In 1947, while Laurence Olivier was filming Hamlet, he received a letter asking him if he’d be interested in a knighthood. Even though he wasn’t suppose to mention the letter to anyone, he couldn’t resist and called his wife, Vivien.
Vivien was in Paris, being fitted for her costumes for Anna Karenina. Felix Barker, in his book The Oliviers, summed up their exchange: “You won’t take it, of course?” she asked with mock innocence. “Of course not!” he answered, and promptly sat down and wrote to say that he would be honored to accept.
Olivier’s impending knighthood was officially announced on June 11, in the King’s Birthday Honors List, for his stage and screen contributions. In his appointment book for July 8, he marked the upcoming investiture as the following: Buckingham Palace, 10:15. He drew a sword on the page beneath the date.
The Oliviers, photographed at Durham Cottage
The ceremony took place on Tuesday, July 8, at Buckingham Palace. Afterward, Olivier shared with the reporters, covering the event, that being knighted had unnerved him more than a first night. I was nervous. I like to have a ‘dummy run’ before I do anything. There wasn’t any rehearsal [for being knighted]. Olivier’s nervousness did not show. In fact, he looked very confident as he walked up to the King and knelt down on one knee.
Sir Laurence Olivier and his friend, Sir Malcolm Sargent, were knighted at the same ceremony.
It’s kind of strange to consider, but Olivier did not own a proper morning suit for the occasion. Luckily, two friends pitched in to help him out. Anthony Bushell lent him his morning jacket and Ralph Richardson lent him the waistcoat. However, as Olivier would later joke, his pants were his own!
Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier
The black morning jacket featured black-braiding, which is a silk trim. The braiding can be seen around the jacket’s collar, lapels, front pocket, sleeves and tails. The interesting thing to note is that the silk trim, at the bottom of the sleeve, gives the appearance of a turn-back cuff, for an extra touch of elegance.
Vivien dressed quite elegantly in simple black. She wore a wide-brimmed hat with a veil that covered her face. Her black suit featured a nipped in waist, slanting pocket flaps and oversized pearl buttons, at the jacket’s closure and cuffs. The frilly, ruffled collar of her white blouse peeks out from the suit’s jacket. Vivien and Larry’s biographers report that she wore no jewelry for the occasion, but as we can see in these pictures, that’s not true. Vivien wore small earrings, which look flower-shaped, and a strand of pearls.
Here’s a list of 5 Cool Things About Olivier’s Knighthood:
Olivier was a blonde when knighted. He was in the middle of filming Hamlet, so his hair had been bleached blonde for the role.
Alexander Korda closed down the Anna Karenina set for the investiture.
Olivier, at 40, was the youngest actor to be knighted.
He’d been skipped over the Honors List before, due to his divorce and subsequent remarriage to a divorced woman.
Olivier was the fourth most popular British actor when knighted. The top three actors were James Mason, Stewart Granger and Ray Milland.
Thanks for joining me for today’s Fashion Friday post!