Kirkus Reviews ), Philip Ziegler's Olivier provides an incredibly accessible and comprehensive portrait of thisHollywood 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 With access to more than fifty hours of candid, unpublished interviews, Ziegler ensures that Olivier's true character-at its most undisguised-shines through as never before.
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.
"A well-rounded portrait of the legendary English actor . . . probably the best Olivier book for general readers." - Kirkus Reviews
"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
"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
"It enriched my sense of this amazing multi-faceted, multi-talented man."-Antonia Fraser, 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
"Olivier described himself in later life as 'a hollow man.' [Ziegler] captures some of the magnificent noise with which the actor spent his life filling that void."- The Daily Telegraph
"Informed, informative, exceptionally well written, Olivier is very highly recommended reading for his legions of fans."- Midwest Book Review