British Library Acquires Olivier Archive

By Morrison, James | The Birmingham Post (England), April 6, 2000 | Go to article overview

British Library Acquires Olivier Archive


Morrison, James, The Birmingham Post (England)


Lord Olivier's huge historical 20th-century theatre archive has been bought for about pounds 1 million by the British Library.

The so-called Laurence Olivier papers chronicle the personal and professional life of the legendary thespian, from his humble beginnings at the Old Vic Theatre to his directorship of the National Theatre.

Among the items included are correspondence with acting icons including Marilyn Monroe, Richard Burton and Marlene Dietrich, and top politicians such as Baroness Thatcher and Sir Winston Churchill.

Also included are letters from and to American poet T S Eliot, playwrights Noel Coward and John Osborne and Catcher in the Rye author J D Salinger.

The papers provide an insight into the evolution of Hollywood cinema, through Lord Olivier's experiences of starring in 1930s movies such as Wuthering Heights, and the art of wartime film-making, which he made his own with Henry V.

They also chart Olivier's stage and screen collaborations with second wife Vivien Leigh, star of Gone with the Wind, post-war productions at the Royal Court, and the actor's later television roles such as in Brideshead Revisited.

British Library chief executive Dr Brian Lang said yesterday: "This archive is beyond compare and documents the life and career of one of the greatest and most influential figures of 20th-century theatre and film. …

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