On Our Shelves Now
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 With access to more than fifty hours of candid, unpublished interviews, Ziegler ensures that Olivier's true character--at its most undisguised--shines through as never before.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 has written for various newspapers and journals and was editor-in-chief at Collins from 1979 to 1980. He is also an award-winning biographer who counts among his subjects two kings and four prime ministers. His most recent book was an acclaimed life of Edward Heath.
"There are some 20 or 30 books about [Olivier], not counting many more in which he merely figures prominently . . . Philip Ziegler's "Olivier," may well be the best yet - perhaps even definitive - not only because it is so widely researched and readably written, but also because so much new material has become available to make such ample use of. . . . The biography is full of marvelous anecdotes . . . It is altogether a thorough and intelligent book: Read it."—John Simon, The New York Times
"A well-rounded portrait of the legendary English actor... probably the best Olivier book for general readers."—Kirkus Reviews
"Informed, informative, exceptionally well written, Olivier is very highly recommended reading for his legions of fans."—Midwest Book Review
"It enriched my sense of this amazing multi-faceted, multi-talented man."—Antonia Fraser, The Guardian
"Ziegler is an elegant, unfailingly lucid writer, his manner brisk and incisive... Ziegler has addressed Olivier the phenomenon in an elegant and increasingly compelling book."—Simon Callow, The Guardian
"Philip Ziegler is a master of biographical narrative. He tells the extraordinary story with fine judgment and the power of a born storyteller. Seldom has such exhaustive research been made so compellingly readable."—Award-winning author and biographer Michael Holroyd
"This new book is... a triumph. Ziegler's first biography of an actor, it glitters with theatrical life--the tensions, the triumphs, the backstage bitchery. He reduces a huge welter of sources to a crisp narrative, cracking with civilised irony. It is also balanced. Even Tynan, whom Ziegler obviously considers poisonous nuisance, is given praise when due. Above all it succeeds, as far as is humanly possible, in bringing alive on the page Olivier's magnetic theatrical presence, which those who saw him act will never forget."—John Carey, The Sunday Times
"Olivier described himself in later life as 'hollow man.' [Ziegler] captures some of the magnificent noise with which the actor spent his life filling that void."—The Daily Telegraph
"Ziegler chronicles Olivier's life in an accessible road map that navigates through his celebrity, affairs, marriages, divorces, his respect and disdain for certain stars, his acting technique, directing, and work at the helm of the National Theater. He delves deeply into how Olivier reached deep into his psyche to unleash such passion and power."—Ellis Nassour, City Guide
"Undaunted by the challenge of his subject, Philip Ziegler vividly captures the excitement of Olivier's stage presence."—The Weekly Standard
"A recommended retelling of a great actor's life."—Stephen Rees, Library Journal
"Ziegler establishes a likable tone of good sportsmanship, and he keeps tight control over his narrative."—Film Comment
"Mr. Ziegler is a sympathetic chronicler . . . he is admirably efficient. In deft strokes, he captures the full range of Olivier's experience-as actor and impresario and as the principal character in the tumultuous drama of his personal and professional life . . . an insightful portrait."—Martin Rubin, The Wall Street Journal