Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Laurence Olivier: A Tribute in Movie Stills

1930 – 1939: Worldwide Obscurity

Cast: Gloria Swanson (Judy Rogers), Laurence Olivier (Nicholas Randall).
Screenplay: Miles Malleson and Garrett Graham.
Director: Cyril Gardner.


Cast: Elisabeth Bergner (Rosalind), Laurence Olivier (Orlando), Henry Ainley (Exiled Duke), Felix Aylmer (Duke Frederick), Sophia Stewart (Celia), John Laurie (Oliver), Leon Quatermaine (Jacques), Mackenzie Ward (Touchstone), Richard Ainley (Sylvius).
Screenplay: William Shakespeare, as adapted by J. M. Barrie, Carl Mayer and R. J. Cullen.
Director: Paul Czinner.
Notes: A rather inauspicious beginning for one of the greatest Shakespeareans of all time. Not yet thirty and with very little screen experience, Larry is rather wooden. But the perfect diction and the youthful athleticism already impress. The movie is charming, but the play is so heavily cut that it resembles Shakespeare’s original but very vaguely. At least the essence of Rosalind and Orlando is retained and they are fun to watch. Elisabeth Berger is an excellent Rosalind (never mind the accent that so enrages some reviewers) and her joint scenes with Larry come off rather nicely.










































Cast: Flora Robson (Queen Elizabeth), Raymond Massey (Philip II), Leslie Banks (Earl of Leicester), Laurence Olivier (Michael Ingolby), Vivien Leigh (Cynthia).
Screenplay: Clemence Dane and Sergei Nolbandov, based on the novel by A. E. W. Mason.
Director: William K. Howard.
Notes: The 1st onscreen collaboration between Larry and Vivien; of historical interest only.




Cast: Merle Oberon (Leslie Steele / Lady Claire Mere), Laurence Olivier (Everard Logan), Ralph Richardson (Lord Mere).
Screenplay: Ian Dalrymple, Arthur Wimperis and Lajos Biro, based on the story “Counsels Opinion” by Gilbert Wakefield.
Director: Tim Whelan.


1939 – 1944: 
Hollywood Stardom and British Propaganda

Cast: Laurence Olivier (Heathcliff), Merle Oberon (Cathy), David Niven (Edgar), Flora Robson (Ellen), Geraldine Fitzgerald (Isabella).
Screenplay: Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht, based on the novel by Emily Brontë.
Director: William Wyler.







Cast: Laurence Olivier (Maxim de Winter), Joan Fontaine (Mrs de Winter), Judith Anderson (Mrs Danvers), George Sanders (Jack Favell), Reginald Denny (Frank Crawley), C. Aubrey Smith (Colonel Julyan), Gladys Cooper (Beatrice Lacy).
Screenplay: Robert E. Sherwood and Joan Harrison, based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier, adapted by Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock.




























Cast: Laurence Olivier (Darcy), Greer Garson (Lizzy),
Screenplay: Aldous Huxley and Jane Murfin, based on the dramatisation by Helen Jerome of the novel by Jane Austen
Director: Robert Z. Leonard.
Notes: Darcy with an acute sense of humour. Outrageous? Not so in Larry’s case.



Cast: Laurence Olivier (Lord Horatio Nelson), Vivien Leigh (Emma Lady Hamilton), Alan Mowbray (Sir William Hamilton), Gladys Cooper (Lady Frances Nelson).
Screenplay: Walter Reisch and R. C. Sherriff.
Director: Alexander Korda.
Notes: Pretty good achievement for war propaganda. The last and in many ways the finest onscreen collaboration between Larry and Vivien. She is the star here; but his Nelson is also worth checking out.




Cast: Eric Portman (Lieutenant Hirth), Laurence Olivier (Johnny – the Traper), Finlay Currie (The Factor), Leslie Howard (Philip Armstrong Scott), Glynis Johns (Anna).
Screenplay: Emeric Pressburger.
Director: Michael Powell.
Notes: Another piece of propaganda that has aged remarkably well. Larry’s cameo – it is a cameo, never mind the star billing – is one of his most harshly criticized appearances on the screen. The wacky French accent is usually enough to set the Olivier-haters foaming at the mouth. Personally, I find it a charming and hilarious oddity. Very nice movie on the whole, with stellar lead performance by Eric Portman and gorgeous cinematography.















1944 – 1955: Shakespeare Rules           

Cast: Laurence Olivier (Hamlet), Jean Simmons (Ophelia), Eileen Herlie (Gertrude), Basil Sydney (Claudius), Felix Aylmer (Polonius), Terrence Morgan (Laertes).
Screenplay: William Shakespeare.
Director: Laurence Olivier.
Notes: Masterfully abridged, intensely brooding and relentlessly probing, Hamlet is one of Larry’s finest Shakespearean achievements. And decidedly his best work as a director. It holds spectacularly well 65 years and quite a few Hamlets later.











































Cast: Laurence Olivier (George Hurstwood), Jennifer Jones (Carrie Meeber), Eddie Albert (Charles Drouet), Miriam Hopkins (Julie Hurstwood).
Screenplay: Ruth Goetz and Augustus Goetz, based on the novel Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser.
Director: William Wyler.
Notes: This is generally agreed to be one of Larry’s most woefully underrated performances. Everybody agrees on that. So what? The movie remains obscure and neglected by anybody but old-movie buffs. Pity. It’s a beautiful picture. Larry’s restrained yet powerful art is fully matched by Jennifer Jones in the title role and William Wyler in the catbird seat.
















































Cast: Laurence Olivier (Richard), Ralph Richardson (Buckingham), John Gielgud (Clarence), Claire Bloom (Lady Anne), Mary Kerridge (Queen Elizabeth).
Screenplay: William Shakespeare, with additions by Colley Cibber and David Garrick.
Director: Laurence Olivier.







1957 – 1989: 
Characters, Cranks, Cameos – and Forgotten Treasures

Cast: Kirk Douglas (Richard Dudgeon), Burt Lancaster (Rev. Anthony Anderson), Laurence Olivier (Gen. Burgoyne), Janette Scott (Judith Anderson), Harry Anderson (Maj. Swindon), Basil Sydney (Lawyer Hawkins).
Screenplay: John Dighton and Roland Kibbee, based on Bernard Shaw’s play.
Director: Guy Hamilton.
Notes: Very charming and often overlooked movie. Shaw’s original play is considerably trimmed and toned down, but enough is left to guarantee an amusing spectacle. Larry gets most of the best lines – including immortal gems like “History, sir, will tell lies, as usual”, “Your friend, the British soldier, can stand up to anything – except the British War Office” and “Oh, Mr Dudgeon, since we can’t hang you, perhaps you would care to take tea with me this afternoon” – he delivers them with smooth elegance, and he captures the subtle irony of General Burgoyne’s character to perfection. It’s one of his most delightful supporting roles. He all but steals the movie from Douglas and Lancaster (both excellent).

















Cast: Laurence Olivier (Archie Rice), Joan Plowright (Jean Rice), Alan Bates (Frank Rice), Brenda de Banzie (Phoebe Rice), Roger Livesey (Billy Rice).
Screenplay: Nigel Kneale and John Osborne, based on the latter’s play.
Director: Tony Richardson.
Notes: The third-rate entertainer Archie Rice, much like George Hurstwood, is a rather compelling proof that Larry could play small-scale losers (Shakespeare’s tragic heroes are obviously large-scale losers) as well as anybody. In this harrowing family drama, considerably helped by excellent supporting cast, he gives one of his finest non-Shakespearean performances. It is a crime that this movie is virtually unknown outside the narrow circle of Larry-lovers.




































 








Cast: Kirk Douglas (Spartacus), Jean Simmons (Varinia), Laurence Olivier (Crassus), Peter Ustinov (Batiatus), Charles Laughton (Gracchus), John Gavin (Julius Caesar).
Screenplay: Dalton Trumbo, based on the novel by Howard Fast.
Director: Stanley Kubrick.
Notes: Crassus is one of Larry’s least hammy and most sinister characters. The epitome of quiet menace. The rest of the cast is magnificent and the epic holds rather well more than 60 years after it was made.






































Cast: Laurence Olivier (Graham Weir), Sarah Miles (Shirley Taylor), Simone Signoret (Anna)
Screenplay: James Barlow and Peter Glenville
Director: Peter Glenville
Notes: One of Larry’s most underrated performances, usually mentioned (if at all!) only to be lambasted as “awfully miscast” or other words to that effect. It is, in fact, a stunning tour de force of rare subtlety. Graham Weir, the pacifistic, alcoholic, gentle, kind-hearted and idealistic schoolteacher, is the ultimate proof that Larry could play perfectly ordinary people as well as anybody – and better than most. No ham here at all. Just pure acting of the highest calibre! Excellent movie on the whole, very well written (I don’t know why people so often neglect the importance of the screenplay), very well directed by a man who should be better known, full of complex and believable characters, and beautifully acted all around. Sarah Miles is young, sexy and totally convincing as a very confused schoolgirl who is both exasperating and touching. Simone Signoret as the embittered but compassionate wife delivers an outstanding supporting performance. The cast also includes memorable cameos by Terence Stamp, Hugh Griffith and Roland Culver. 





















































































































Cast: Carol Lynley (Ann Lake), Keir Dullea (Steve Lake), Laurence Olivier (Superintendent Newhouse), Noel Coward (Wilson).
Screenplay: John and Penelope Mortimer, based on the novel by Marryam Modell (aka Evelyn Piper).
Director: Otto Preminger.
Notes: Another superbly understated and unjustly neglected performance, this time as a cool and shrewd police detective. Larry’s role is supposed to be supporting, but it really almost amounts to a leading part. Note the subtle development of the questioning scenes: growing compassion with Ann, growing suspicion with Steve. Beautiful acting in which every word and every gesture matter. The movie on the whole is an intriguing psychological mystery with fine performances by Keir Dullea and especially Carol Lynley. Preminger’s attempt to out-Hitchcock Hitchcock was not quite successful, but it’s well worth seeing all the same.





































Cast: Laurence Olivier (Othello), Frank Finlay (Iago), Maggie Smith (Desdemona), Joyce Redman (Emilia), Derek Jacobi (Cassio).
Screenplay: William Shakespeare.
Director: Stuart Burge.
Notes: Based on the 1964 production in the National Theatre directed by John Dexter. Larry’s most controversial screen appearance, hands down. And yet, I am amused when I see, as I often do, this particular role singled out when people want to stress how overrated Olivier was. People seem to confuse “overrated” with “overhyped”. You may have quibbles with Larry’s interpretation of the Moor – indeed, I have quite a few – but as a technical accomplishment, as an acting tour de force, as an original, consistent and coherent characterisation, his Othello is second to none. I don’t quite see how this can be denied by anybody, his most vocal detractors firmly included. 



















































Cast: Charlton Heston (Gen. Charles Gordon), Laurence Olivier (The Mahdi), Ralph Richardson (William Gladstone), Richard Johnson (Col. J. D. H. Stewart).
Screenplay: Robert Ardrey.
Director: Basil Dearden, Eliot Elisofon
Notes: Minor part that came conveniently post-Othello – make-up-wise, if not accent-wise. Entertaining scenes with Charlton Heston.
















Cast: Anthony Quinn (Kiril Lakota), Laurence Olivier (Piotr Ilyich Kamenev), Oskar Werner (Fr. David Telemond), David Janssen (George Faber), Vittorio De Sica (Cardinal Rinaldi), Leo McKern (Cardinal Leone), John Gielgud (The Elder Pope), Frank Finlay (Igor Bounin).
Screenplay: John Patrick and James Kennaway, based on the novel by Morris L. West.
Director: Michael Anderson.
Notes: Sprawling, dystopian/utopian (depends on your point of view) and lavishly produced epic about the personal and social effects of religion and politics with the active participation of the Vatican. Larry plays the small, but not unimportant, part of the Soviet premier. Great scenes with Anthony Quinn.














Cast: Laurence Olivier (Andrew Wyke), Michael Caine (Milo Tindle), Alec Cawthorne (Inspector Doppler), John Matthews (Detective Sergeant Tarrant), Even Channing (Marguerite Wyke), Teddy Martin (Police Constable Higgs).
Screenplay: Anthony Shaffer, based on his own play.
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
Notes: One of Larry’s greatest performances in his nearly 60 years of screen career. One of the most perfect movies ever made. For more info, see here.































Cast: Dustin Hoffman (Babe), Laurence Olivier (Szell), Roy Scheider (Doc), Marthe Keller (Else).
Screenplay: William Goldman.
Director: John Schlesinger.
Notes: The sadistic Nazi dentist-murderer-smuggler is possibly even less hammy and more sinister than Crassus. Fantastic scenes with Roy Scheider (at the fountain) and Dustin Hoffman (the notorious “torture scene” and the intense final one at the dam). Enjoyable spy flick on the whole. Ironically, just two years later Larry played an equally determined Nazi hunter.









The Boys from Brazil (1978)
Cast: Laurence Olivier (Ezra Lieberman), Gregory Peck (Joseph Mengele), James Mason (Eduard Seibert), Uta Hagen (Frieda Maloney), Bruno Ganz (Professor Bruckner), Lilli Palmer (Esther Lieberman).
Screenplay: Heywood Good, based on the novel by Ira Levin.
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner.
Notes: Another seldom appreciated leading role in a fine screen version of Ira Levin’s compelling mixture of thriller and science fiction. Gregory Peck has never looked more sinister than he does in this white suit, with this make-up, in this role! As for Larry, the role gives him yet another fine chance to indulge his passion for wacky accents, not to mention old-age hammy silliness, but that shouldn’t distract the alert movie fan from the subtle portrayal of Lieberman, the determined Jewish Nazi hunter. Watch out for the scene with Uta Hagen!


























Cast: Laurence Olivier (Loren Hardeman), Robert Duvall (Loren Hardeman III), Kathleen Beller (Betsy), Tommy Lee Jones (Angelo Perino), Lesley-Anne Down (Lady Bobby Ayres), Jane Alexander (Alicia Hardeman), Katherine Ross (Sally Hardeman).
Screenplay: William Bast and Walter Bernstein, based on the novel by Harold Robbins.
Director: Daniel Petrie.
Notes: After Sleuth and King Lear, this is possibly Larry’s finest leading performance of his late years. Loren Hardeman is a complex character: ruthless, manipulative and lecherous tycoon, yet a human being capable of tenderness, affection and charm. Beautifully acted on all fronts. The movie, on the whole, has been trashed more severely than it deserves. It’s not a great one by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a compellingly decadent look at the 1970s. I have seen a good deal worse pictures with much greater pretensions.

















Cast: Neil Diamond (Jess Robin/Yussel Rabinovitch), Laurence Olivier (Cantor Rabinovich), Lucie Arnaz (Molly Bell), Catlin Adams (Rivka Rabinovitch).
Screenplay: Herbert Baker and Stephen H. Foreman, based on the play by Samson Raphaelson.
Director: Richard Fleischer

Notes. Small but not inconsiderable part for Larry. The movie on the whole is a decent drama with plenty of fine music. It has been trashed more severely than it deserves.












Clash of the Titans (1981)
Cast: Harry Hamlin (Perseus), Laurence Olivier (Zeus), Claire Bloom (Hera), Maggie Smith (Thetis), Ursula Andress (Aphrodite), Jack Gwillim (Poseidon), Susan Fleetwood (Athena).
Screenplay: Beverly Cross.
Director: Desmond Davis.
Notes: Having played so many kings, princes, generals and other larger-than-life figures, it was about time to play a god. Zeus is an auspicious choice for a debut in the sky. The star-stuffed Mount Olympus is the only reason to see this otherwise indifferent fantasy romp. 
















Cast: Laurence Olivier (King Lear), Diana Rigg (Regan), Dorothy Tutin (Goneril), Robert Lindsay (Edmund), John Hurt (The Fool), Leo McKern (Gloucester), David Threlfall (Edgar), Anna Calder-Marshall (Cordelia), Colin Blakely (Kent).
Screenplay: William Shakespeare.
Director: Michael Elliott.
Notes: Larry’s seventh and last Shakespearian effort on the screen, fittingly in one of the Bard’s most shattering plays. It has all the poignancy that a valedictory performance should have. The visual side is rather drab and unimaginative, but the rest of the cast is nearly perfect.





























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