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Laurence Olivier at Denham Studios

In 1947 Laurence Olivier was filming Hamlet at Denham Studios.

In order to shorten the film he had severely cut Shakespeare's text, removing completely several of the minor characters including Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. At some point in the filming it was realised that they needed to see a complete copy of the text. Someone was sent in to the local library, Uxbridge, to borrow a copy. The only one available was a small pocket edition.

When it was returned the whole cast had signed the book, many of them against their character's part. Laurence Olivier had signed the date label.

Hamlet L.Olivier-signature

Hamlet J. Simmons F. Aylmer300 The signatures included are:

  • Laurence Olivier - Hamlet
  • Eileen Herlie - Queen Gertrude
  • Basil Sydney - Claudius
  • Jean Simmons - Ophelia
  • Felix Aylmer - Polonius
  • Norman Wooland - Horatio
  • Terence Morgan - Laertes
  • Stanley Holloway - Gravedigger
  • Russell Thorndike - Priest

The film won four Oscars:

  • Best picture
  • Best actor - Laurence Olivier
  • Best art direction
  • Best costume design

plus several other awards. It was the first British film to win an Oscar.

Hamlet Since that time the book has been kept safely as one of our treasures. It is not known whether they had to pay for the cost of replacement for defacing a library book!

Antiques Roadshow

Carolynne Cotton recently took the book to show the experts on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow, who were looking at items with a connection to entertainment and film. Expert Hilary Kay was very taken with our little book; but you will have to watch the programme to see her valuation. It is due for broadcast in the near future.

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Article utilities:  Bookmark and Share Print Print this page Last updated: 15 Aug 2018 at 15:43