way, and producer Sam Goldwyn threatened to fire him after filming began, but legendary director William Wyler was able to convince him to tone down his performance, and it surely ranks as one of the finest ever captured on film (there is a moment when he returns a rich man, and he says to Catherine that he has forgotten to congratulate her on her marriage, and he adds, "I have often thought of it", and I have never heard a line better delivered!). He and Leigh appeared in several movies together, but over time it became apparent she suffered from bi-polar disorder, which put a great strain on their relationship. Olivier spent some time as a pilot in the Reserves during WWII, and in 1944, he and Ralph Richardson formed a new Old Vic Theatre Company, where he had many triumphs on the stage, in both Shakespeare and more modern plays. In 1945 Olivier directed and starred in a film version of Henry V (he won an honorary Oscar for outstanding achievement as actor, producer and director for the film), and in 1948 he directed and starred in a film version of Hamlet, and he won the Best Actor Oscar, and the movie was nominated for Best Picture. That same year he and Leigh went on a 6 month trip performing in Australia and New Zealand, and it was at that time their marriage began to completely break down, although they remained together (both personally and professionally) for quite some time. Leigh suffered from severe bouts of depression, as well as recurring tuberculosis, which undoubtedly affected the marriage. They divorced in 1961, and Olivier married actress Joan Plowright, with whom he soon had three children. In 1955, Olivier filmed the last of his three great Shakespearean films, Richard III, and over the rest of his life he alternated between the stage and many memorable appearances in movies, including The Prince and the Showgirl (opposite Marilyn Monroe), Spartacus, Othello, and many more. As he aged he successfully transitioned to older character roles, and one of his very finest was as the Nazi dentist Szell in Marathon Man. There is a funny story about that movie (although it may well be apocryphal). Olivier had always detested "method" acting, and before the scene where he appears with Dustin Hoffman where Hoffman's character had been up for a very long time, Hoffman showed up for filming, and looked dreadful. Olivier asked him if he had been in an accident, and Hoffman (a "method" actor) replied that he had stayed up for two days so he could be authentic, and Olivier is supposed to have responded, "Have you ever tried acting, dear boy?"! He surely was one of the handful of finest film actors ever, and his body of work is truly remarkable! Some of his other movies include: Rebecca, The Entertainer, The Boys from Brazil, Othello, and Sleuth. He passed away in 1989 at the age of 82.
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