An Open Letter to Laurence Olivier

by Delight Evans
Screenland, January 1941

Dear Larry: I hope you’re not in a Heathcliffe mood today? I’d hate to have those brooding eyes and John L. Lewis eyebrows turned in my direction, I really would. Oh, I know I’ve no right to call you “Larry”–I don’t know you well enough in fact, I hardly know you at all, having only been frightened by you once, on the set of Wuthering Heights–how well I remember. But since then, one Sunday evening, I met what I hope is the REAL Olivier–the original real, not the Joan Crawford real–on the Charlie McCarthy radio program; and that Olivier, bandying words with the Sublime Splinter with such grace and charm, not to mention dulcet voice, can be called Larry by any perfect stranger without fear of sinister consequences,not even a raised eyebrow.

It worries me about which Olivier you are for the simple reason that people keep asking me, and I don’t know what to answer. Is he a sourpuss, they want to know?–is he just Vivien Leigh’s shadow?–a stooge for Shakespeare? Is he honestly Heathcliffe or Max DeWinter at heart? Any way at all, of course, he’s devine, they make that plain; but they want to know the truth. Trouble is, you’re so allergic to interviews nobody can just march up and ask you. You’re in hiding from reporters for the rather noble reason that you feel, as an English actor in Hollywood, that it is bad taste to be over-publicized at this time. We can all appreciate your feelings and your lovely wife’s–but we wish you’d realize our interest is friendly and inevitable, and that our grand performance on the Bergen air show left us pretty confused. We know that an actor should be judged by his work and not by the parts he plays; that he should be able to play many roles, none of them himself, if he’s a good actor. And you are. But consider our feelings. We’re waiting for you and Vivien in “Lady Hamilton” or whatever the Korda film will be called by the time it reaches the screen; and now we’re hearing you, meanwhile, revealing yourself via the airwaves to be as humorous and ingratiating and human a fellow as we’ve ever met. Now we know you can unbend and be gay. But then, there are those menacing memories of Heathcliffe and Max–can you blame us for wondering? Or for quoting Shakespeare right back at you: “To thine own self be true?”


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