Dad of Divas' Reviews: Book Review - Olivier

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Book Review - Olivier

Olivier by Philip Ziegler
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About the Book
A finalist for the Sheridan Morley Prize that has been called "probably the best Olivier book for general readers” (Kirkus Reviews), Philip Ziegler's Olivier provides an incredibly accessible and comprehensive portrait of this Hollywood superstar, Oscar-winning director, and one who is considered the greatest stage actor of the twentieth century. The era abounded in great actors—Gielgud, Richardson, Guinness, Burton, O’Toole – but none could challenge Laurence Olivier’s range and power. By the 1940s he had achieved international stardom. His affair with Vivien Leigh led to a marriage as glamorous and as tragic as any in Hollywood history. He was as accomplished a director as he was a leading man: his three Shakespearian adaptations are among the most memorable ever filmed.

And yet, at the height of his fame, he accepted what was no more than an administrator’s wage to become the founding Director of the National Theatre. In 2013 the theatre celebrates its fiftieth anniversary; without Olivier’s leadership it would never have achieved the status that it enjoys today. Off-stage, Olivier was the most extravagant of characters: generous, yet almost insanely jealous of those few contemporaries whom he deemed to be his rivals; charming but with a ferocious temper. With access to more than fifty hours of candid, unpublished interviews, Ziegler ensures that Olivier’s true character—at its most undisguised—shines through as never before.

About the Author
Philip Ziegler is an award-winning writer best known for his biographies of politicians, royalty, and soldiers. Ziegler was born in December 1929 and was educated at Eton and New College, Oxford, where he received First Class honors in Jurisprudence and won the Chancellor’s Essay Prize. After national service in the Royal Artillery he joined the Foreign Service and served in Vientiane, Paris, Pretoria and Bogota. By this time he had written biographies of the Duchess of Dino and the British Prime Minister, Henry Addington. In 1967 he resigned from the Foreign Service to join the publisher Collins, where he was editor-in-chief until 1979, when he retired to become a full-time writer. His biography subjects include King William IV, Lord Melbourne, Lady Diana Cooper, Lord Mountbatten, King Edward VIII, Harold Wilson, Rupert Hart-Davis and Osbert Sitwell, and most recently, Edward Heath. In 1991 he was appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order and he is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Historical Society. He lives in London and is married, with three children and ten grandchildren.

My Take on the Book
This was a book that really opened my eyes to who Olivier really was. While I knew him through his movies, there was so much more to him that I was unaware of. His marriage was so interesting and dramatic to say the least. This book was very well researched and was definitely the most thorough biography of an actor that I have ever read and I have read a few. The author definitely has his credentials and I was impressed with his writing style. He was in depth yet had an interactive style that drew you in. I found that as I read this I felt compelled to continue reading even more. I have to say that the author truly captured Olivier as a man, not just as an actor, and for any fan, this will definitely open your eyes to the real Olivier, not just the person that you see on screen or who you thought you knew.

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