Lawrence Olivier, the English Shakespearean who conquered American cinema

When we talk about the most Shakespearian filmmakers in the world these days, the first thing that comes to mind is the English filmmaker Kenneth Branagh, who, after several remarkable and diverse Shakespearian film quotes carrying a lot of innovation, has recently began to approach fellow countrywoman Agatha Christie, creating a revival by citing some of her big-screen affairs. However, before Branagh, there was of course Orson Welles, the great master among masters of cinema, whose name was associated with the name of the master of English Elizabethan theater, and not with the large number of films he made within of this framework, but of a clearly Shakespearean character carried by his Shakespearean films, which do not exceed three, which are “Othello” which one day gave Morocco the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and “Macbeth” which will always be considered as an astonishing cinematic approach to the play of absolute evil, and finally “Falstaff” the synthetic film which combines the presence of the character of Falstaff in several Shakespearean works, but what to mention here and forget Unfortunately there is always a third director whose name has been associated with the name of Shakespeare and his works in front of these two great creators. It is unfair that he is not always placed ahead of them, a director and an actor who has always lived and worked between England and Hollywood, and one of his characteristics is that his film “Hamlet” has was the first foreign director to receive “Oscar”, after this award was reserved for Americans.

For the cinema, Laurence Olivier (1907 – 1989), therefore only made three films, but which films?! Although the “Oscar” he won for his film “Hamlet” which he directed in 1948, his first Shakespearean film “Henry V” remains the pinnacle of his cinematic creativity, with or without Shakespeare. The film he once transferred from the theater to the cinema to be followed by “Hamlet”, “Richard III” (1956) rose to fame with this “trilogy” which would have sufficed – and that is without forgetting his performance of the play “Othello”, but with a direction that he did not do by himself, and hence his contribution here was considered secondary to Shakespeare, at least, which made him hesitate later without approaching any film of Shakespeare not being its master, but he was not content with this glory, but went on to direct several films that were distinguished if not by an obvious theatrical flair, at least by a creative sense outstanding, critics and historians usually talk about those English touches in American cinema that make talking about a British invasion of Hollywood something of a feat, knowing that this lecture usually focuses on the wonderful acting that distinguished Olivier as he has himself successful in his great films as others have succeeded in that of his compatriot Alfred Hitchcock.

Adapt the language of cinema

Be that as it may, despite the absolute theatrical dimension of “Henry V”, considered the greatest of Shakespearean films and the pinnacle of what Olivier has achieved, it is always said that no film has been able to adapt the cinematographic language in the service of a Shakespearean text, succeeded in surpassing what Olivier did in this film. It seemed like some kind of miracle from a creator recently out of the theater, and he seemed to barely know the art of filmmaking, but from that first appearance it seemed like he was saying, “If you’re a Shakespearian even once in your life, it means you have a corner. » All the arts. It is certain that he applied it not only in the acting performance which distinguished this film, but also in the lighting which played the game of shadows and lights of the palace of Azenkort, and the clothes and the decorations that reconfigured the spatial framework of this historic space in a way that allowed the cameras to move in a new way, especially in the battle scenes that formed an unforgettable cinematic lesson. In fact, all of this gave the Shakespearean text unexpected dimensions at the time, and “Henry V” was considered one of the greatest historical films, again with or without Shakespeare.

The pinnacle of the art of acting

And there remains an aspect on which we must not stop: if the referendum organized years ago by the American magazine “Empire” affirmed that Marlon Brando was the greatest actor that the cinema screens had known since the beginnings of this seventh art, then there is no doubt that Sir Laurence Olivier would have won the first place if the question included cinema and theater together. The case is that, if it is difficult to consider Olivier as one of the best who practiced cinema, it would become impossible to miss his great theatrical performance if the question included the theater, and even his performance in the Shakespearean films that Olivier played on the screen, and we can all We can say that he rarely had a screen role that could reveal his great talents.

The theater above all

Olivier created above all for the theatrical performance, a performance that takes the body, the gestures and the voice, the external features in their entirety, unlike the cinema which comes with its enlarged shots and its fragmentary synthesis cut the movement of the actor and distort it, which makes the greatest actors accustomed to the luxury of theatrical representation, unable to impose their presence in exchange for artists of another genre accustomed to cinema and its techniques insofar as they are there. identify and are part of their expressive being. In this sense, Marlon Brando is superior, in the cinema, to Laurence Olivier, while Olivier certainly excels in the theater, and in the cinema adapted from the theater, over all his colleagues.

Lose an adult

When Sir Laurence Olivier died in 1989, such was the feeling that the art of acting had lost one of its masters. Be that as it may, Lawrence Olivier’s presence in the cinema dates back to 1939, when he appeared under the direction of the American William Wyler in the film “Wuthering Heights”, then “discovered” by Hitchcock and directed it in his beautiful film “Rebecca” (1940), but if the world of cinema had discovered Olivier since Then, and he will continue to discover him for many decades after that, the decade of the forties remains in relation to his career, the best and the more important, knowing that Lawrence’s professional and artistic life began much earlier.

Florence Olivier, born in 1907 in the town of Dorking in the province of Surrey, went on stage for the first time in 1922, notably in Shakespearean roles which made her widely known. From the theater, he went to the cinema for the first time in 1930 in romantic roles that did not fulfill his aspirations of glory, and did not attract attention, and even when he went to 1931, for the first time, in Hollywood and portrayed under the direction of Raoul Walsh, no one noticed him, which forced him to return to England, where he appeared this time in a cinematic quote from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”, then played alongside of Vivien Leigh, his wife, who went with her to Hollywood, where she was chosen to star in “Gone with the Wind”, and the two have since enjoyed success in Two Parallel Lines, although they have met once every few years in a movie and achieved unified success.

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Shakespeare’s Fever Best Moments

Lawrence Olivier has represented in dozens of films and dozens of plays, but his best works remain the three Shakespearean films he directed and represented himself: “Henry V” (1944), “Hamlet” ( 1948) and “Richard III” (1955). Is it a coincidence that all three films are based on Shakespeare and are occupied in a purely theatrical style, completely different – for example – from the style followed by Orson Welles – the great cinematographer – when he quoted Shakespeare? Be that as it may, among Laurence Olivier’s great roles we cite her roles in films like Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” and William Wyler’s “Carrie” (1951) and Tony Richardson’s “Coach” (1960), especially two last roles that distinguished their interpretation. , his role in “Detective” by Directed by Joseph L. Mancinch (1972), then the role he played alongside Katharine Hepburn in “Love Among the Ruins” (1974), and we remember that he was nominated for the “Oscar” for his role in the film “Children of Brazil”, while ” Hamlet” he directed, The first foreign film to win an “Oscar”, as we mentioned.

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