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Olivier Hardcover – June 3, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: MacLehose Press (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1623650429
  • ISBN-13: 978-1623650421
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"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 â??a 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

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.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Constant Reader on July 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is a very well written biography of Olivier. Mr. Ziegler has really done his homework. He has had the cooperation of Joan Plowright, Ms. Plowright's children by Olivier and Tarquin Olivier, his son by Jill Esmond. There is no question that Olivier is considered one of the finest actors of the 20th century. Out of all I have read on Olivier I think Ziegler comes the closest to describing how Olivier was able to create the characters that he did. Of course, the great, tragic love story of Olivier & Vivien Leigh is described in detail.

The problem I have with this book is Laurence Olivier himself. As his son Tarquin said in his biography of his father, Olivier was very selfish and self-centered. At the bottom of everything and everyone Olivier only cared about himself. The only time it seems he was able to stop self-obsessing was in the early years of his relationship with Leigh. Olivier had an awful father and his mother died early in his life. Therefore, he acquired little or no parenting skills.

I think Coco Chanel had a similar personality. Her clothes are breathtakingly beautiful but she was an awful person. She was extremely selfish and cruel to her employees. Perhaps genius requires extreme self-centeredness?

If you are interested in Olivier then this book is a must. I have read other biographies of Olivier over the years and I would say this one is the best.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Grandma Barbara on June 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have always loved Olivier and this book was very informative and interesting. I read it in four days and learned so much about his life.
He was a real icon and he lived the life of a celebrity and yet remained down to earth. He was all actor and was never a family man but it was just what he was. I loved reading about his life with Vivian Leigh and the problems he had with her and how things went for him as a family man. It was a shame how things went as he aged but it was a really good book and I enjoyed reading it very much.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Janet dimet on July 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very good. But it became too bogged down in "who was head of this theater and so on"
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mary A. on July 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
$24? Seriously?
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