Laurence Olivier

Highest Rated: 100% War Requiem (1990)
Lowest Rated: 0% Inchon (1981)
Birthday: May 22, 1907
Birthplace: Dorking, Surrey, United Kingdom
Laurence Olivier -- Sir Laurence after 1947, Lord Laurence after 1970 -- has been variously lauded as the greatest Shakespearean interpreter of the 20th century, the greatest classical actor of the era, and the greatest actor of his generation. Although his career took a rather desperate turn toward the end when he seemed willing to appear in almost anything, the bulk of Olivier's 60-year career stands as a sterling example of extraordinary craftsmanship. Olivier was the son of an Anglican minister, who, despite his well-documented severity, was an unabashed theater lover, enthusiastically encouraging young Olivier to give acting a try. The boy made his first public appearance at age nine, playing Brutus in an All Saint's production of Julius Caesar. No member of the audience was more impressed than actress Dame Sybil Thorndike, who knew then and there that Olivier had what it took. Much has been made of the fact that the 15-year-old Olivier played Katherine in a St. Edward's School production of The Taming of the Shrew; there was, however, nothing unusual at the time for males to play females in all-boy schools. (For that matter, the original Shakespeare productions in the 16th and 17th centuries were strictly stag.) Besides, Olivier was already well versed in playing female roles, having previously played Maria in Twelfth Night. Two years after The Taming of the Shrew, he enrolled at the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art, where one of his instructors was Claude Rains. Olivier made his professional London debut the same year in The Suliot Officer, and joined the Birmingham Repertory in 1926; by the time Olivier was 20, he was playing leads. His subsequent West End stage triumphs included Journey's End and Private Lives. In 1929, he made his film debut in the German-produced A Temporary Widow. He married actress Jill Esmond in 1930, and moved with her to America when Private Lives opened on Broadway. Signed to a Hollywood contract by RKO in 1931, Olivier was promoted as "the new Ronald Colman," but he failed to make much of an impression onscreen. By the time Greta Garbo insisted that he be replaced by John Gilbert in her upcoming Queen Christina (1933), Olivier was disenchanted with the movies and vowed to remain on-stage. He graduated to full-fledged stardom in 1935, when he was cast as Romeo in John Gielgud's London production of Romeo and Juliet. (He also played Mercutio on the nights Gielgud assumed the leading role himself.) It was around this time that Olivier reportedly became fascinated with the works of Sigmund Freud, which led to his applying a "psychological" approach to all future stage and screen characters. Whatever the reason, Olivier's already superb performances improved dramatically, and, before long, he was being judged on his own merits by London critics, and not merely compared (often disparagingly) to Gielgud or Ralph Richardson. It was in collaboration with his friend Richardson that Olivier directed his first play in 1936, which was also the year he made his first Shakespearean film, playing Orlando in Paul Czinner's production of As You Like It. Now a popular movie leading man, Olivier starred in such pictures as Fire Over England (1937), 21 Days (1938), The Divorce of Lady X (1938), and Q Planes (1939). He returned to Hollywood in 1939 to star as Heathcliff in Samuel Goldwyn's glossy (and financially successful) production of Wuthering Heights, earning the first of 11 Oscar nominations. He followed this with leading roles in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940),Pride and Prejudice (1940), and Alexander Korda's That Hamilton Woman (1941), co-starring in the latter with his second wife, Vivien Leigh. Returning to England during World War II, Olivier served as a parachute officer in the Royal Navy. Since he was stationed at home, so to speak, he was also able to serve as co-director (with Ralph Richardson) of the Old Vic. His most conspicuous contribution to the war effort was his joyously


Highest Rated Movies



67% Never Apologize: A Personal Visit With Lindsay Anderson Actor 2007
No Score Yet Tony Palmer's Classic Film of John Osborne and the Gift of Friendship Actor 2006
71% Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Dr. Totenkopf $37.7M 2004
No Score Yet Clouds Over Europe Actor 2000
No Score Yet Shakespeare's Women & Claire Bloom Actor 1998
100% War Requiem Old Soldier/Narrator Old Soldier 1990
No Score Yet Lost Empires Actor 1987
No Score Yet Peter the Great King William of Orange 1986
No Score Yet Wild Geese 2 Rudolf Hess 1985
57% Terror in the Aisles Actor 1984
78% The Bounty Admiral Hood 1984
No Score Yet A Voyage Round My Father Father 1984
No Score Yet The Ebony Tower Actor 1984
No Score Yet The Jigsaw Man Adm. Sir Gerald Scaith 1984
No Score Yet Mr. Halpern and Mr. Johnson Mr. Halpern 1983
No Score Yet King Lear King Lear 1983
No Score Yet Wagner Actor 1983
No Score Yet Laurence Olivier: A Life Actor 1982
68% Clash of the Titans Zeus 1981
0% Inchon Gen. Douglas MacArthur 1981
19% The Jazz Singer Cantor Rabinovitch 1980
67% Dracula Prof. Abraham Van Helsing 1979
69% A Little Romance Julius 1979
69% The Boys from Brazil Ezra Lieberman 1978
No Score Yet Daphne Laureola Actor 1978
No Score Yet The Betsy Loren Hardeman 1978
No Score Yet Saturday, Sunday, Monday Actor 1978
59% A Bridge Too Far Doctor Spaander 1977
No Score Yet Come Back, Little Sheba Actor 1977
83% The Seven-Per-Cent Solution Prof. Moriarty 1976
79% Marathon Man Szell 1976
No Score Yet Cat On A Hot Tin Roof Actor 1976
No Score Yet Laurence Olivier Presents Actor 1976
No Score Yet Hindle Wakes Director 1976
No Score Yet Love Among the Ruins Arthur Cranville-Jones 1975
No Score Yet The Gentleman Tramp Narrator 1975
No Score Yet The Three Sisters Ivan Chebutikin Director 1974
No Score Yet The Rehearsal Actor 1974
No Score Yet The Merchant Of Venice Shylock 1973
96% Sleuth Andrew Wyke 1972
No Score Yet Lady Caroline Lamb Duke of Wellington 1972
71% Nicholas and Alexandra Count Witte 1971
No Score Yet David Copperfield Mr. Creakle 1970
85% Oh! What A Lovely War Field Marshal Sir John French 1969
63% Battle of Britain Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding 1969
94% Romeo and Juliet Narrator of Prologue Chorus 1968
43% The Shoes of the Fisherman Piotr Ilyich Kamenev 1968
100% Khartoum The Mahdi 1966
82% Othello Othello 1965
86% Bunny Lake Is Missing Superintendent Newhouse 1965
No Score Yet Term of Trial Graham Weir 1962
95% Spartacus Marcus Licinius Crassus 1960
73% The Entertainer Archie Rice 1960
No Score Yet The Devil's Disciple Gen. John Burgoyne 1959
67% The Prince and the Showgirl Director Producer The Regent 1957
82% Richard III Director Richard III 1956
No Score Yet A Queen Is Crowned Narrator 1953
No Score Yet The Beggar's Opera Producer Capt. MacHeath 1953
No Score Yet The Magic Box Police Constable 94-B (uncredited) 1952
No Score Yet Carrie George Hurstwood 1952
91% Hamlet Director Producer Screenwriter Hamlet 1948
100% Henry V (The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France) Screenwriter 1946
100% This Happy Breed Narrator 1944
No Score Yet Olivier's Shakespeare Actor Director 1944
No Score Yet The Demi-Paradise Ivan Kouznetsoff 1943
90% 49th Parallel (The Invaders) Johnnie 1941
100% That Hamilton Woman Lord Horatio Nelson 1941
100% Pride and Prejudice Fitzwilliam Darcy 1940
100% Rebecca Maxim de Winter 1940
No Score Yet 21 Days Larry Durrant 1940
95% Wuthering Heights Heathcliff 1939
No Score Yet Q Planes Actor 1939
No Score Yet The Divorce of Lady X Everard Logan 1938
No Score Yet Fire Over England Michael Ingolby 1937
No Score Yet As You Like It Orlando 1936
No Score Yet Conquest of Air Vincent Lunardi 1936
No Score Yet I Stand Condemned Capt. Ignatoff 1936
No Score Yet Perfect Understanding Nicholas Randall 1933


No Score Yet Great Performances
  • 2014
No Score Yet Masterpiece
  • 1987
No Score Yet Jesus of Nazareth
  • 1977
80% Brideshead Revisited
Lord Marchmain
No Score Yet The World at War
Voice Host Narrator