Cinema: Masterpiece

  • Share
  • Read Later

(5 of 6)

Del Giudice did something more remarkable: he never interfered with Olivier's work; he never let him know that there were money difficulties. It was Del Giudice who suggested the excellent cameraman Robert Krasker, who had never worked in Technicolor before. He also suggested that Olivier should direct and produce the film as well as star in it. For those scenes in which Olivier played, his cutter, Reginald Beck, took over the direction. Their collaboration resulted in a mere 25% throwaway of film, instead of the usual British 50% and Hollywood 90%. Olivier and Alan Dent (the London News-Chronicle's ace theater critic whose long suit is Shakespeare) teamed inextricably on the superb editing of Shakespeare's play. The final preparation of the shooting script was a team effort by all hands. But it was Olivier who called in Costume Designers Roger and Margaret Furse and Roger Ramsdell (an old Yaleman). It was Olivier who sought out William Walton, whom he regards as "the most promising composer in England." It was he who recruited all-important Art Directors Paul Sheriff and Carmen Dillon. He made use, in fact, of a good deal of talent which most professional moviemakers overlook. And within the profession, he respected professionals more than they usually respect each other.

It was chiefly Olivier who did the brilliant casting; he who gave the French court its more-than-Shakespearean character. Many of the most poetic ideas in cutting and transition were also his. Above all, his was the whole anti-naturalistic conception of the film—a true Shakespearean's recognition that man is greater, and nature less, than life.

The Artist. The career of Laurence Olivier (pronounced Oh-Livy-yay) was decided at 15, when he played Katherina in a boys-school production of The Taming of the Shrew. When he announced that he wanted to go on the stage, his father, a rural Anglo-Catholic clergyman, did not groan: "Better that I should see you dead." Instead, he gave his endorsement and financial support. At 17, young Olivier enrolled at the Central School of Dramatic Art, which is second only to London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. At 18, he was able to tell the Oliviers' old housekeeper, who asked what Laurence did in his first professional engagement: "When you're sitting having your tea during the interval [intermission], and you hear the bell summoning you back to your seat, you'll know that my finger is on the bell."

Later, more substantial parts in plays like Journey's End, The Green Bay Tree, No Time for Comedy proved Olivier to be one of the thoroughly good English actors. His performances as Hamlet, Sir Toby Belch, Macbeth, Henry V, Romeo, lago, Coriolanus, Mercutio earned him a solid, if by no means preeminent, reputation as a Shakespearean actor—and gave him invaluable experience. He also picked up a good deal of experience, which he scarcely valued at all, acting intermittently in movies.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6