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Wednesday, 5 April, 2000, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
Olivier archive saved for nation
Salvador Dali painting Lord Olivier 's portrait
Dali painting Olivier in costume is included in the archive
The huge theatre archive of the late British thespian Lord Olivier has been bought by the British Library.

The library is thought to have paid around 1m for the so-called Laurence Olivier papers in a private sale from the late performer's family.

The historic papers chronicle the actor's personal and professional life and include correspondence with other acting icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Richard Burton.
Lord Olivier's letters
Letters to and from many celebrated names make up the bulk of the archive

The library will put the Olivier papers on public show next to its existing theatre collections from the likes of Harold Pinter, Terence Rattigan and Peter Nichols.

British Library chief executive Dr Brian Lang said: "This archive is beyond compare and documents the life and career of one of the greatest and most influential figures of 20th century theatre and film.

"It is appropriate that the archive has been acquired by the British Library in its entirety and kept in Britain."

Acting legend

Lord Olivier died in 1989 at the age of 82 and after a career spanning more than 50 years in theatre, film and TV.

The historic letters chronicle his rise from hopeful young actor at London's Old Vic Theatre up until his directorship of the National Theatre.

Celebrated names to have corresponded with him over this time came from all walks of life. Those associated with acting included German actress Marlene Dietrich and playwrights Noel Coward and John Osborne.

From British politics, former prime ministers Baroness Thatcher and Sir Winston Churchill also kept in contact with Lord Olivier.

Lord Olivier and Vivien Leigh
Details of Olivier's relationship with Vivien Leigh are revealed
The papers also provide an insight into the evolution of Hollywood cinema. They describe Lord Olivier's experiences of starring in 1930s movies like Wuthering Heights and later Henry V during World War II .

They also chart Olivier's stage and screen collaborations with his second wife Vivien Leigh, star of Gone with the Wind. There is also detail of the actor's later roles in TV classics such as Brideshead Revisited.

Other items in the collection include many photos and scripts as well as a first draft of Osborne's The Entertainer, in which Olivier starred on stage and screen. Lord Olivier's Equity card and RAF pilot's logbook can also be seen.

The British Library bought the letters with a mixture of its own reserves and a 500,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Contributions were also received from the Pilgrim Trust, the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. However 180,000 is still being sought to meet the shortfall of the total cost.

See also:

13 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Redgraves hand over archive
18 Feb 00 | Entertainment
O'Toole honoured at Oliviers
16 Dec 99 | Entertainment
Redgrave's tribute to Coward
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