“Try Acting, Dear Boy…” – Laurence Olivier

Laurence Olivier. Happy Birthday.

When Dustin Hoffman, of the method acting school, stayed up for three nights so that he would look the part of his Marathon Man character who was meant to look as though he had stayed up for three nights, his bemused co-star, Laurence Olivier of the old school method of acting, gave him this snippet of advice: “Try acting, dear boy – it’s so much easier.”

Well. There are those who believed Sir Laurence was the finest actor of his day. And perhaps he was. And there are those who think he acted like he had a stick up his arse. And perhaps he did. Either way, happy would-be 105th birthday!

Besides the obvious Shakespeare plays (Hamlet, Henry IV, Richard III etc), here are some gems to check out the master in action:

Wuthering Heights (1939)

Olivier plays the tortured Heathcliff in this satisfying adaptation – well worth watching, if only to compare it to the sadly less-than-satisfying version undertaken by Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank, Red Road) which starts so well only to lose all of its passion and tension when the two would-be love birds reach adulthood.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUprLYOeoxU

Rebecca (1940) – Won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1941

One of Hitchcock’s finest films, based on the famous novel by Daphne Du Maurier. Olivier plays the widower whose new wife (Fontaine) cannot escape the grip that her dead predecessor has over the household. As in all good Hitchcock’s, suspicion and paranoia lurk in every corner, behind every door and at the top of every staircase…

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZsDV_evon8

The Prince and the Showgirl (1957)

When Laurence Olivier cast Marilyn Monroe in his first effort at directing a non-Shakespearean script, he had no idea what he was in for. By most accounts, the shoot was a troubled one – the two stars clashed over acting style and methodology. However, the result is a pleasing comedy – and one of Monroe’s finest. The film My Week With Marilyn (2011), starring Michelle Williams in the title role, centers around the making of this film.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoWifilKK7E

Sleuth (1972)

A husband obsessed with games and problem solving, invites his wife’s lover to meet him, setting up a battle of wits that leads into dangerous – potentially deadly – ground.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBRMaieaLdU