The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1837  Wednesday, 6 October 2004

From:           Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 5 Oct 2004 18:23:27 -0400
Subject: 15.1823 Twilight of the Gods
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1823 Twilight of the Gods

Brian Willis writes:

 >"Although Charles quotes a certain selection from Ian Holm's
 >autobiography, seemingly placing Olivier on a pedestal as physical and
 >vocal perfection for actors everywhere, it is an incomplete image. I met
 >Ian Holm last week when he signed his book in Stratford. He did indeed
 >discuss Olivier. He also discussed his later disenchantment with Olivier
 >and the egotism of his acting. Although I'm sure that this first
 >enlightenment of his vocation was truly an epiphany, in a later section
 >(as he reiterated in person), he discussed his hero worship with Alec
 >Guinness who shared it. They both had fallen a little out of love with
 >Olivier, who could betray moments of flashiness and self-involvement.
 >Although I appreciate and enjoy a majority of Olivier's work, I find it
 >intriguing that two of the great chameleon actors of our time could move
 >away from his example towards a subtler form of acting."

In his book, Holm recounts his dinner with Guinness and reports the
latter's reservations about Olivier., viz., that he sometimes distorted
meaning for effect.  Holm then writes:

"I could see what he was saying--Olivier was, after all, a magnificent
show-off, occasionally wringing impressions from the text that
emphasized his own virtuosity rather than being based on any interpretation.

'I see what you mean,' I replied with characteristic non-commitment,
though seeing what Guinness meant didn't necessarily imply that I agreed
with him, and I think he sensed that.  I could forgive Olivier for his
moments of operatic whimsy, especially as they seemed to be a part of
the way he functioned as an actor, a sort of flamboyant preface for
something irresistible which might be just around the corner."

I have no idea what Holm said to Mr. Willis in person, but the above
does not strike me as a palinode.  And with all due respect and
admiration for both of them, it is hardly irrelevant to note that
Guinness never achieved greatness in Shakespeare, and that Holm has not
come close to rivaling Olivier (as I suspect Holm himself would be the
first to admit).

--Charles Weinstein

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