Olivier's acceptance speech after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award
from the Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1979.
Cary Grant had introduced the segment and presented the award to Olivier.

In A Little Romance - 1979

Mr. President and Governors of the Academy, Committee Members, fellows, my very noble and approved good masters [these last seven words were from Othello], my colleagues, my friends, my fellow-students. In the great wealth, the great firmament of your nation's generosity, this particular choice may perhaps be found by future generations as a trifle eccentric, but the mere fact of it--the prodigal, pure, human kindness of it--must be seen as a beautiful star in that firmament which shines upon me at this moment, dazzling me a little, but filling me with warmth and the extraordinary elation, the euphoria that happens to so many of us at the first breath of the majestic glow of a new tomorrow.

From the top of this moment, in the solace, in the kindly emotion that is charging my soul and my heart at this moment, I thank you for this great gift which lends me such a very splendid part in this, your glorious occasion. Thank you.

Laurence Olivier
April 9, 1979
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
Los Angeles Music Center


Lord Olivier's Maiden Speech in the House of Lords*

*Extracted from Hansard for 20 July 1971.

Lord Olivier: My Lords, I have the honour to crave the indulgence of your Lordships' House. During the maiden speech which follows I fear your Lordships may find grim cause to reflect upon the prescient genius of the introducer of this tenderest of courtesies, and if I fail to achieve it then I must beg to suggest to your Lordships that it would be most contrary to the chivalry for which your Lordships' House is so famous to withhold your gallantry and refuse to indulge a maiden of 64.

I stand before your Lordships the second Baron of my name. The first, incomparably much more deserving, virtuous, industrious, and in service to his country richer than I can ever hope to be, was my uncle, twice Governor of Jamaica, K.C.M.G., friend to Bernard Shaw, the Webbs, and all the eminent Socialists of the day with whom he created the Fabian Society. He entered your Lordships' House the first Labour Peer - he seems to have started quite a thing. He served the Government in 1925 as Secretary for India, a title once representing one of the richest jewels in the Imperial Crown and which now sounds perhaps almost quaint to the retrenched ears whose lobes can only boast the holes to show where once such lush gems hung.

But it is not on account of being my uncle's nephew that I am here, no matter what storybook feudal nostalgia might tempt me to allow you to think so. The fact of my presence can only find reason in what his enemies would describe as his greatest eccentricity, his friends as the only eccentricity of which our recent Prime Minister was ever culpable. For a time I resisted this honour, as I thought was proper and to be expected, I think, in a person of my calling; the breaking of ice in any sense being apt to cause hesitation in most of us. But it does not take all that multi-repeated persuasion, that seethingly passionate ardour to make even the coyest maiden of 64 to wonder what on earth she thinks it is she has got to lose. He, Mr. Wilson, said he wanted people like me to have a forum.

My Lords, I believe in Great Britain and in keeping her great under the Sovereign. My "great" is not rhetorical: it refers directly to the continuance of the family of England and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, together with what relationships we can still muster among those peoples with whom, if we lose a relation, we gain a friend. I am proud to belong to this family. The trend of nationalistic feelings has now spread, we are given to understand, to Cornwall. Sometimes it seems to me that we shall be lucky if, when that superb building at present half erected at the foot of Waterloo Bridge on the South Bank finally achieves its sky-line, we shall dare to inscribe a legend more boastful than “The National Theatre of Surrey”. Here my profession must own a debt of incalculable magnitude to the noble and chivalrous Viscount, Lord Chandos, and the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, together with most grateful acknowledgements to the G.L.C. for their tireless efforts in creating this new "London Pride".

I believe in the theatre: I believe in it as the first glamourizer of thought. It restores dramatic dynamics and their relationships to life size. I believe that in a great city, or even in a small city or a village, a great theatre is the outward and visible sign of an inward and probable culture. I believe in the Common Market, in the Concorde, in Foulness and the Brighten Belle. I believe in any thing that will keep our domains, not wider still and wider, but higher still and higher in the expectancy and hope of quality and probity.

I humbly thank your Lordships for your kind attention.

The above was excerpted from "Olivier", Ed. by Logan Gourlay
Picture scanned from Laurence Olivier by Anthony Holden