Only rarely does a newspaper have an opportunity to present an article of this type to its readers. “Film Pictorial,” of course, seizes that opportunity. Here, from his very earliest days, is the life of Laurence Olivier, presented to you by his brother, G.D. Olivier.
I wonder why it is with some boys that you know, even when they’re very young, that they will do big things! All parents hope, of course, that their children will find fame in some form; yet with other boys it is as certain as anything can be, that they will accomplish success.
The youngest son of the Reverend Gerard K. Olivier, Laurence, for instance, known to his intimates as ‘Larry,’ showed promise as an actor from his very earliest years.
It was obviouus to everybody that he would one day become great. And now he is to be Greta Garbo’s leading man!
At the age of ten, he played the part of Brutus in a amateur production of Julius Caesar before such distinguished stage people as Dame Ellen Terry, Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson and Lady Tree. They were all very much impressed by his performance.
Laurence was never a ‘hero-worshipper’; so far as I know, he had no definite admiration for any particular actor or actress. Indeed, as a youth, he saw few plays and fewer films. He was, however, very fond of Shakespeare and would read poetry with pleasure. He was always inclined to be rather a dreamer– ‘up in the clouds’ so to speak- and his forgetfulness earned him many scoldings from my father!
Throughout our lives, Laurence and I have always been very great friends- in fact, he has meant much to me- and the difference in our ages being very slight, we played together and, of course, being brothers, occasionally fought!
We were both fond of ‘dressing-up’ and ‘play-acting’ and as four years of our boyhood was taken up by the war, we had many lurid fights with imaginary Germans- generally in ‘aeroplanes,’ buy sometimes ‘on the sea!’ There was an old cloven elm tree in the garden which was joined together in the middle by a couple of iron bars, and this made an excellent substitute for the bridge of a battleship. Happy days!
I have always considered my brother to be lucky. When he was eight, young Larry was cycling through London when he had the misfortune to be run over by a horse and cart. He and his bicycle were dragged under the horse’s hoofs and the cart went over him before the driver could pull up. The bicycle was smashed completely, but Larry escaped with a bruised ankle!
Some years later, when we were both playing cricket with my father in the garden, Laurence hit a ball into some long grass. Too late we discovered that the ball had landed in a wasp’s nest! I was stung very badly on the face, my father was stung, too- but was Laurence, the unwitting culprit, stung? Not a bit!
But his greatest piece of good fortune, I think, was his meeting with, and eventual marriage to, Jill Esmond.
Toward the end of 1923, when Laurence was still at school, I went out to India. A year or two before I came home I heard that he had gone on the stage and had joined Sir Barry Jackson’s Birmingham Repertory Company. My father, although in the Church, and therefore popularly supposed to disapprove of the stage, raised no objection whatever. In fact, he encouraged Laurence in his decision.
Laurence gradually climbed to stage eminence until 1929, when he went to Germany to act in his first film, The Temporary Widow. Then he returned to London and acted in Private Lies, with Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence.
Private Lives took him and his wife to New York and, while there, he was offered a film contract in Hollywood. Jill, too, was given an offer. Laurence enjoyed his stay in Hollywood, where they had a lovely house at the top of Lookout Mountain, with a glorious panorama of the Pacific Ocean below.
In 1932, Laurence returned to England to star with Gloria Swanson in Perfect Understanding; this was followed by No Funny Business, with Gertrude Lawrence and Jill Esmond (the first time he and his wife had acted in a film together).
Now, he has just arrived in Hollywood again, for what he hopes will be the greatest opportunity of his career. To be Garbo’s leading man is the sort of thing most young actors dream about. If the part is right, then I can assure Larry’s admirers that he will be a worthy choice!