Never Forget – Laurence Olivier – 1907-1989

I am often surprised when I talk to young actors to find that some of them know very little about some of the great performers who have contributed so much to this wonderful business, writes Yvonne I'Anson.

Photographer John Vickers, courtesy of the University of Bristol Theatre Collection

I get a great deal of pleasure reading biographies and watching old movies and would urge all young actors and drama students to do the same.

I was completely transfixed by this extraordinary presence on screen

Considered by many to be the greatest English-speaking actor of the twentieth century. The playwright Charles C Bennett said that Laurence Olivier could speak Shakespeare's lines as naturally as if he were “actually thinking them”. My first introduction to the brilliance of Olivier was as a young school girl, when our class was taken to see the film Othello (1965). I was completely transfixed by this extraordinary presence on screen – with a voice so rich and beautiful and eyes which just bore into you. Yes I fell in love. Some people would say it was my own lack of knowledge and naivety but for some time I thought Olivier was a black actor – I like to think it was his extraordinary talent which convinced me. Of course Olivier's career had started many years before when he had joined the Birmingham Repertory Company in 1926. By the time I sat up and took notice he was an established stage and screen actor. And thank God for those film roles because even today we can all enjoy the Olivier magic. The film which catapulted him to ‘matinee idol' status was Wuthering Heights (1939) in which he played Heathcliff. Wuthering Heights is my all time favourite novel and I must admit much as I love this film I thought it was all too gentle and nice.

Read the full published article in issue 2 of The Drama Student Magazine.

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