Sheridan Morley

Acting Out Of His Skin

Olivier: The Authorised Biography


Bloomsbury 607pp £20 order from our bookshop

Who needs another biography of Laurence Olivier? I have just counted eight on my shelf, not to mention the memoirs of his third wife Joan Plowright and those of his elder son Tarquin, his own two (disappointing) volumes, an account of an ill-fated Old Vic tour of Australia, Donald Spoto’s bizarre and still unproven allegation of a gay affair with Danny Kaye, and several lives of Vivien Leigh.

But what makes Terry Coleman’s new biography compulsive is that its author is the first to have been given access to the actor’s own private papers as well as to his last family, and the result is to a large extent the autobiography that Olivier himself could somehow never manage to write.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Start your week with a dose of Russian Revolutionary zeal. Donald Rayfield reviews Tobie Mathew's 'Greetings From t… ,
    • A treat from the LR Archive: exactly 20 years ago, Malcolm Bradbury reviewed John Updike's 'Bech at Bay' ,
    • ‘When bullets come close, the noise they make as they go past changes from a zing to a crack’ John Lanchester's dy… ,
    • Man with a Bloody Paintbrush: Robin Simon on Lucian Freud ,
    • Jane Ridley reviews The Diaries of Kenneth Rose (ed. D R Thorpe) ,
    • ‘Look,’ says Trump. ‘The fact is I’m only human.’ On the evidence of this book that point is debatable. From the A… ,
    • From our December/January issue - here's John Banville's review of Colm Tóibín on the fathers of Wilde, Yeats and J… ,