Award winner was an icon of stage, screen

July 12, 1989: Laurence Olivier, 82, widely regarded as the century’s foremost English-speaking actor, died July 11 at his country home in West Sussex, about 60 miles south of London.

Cause of death was not immediately known, but the Academy Award winner’s physical condition appeared to decline since a hip replacement operation in April.

His career began as an amateur in Shakespearean “drag” at age 15 and was to span more than 50 films and hundreds of stage productions. He segued with distinction to television in late performing years.

An early Hollywood foray ended when Greta Garbo rejected him for her lover in “Queen Christina,” but he returned after a few years to stardom and an Oscar nomination in William Wyler’s 1939 “Wuthering Heights.”

In all, Olivier was nominated for 11 Oscars. In addition to “Wuthering Heights,” he was nominated for best actor for “Rebecca,” “Henry V,” winning for the 1948 “Hamlet” (and becoming the first person to direct himself into an Oscar victory), “Richard III,” “The Entertainer,” “Othello,” “Sleuth” and “The Boys From Brazil.”

In addition, he garnered a best supporting nomination for his role as the aging Nazi in “The Marathon Man” and received a best-directing bid for “Hamlet,” one of three Shakespeare films he starred in and directed.

Olivier was also given two special Oscars: in 1946, he was handed an Academy statuette “for his outstanding achievement as actor, producer and director in bringing ‘Henry V’ to the screen; in 1979, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences awarded him an honorary Oscar for a lifetime contribution to the art of film –a medium that, ironically, he claimed to despise.

– Adapted from Variety’s obit of July 12, 1989

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