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Publisher's Summary

Laurence Olivier was the most famous actor of his century, and one of the greatest of all time. His looks made him a matinee idol; his talent made him world renowned as an actor, director, and producer. From his stage roles as Hamlet and Archie Rice to his screen roles as Heathcliff and Henry V, his range was unparalleled. But beneath the glamorous image, Olivier was often lonely, confused, and plagued by self-doubts.

In this revealing account, Spoto tells for the first time the truth about Olivier's three marriages - to the diffident lesbian actress Jill Esmond, to the haunted and doomed Vivien Leigh, and to the young Joan Plowright. Spoto also discusses Olivier's relationships with Noel Coward and Danny Kaye, who loved him. Amid these personal dramas, Laurence Olivier's professional life encompassed the history of the theater in his time. Based on formidable international research, this is a rich, definitive biography.

©1992 Donald Spoto; (P)1998 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A magnificent, moving biography worthy of its protean subject, this resonant portrait defines an actor whose personal upheavals fueled his intense realism on stage and screen....Critical acumen matches psychological insight in this biography." (Publishers Weekly)
"The book meticulously covers Olivier's life in full, lurid, yet tasteful detail....Frederick Davidson's narration is flawless. Davidson maintains the brilliance of the biography with a superb performance that is every bit as wonderful as the book itself....The book glides along, keeping the listener wanting to hear more." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall

Olivier the man.

What makes a great actor tick? The engrossing biography provides a window into the personality of a remarkable man who was also most accomplished actor of the last century. It is a glittering panorama of the age and its personalities that is impossible to resist.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Sfbelle
  • San Francisco, CA
  • 03-20-15

Nothing new...but enjoyable

What about Frederick Davidson’s performance did you like?

Frederick Davidson's accent makes the folks on "Downton Abbey" sound like they're from Flatbush. A bit too posh at times, but he does decent impersonations of Olivier, Gielgud, et al.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful