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Laurence Olivier: A Biography

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A biography of the great English actor discusses Olivier's early stage appearances, his film roles, his marriage to Vivien Leigh and their subsequent divorce, his guilt-ridden ten-year affair with Danny Kaye, and his own self-doubts. Reprint.


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A biography of the great English actor discusses Olivier's early stage appearances, his film roles, his marriage to Vivien Leigh and their subsequent divorce, his guilt-ridden ten-year affair with Danny Kaye, and his own self-doubts. Reprint.

30 review for Laurence Olivier: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    India Celeste

    I thoroughly enjoyed all the information given about Sir Laurence Olivier's accomplishments and relations to those in his personal and professional life. I would have just preferred that Mr. Spoto was a lot less "colorful" in adding his own narrative to some of the events that took place. I ended up skipping certain sections until he got back to the stuff about L.O. directly. It was almost like watching a movie and wishing the voice-over narrative was taken out. I did like that he used pieces fr I thoroughly enjoyed all the information given about Sir Laurence Olivier's accomplishments and relations to those in his personal and professional life. I would have just preferred that Mr. Spoto was a lot less "colorful" in adding his own narrative to some of the events that took place. I ended up skipping certain sections until he got back to the stuff about L.O. directly. It was almost like watching a movie and wishing the voice-over narrative was taken out. I did like that he used pieces from articles, quotes, interviews, and Olivier's own autobiography. Although Spoto pointed out that L.O.'s own writing contained some falsehoods and discrepancies, I'd still probably enjoy that book more because it may be a better indicator of Olivier's own reflection of his life in general. In this book, I enjoyed reading about the ways that L.O. always picked himself up after professional failures & his drive to be the absolute best at what he did (even if it isn't always what he ended up with). Mr. Olivier was the epitome of the concept "The Show Must Go On" and was inspirational in the sense of his sad beginnings & awkwardness. He proves that everyone can try to make something of nothing and possibly be successful given the right sacrifices... although sometimes the price is yourself.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Julian Hudson

    After reading this particular book, I learnt that the author, Donald Spoto, has written a number of these such biographies. And he did a really good job of this one. For me the book really was an intimate encounter with Laurence Olivier, written with sensitivity and authority. You become familiar with Laurence's strengths, successes as well as his insecurities and failings - a definite pathos throughout the book - and not only generated for Laurence but those involved in is life. The book generou After reading this particular book, I learnt that the author, Donald Spoto, has written a number of these such biographies. And he did a really good job of this one. For me the book really was an intimate encounter with Laurence Olivier, written with sensitivity and authority. You become familiar with Laurence's strengths, successes as well as his insecurities and failings - a definite pathos throughout the book - and not only generated for Laurence but those involved in is life. The book generously explores other interesting and key people in Laurence's life and consequently within the then Hollywood scene. Overall, wonderful detail and account of a great man.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Margo Johnson

    I had this notion that Laurence Olivier must have possessed a noble and sophisticated character because he was probably the greatest actor of all time. This book portrayed an insecure, self-centered and at times mean-spirited human. He was certainly not a monster but he was probably like any any other actor then and now. I suppose my disappointment in his character comes from having had such an ideal expectation and then having it fall to earth. The author did an adequate job of showing all side I had this notion that Laurence Olivier must have possessed a noble and sophisticated character because he was probably the greatest actor of all time. This book portrayed an insecure, self-centered and at times mean-spirited human. He was certainly not a monster but he was probably like any any other actor then and now. I suppose my disappointment in his character comes from having had such an ideal expectation and then having it fall to earth. The author did an adequate job of showing all sides to this man: his craft and his personal life. Spoto seems to have applied the same Freudian analyses to Olivier`s history that thespians of that time used to dissect characters of the plays they were performing. It is somewhat interesting but it depends on how much one agrees with Freud`s largely discredited theory of repressed sexuality having a negative effect on the psyche. Spoto`s description of the Hollywood "star machine" was interesting. The studios created an image of their stars as being noble, sophisticated and morally upright; like the characters they presented on screen but were not in reality. This book was an okay read but I was left with a feeling of disappointment.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Di

    This was a good. solid biography. I'm interested in film, theatre and acting and I wanted to find out more about the life of this famous English actor. The biography had plenty of interesting details about Olivier's career and about the man himself. He came across as very ambitious and hard-working but quite limited in his personal relationships with others.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kpowers

    One of my favorite actors.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elvis Is King

    Junk.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Terence Manleigh

    He was the "world's greatest actor" and, if it hadn't been for his naughty sex life and tragic marriage, his unalloyed string of success after success would have made pretty dull reading.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ursula Johnson

    Detailed and Comprehensive Bio I decided to read this book after reading a few stories about Olivier in Kirk Douglas' book about the making of Spartacus. This detailed biography was an eye opener. Having heard of his thespian accomplishments, the real man was far more complicated. His brilliance, arrogance and sexual proclivities notwithstanding, he was a tragic figure. The early death of his beloved mother, indifference by his father, the stage and performing were his life. His three marriages a Detailed and Comprehensive Bio I decided to read this book after reading a few stories about Olivier in Kirk Douglas' book about the making of Spartacus. This detailed biography was an eye opener. Having heard of his thespian accomplishments, the real man was far more complicated. His brilliance, arrogance and sexual proclivities notwithstanding, he was a tragic figure. The early death of his beloved mother, indifference by his father, the stage and performing were his life. His three marriages all failed and while he was magnificent at adapting characters, and his many friendships were mostly surface relationships. This was a comprehensive biography packed with a great deal of information. I read this book using immersion reading while listening to the audiobook. Narration sounded a bit pompous and condescending, not very listener friendly. Quotes and lines from plays attempted in his voice just sounded awful.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Peter Burton

    Very enjoyable study of his life,career,his acting and the roots of his genius.Surprisingly,to me who never saw any of his performances except a couple of his later cameos film roles,it was a thoroughly engrossing study of a life consumed by ambition and his art.It’s always so sad that so many performances of great actors are never captured on film but at least he had a few filmed.Now to find them and see his creations.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ciara

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ricklin

  13. 5 out of 5

    Richard Ensign

  14. 5 out of 5

    Manuelshift

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jannette Lyon

  16. 5 out of 5

    Antje

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tracey Ditchburn

  19. 4 out of 5

    Howard Phillips

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mieke

  21. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tom Delise

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christophe Gindraux

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jay

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine Heathcote

  27. 5 out of 5

    Donna

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jo Redmond

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carita

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Sutherland

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