Laurence Olivier

Actor + Producer + Director + Peer + Knight
Born May 22, 1907

Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM was an English actor, director, and producer. One of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century, he was the youngest actor to be knighted and the first to be elevated to the peerage. He married three times, to actresses Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright. Actor Spencer Tracy said that Olivier was 'the greatest actor in the English-speaking world'.… Read More

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1907 Birth Born in 1907.
1912 5 Years Old In 1912, when Olivier was five, his father secured a permanent appointment as assistant priest at St Saviour's, Pimlico. … Read More
1916 9 Years Old In 1916, after attending a series of preparatory schools, Olivier passed the singing examination for admission to the choir school of All Saints, Margaret Street, in central London. … Read More
1917 10 Years Old In a school production of Julius Caesar in 1917, the ten-year-old Olivier's performance as Brutus impressed an audience that included Lady Tree, the young Sybil Thorndike, and Ellen Terry, who wrote in her diary, "The small boy who played Brutus is already a great actor." … Read More


1920 13 Years Old From All Saints, Olivier went on to St Edward's School, Oxford, from 1920 to 1924. … Read More
1924 17 Years Old 1 More Event
In January 1924, his brother left England to work in India as a rubber planter. … Read More
1925 18 Years Old On leaving the school after a year, Olivier gained work with small touring companies before being taken on in 1925 by Sybil Thorndike and her husband, Lewis Casson, as a bit-part player, understudy and assistant stage manager for their London company. … Read More
1926 19 Years Old In 1926, on Thorndike's recommendation, Olivier joined the Birmingham Repertory Company. … Read More


1928 21 Years Old 1 More Event
While playing the juvenile lead in Bird in Hand at the Royalty Theatre in June 1928, Olivier began a relationship with Jill Esmond, the daughter of the actors Henry V. Esmond and Eva Moore. … Read More
1929 22 Years Old 1 More Event
He was offered the part in the West End production the following year, but turned it down in favour of the more glamorous role of Beau Geste in a stage adaptation of P. C. Wren's 1929 novel of the same name. … Read More
…  He was married three times, to the actresses Jill Esmond from 1930 to 1940, Vivien Leigh from 1940 to 1960, and Joan Plowright from 1961 until his death. … Read More
1931 - 1933 3 More Events
1934 27 Years Old Olivier's stage roles in 1934 included Bothwell in Gordon Daviot's Queen of Scots, which was only a moderate success for him and for the play, but led to an important engagement for the same management (Bronson Albery) shortly afterwards. … Read More
1935 28 Years Old In 1935, under Albery's management, John Gielgud staged Romeo and Juliet at the New Theatre, co-starring with Peggy Ashcroft, Edith Evans and Olivier. … Read More
In May 1936 Olivier and Richardson jointly directed and starred in a new piece by J. B. Priestley, Bees on the Boatdeck. … Read More


1937 30 Years Old After Olivier and Leigh made a tour of Europe in mid 1937 they returned to separate film projects—A Yank at Oxford for her and The Divorce of Lady X for him—and moved into a property together in Iver, Buckinghamshire.
1938 31 Years Old 1 More Event
Olivier returned to the Old Vic for a second season in 1938. … Read More
1939 32 Years Old After returning to London briefly in mid-1939, the couple returned to America, Leigh to film the final takes for Gone with the Wind, and Olivier to prepare for filming of Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca—although the couple had hoped to appear in it together. … Read More
1940 33 Years Old 1 More Event
In January 1940 Olivier and Esmond were granted their divorce. … Read More
1942 35 Years Old …  Olivier spent much of his time taking part in broadcasts and making speeches to build morale, and in 1942 he was invited to make another propaganda film, The Demi-Paradise, in which he played a Soviet engineer who helps improve British-Russian relationships.
1943 36 Years Old In 1943, at the behest of the Ministry of Information, Olivier began working on Henry V. … Read More


1947 - 1950 4 More Events
1951 44 Years Old 1 More Event
Darlington considers a 1951 production of Othello starring Orson Welles as the pick of Olivier's productions at the theatre.
1953 46 Years Old For the Coronation season of 1953, Olivier and Leigh starred in the West End in Terence Rattigan's Ruritanian comedy, The Sleeping Prince. … Read More
1954 47 Years Old Olivier directed his third Shakespeare film in September 1954, Richard III (1955), which he co-produced with Korda. … Read More
1955 48 Years Old 1 More Event
In 1955 Olivier and Leigh were invited to play leading roles in three plays at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford. … Read More


1957 - 1959 2 More Events
In 1960 he made his second appearance for the Royal Court company in Ionesco's absurdist play Rhinoceros. … Read More
1961 54 Years Old In 1961 Olivier accepted the directorship of a new theatrical venture, the Chichester Festival.
1962 55 Years Old 1 More Event
For the opening season in 1962 he directed two neglected 17th-century English plays, John Fletcher's 1638 comedy The Chances and John Ford's 1633 tragedy The Broken Heart, followed by Uncle Vanya. … Read More
1963 56 Years Old The opening production of the National Theatre was Hamlet in October 1963, starring Peter O'Toole and directed by Olivier. … Read More
1964 57 Years Old 1 More Event
Apart from his Astrov in the Uncle Vanya, familiar from Chichester, his first leading role for the National was Othello, directed by Dexter in 1964. … Read More


1967 - 1970 4 More Events
1972 65 Years Old 1 More Event
In 1972 he took leave of absence from the National to star opposite Michael Caine in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's film of Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth, which The Illustrated London News considered to be "Olivier at his twinkling, eye-rolling best"; both he and Caine were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, losing to Marlon Brando in The Godfather. … Read More
1973 - 1981 4 More Events
1983 76 Years Old In 1983 he played his last Shakespearean role as Lear in King Lear, for Granada Television, earning his fifth Emmy. … Read More
1989 82 Years Old 1 More Event
The same year he also appeared in a cameo alongside Gielgud and Richardson in Wagner, with Burton in the title role; his final screen appearance was as an old, wheelchair-bound soldier in Derek Jarman's 1989 film War Requiem.
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