- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Trafalgar Square; 1st ed edition (December 1, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0747206112
- ISBN-13: 978-0747206118
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,688,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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My Father Laurence Olivier Hardcover – December 1, 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
Sir Laurence's delightfully quirky letters to "Tarkie" and his mother form the core of this reminiscence "about Jill, Larry, Vivien, and what it was like to grow up among them." The author was 10 months old (the year was 1937) when his father left him and his mother, actress Jill Esmond, to marry Vivien Leigh. In this forgiving memoir he handles the divorce with grace and delicacy, doing nothing to hide his adoration of his Da. The book rests heavily on anecdotes that would be uninteresting were the family in question other than Olivier's. The author is at pains to demolish the "wall of untruth which has become ever more solid with each succeeding biography" of his father, a wall to which the subject himself contributed in his 1982 Confessions of an Actor. The author maintains that his mother's influence on his father's early career was significant, and he is vehement in his denial that Sir Laurence had affairs with critic Kenneth Tynan and entertainer Danny Kaye (" . . . unforgivable garbage"). His portrait of the great thespian in old age is memorable and affecting: "His defiance was magnificent, his fury noble; he was impossible." Olivier died in 1989 at the age of 82. Photos.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Though the senior Olivier callously abandoned Tarquin and his mother, actress Jill Esmond, shortly after his birth in 1936, Tarquin apparently never bore any enduring ill-will toward his wayward and indifferent parent. Rather than dwelling on Olivier's well-documented shortcomings as a husband, a father, and a human being, the author prefers to emphasize Larry's development as a thespian and his astonishingly rapid evolution from young hopeful to one of the premier theatrical talents of the twentieth century. Understandably, a great deal of attention is devoted to examining Olivier's doomed first marriage; in fact, Jill Esmond emerges as the unacknowledged guiding force behind his early success on the stage. Tarquin also faithfully recounts his father's passionate, tempestuous, and ultimately tragic relationship with the lovely but unstable Vivien Leigh. Since Olivier virtually cut Tarquin out of his life upon his marriage to actress Joan Plowright in 1960, very little information about Olivier's declining years is provided. Interspersed with numerous excerpts from family letters and fuzzy personal anecdotes, this often saccharine and highly selective chronicle is more filial tribute than conventional biography. Margaret Flanagan
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I found this book to be quite informative on the personality of Lawrence Olivier! Though it was mostly told through letters from a father to his son (not vice versa) it did give some information on Olivier's romances. He was a bit of a cad...once he was done with a woman he was DONE! I did like the author telling bits and pieces about his (Tarquin's) relationship with Vivien Leigh as I had always believed they had seldom seen one another. All in all, in spite of a few grammar errors and spelling errors that were easily overlooked by me, I liked this book very much. I may have to buy it in hardcover or paperback to add to my collection of film star biographies/auto biographies.
Poignantly, as a young child, Tarquin hung onto every hint of attention from his largely absent, and "otherwise occupied" father.
And from the other side of the relationship, Olivier's calloused assessment in his autobiography written in the sunset years of his life, states that he and his son were largely an embarrassment to each other, bringing massive feelings of guilt with every meeting in the childhood years, only to finally reach some kind of comfort with the relationship very late in the game.
Sir Lawrence Olivier. How can a son talk about so
much and make no sense. At 36% I still could not figure
out where I was in the story or how it related to
the story. I can't even tell you what the beginning is saying.
And, considering that his father virtually ignored him during most of his third marriage, Tarquin Olivier is surprisingly gracious about that stage of their relationship. He also preserves a discreet silence about Joan Plowright and his three half-siblings.
Absolutely engrossing. Find yourself a good used copy and read it.