1930s,  Eva Moore,  Fashion,  Jill Esmond,  Laurence Olivier,  Vintage Brides,  Weddings

The Vintage Bride: Jill Esmond

On July 25th, 1930, Jill Esmond officially became the first Mrs. Laurence Olivier. Jill, a British actress, was 22 years old and her bridgegroom, Larry, was 23. Jill Esmond came from acting royalty. Her mother was the famous stage actress and suffragette, Eva Moore. Her father was the actor, playwright and manager, Henry V. Esmond. Together, Eva and Henry were the royal couple of the British stage.

The bride’s parents, Eva Moore and Henry Esmond

Jill and Larry first met in 1928 when they co-starred in the play, Bird in Hand: Olivier played a squire’s son and Jill played an innkeeper’s daughter, his romantic counterpart. In 1929, the couple found themselves separated by an ocean. Jill had traveled to New York City with the play, Bird in Hand, while Olivier remained in London.

After being separated for a few months, Olivier was given the opportunity of starring in a play called Murder On The Second Floor, to be produced in New York City. Olivier recalled,  I managed to find a chance to play in New York and I jumped at it. The show- Murder On The Second Floor- only lasted five weeks. But I got to see Jill.  Once reunited in NYC, the couple decided to select Jill’s engagement ring together and purchased the ring from Tiffany’s.

In 1932, Silver Screen magazine ran a super sweet article on Jill and Larry (whom they referred to as Lorry). They included the following details on the Oliviers’ wedding, which is basically one of the fluffiest things I’ve ever read. Here’s the excerpt:

On or about July 11, 1930, A.D., Jill and Lorry were sitting on a river bank at the country estate of some friends. There were birds in the trees. The grass was green. The river whispered lazily by them. The sun was at its zenith and all was tranquil. Lorry suddenly turned to Jill.

“All this gadding about,” said he, “is silly. We’ve got to be married.”
“That’s a noble idea,” replied Jill. “When?”

Lorry counted the days on his fingers. There was work in the offing, and it looked as if their honeymoon would be molested by the fall openings.

“Say two weeks,” said Lorry.
“Two weeks,” said Jill.

They were married on July 25 and there were TWO bishops on hand- the wedding was very fashionable- and the guests were notable. Followed the honeymoon.

“No more being separated,” said Lorry.
“Right’o,” said Jill

And two very brave young people, both in a profession which is legendary for keeping people apart, made a pledge. 

Jill and Larry were married at All Saints, located on Margaret Street in London. The ceremony was officiated by Bishop Perrin. Jill’s brother, Jack Esmond, drove her to the church, but it was her mother, Eva Moore, who walked her down the aisle. Jill’s father had sadly passed away in 1922.

Jill’s floor-length wedding gown was made from parchment satin and featured an embroidered sweetheart neckline with side ruching and long, fitted sleeves. Her tulle veil flowed from her art deco headdress, made in part from cream-colored pearls. For Jill’s formal wedding portrait (above), she’s photographed with a small bouquet of lilies secured with ribbon. For the actual wedding, she carried a larger bouquet of what appears to be daisies accented with fern leaves and wrapped in tulle.

Laurence Olivier rented his morning suit for the wedding, which featured striped pants, a dark colored jacket with a lighter shade for the vest. …He looked a complete Charley in hired morning clothes: sleeves too short and trousers failing to hide his actor’s love of costume: white spats [black and white shoes]. A button hole marched with a pointed pocket handkerchief- gaudy but not neat. He was the proudest of grooms, his brow nobly plucked by Jill, and his Ronald Colman moustache his hour consuming pride, and the bride he had first proposed to almost two years before was his for ever. -Tarquin Olivier on his parents’ wedding, from My Father Laurence Olivier

Eileen Clark had the distinction of being maid of honor. She and the little girl, who attended to Jill’s train, both wore short-sleeved dresses, leaf green in color, with matching necklaces. The best man was Denys Blakelock.

Newspaper clipping

The happy couple greeting guests at their reception

After the ceremony, the reception was held in the garden at Eva Moore’s home at Whitehead’s Grove. The couple were to honeymoon at the house of a friend of Eva’s at Lulworth Cove in Dorset, right on the sea.

Larry and Jill had only one son together, Tarquin, born in August, 1936. The Oliviers’ marriage came to an end, in 1937, when Larry left Jill and moved into Durham Cottage, in London, with Vivien Leigh. The couple later divorced, in 1940. This was Jill’s only marriage, but the first of three for Olivier.

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