• cinefan

    You should probably say greatest screen actor of all time. I would nominate Olivier as greatest stage actor of all time and I don’t think Brando really came close to matching the amazing breadth and quality of Olivier’s performances on stage.

  • cinefan

    I should have said greatest stage actor of the 20th century. Greatest actor of all time, of course, is impossible to determine.

  • jjgittes

    It is a foolish pursuit to compare actors generally anyway, but it’s a really foolish one to compare American actors to British ones.

    Way too many cultural differences impact their performances, approaches and methods – I could compare Marlon Brando to Montgomery Clift, and Olivier to Gielgud I suppose but that’s as far as it should go. Olivier’s being a “better” stage actor than Marlon Brando has less to do with talent than it does with culture – it’s a dangerous road to travel down.

  • jeffmcm

    Cinefan, which of Olivier’s stage performances did you personally witness?

  • cinefan

    Unfortunately, I’m too young to have seen any of Olivier’s performances on stage (I would have loved to have seen him play Richard III or Macbeth at the Old Vic). I agree it’s difficult to compare Olivier and Brando because they have different acting styles and methods. I’m just sort of sick of people who automatically rate Brando above Olivier because method acting is supposedly a “better” approach to acting than the classically trained style of acting embodied by Olivier and Gielgud. Personally, I’ve always preferred Olivier to Brando because Olivier so often disappeared completely into the roles he played – on the negative side, he could be too hammy and scenery-chewing as well; for Brando, sometimes I find that his performances are overly mannered and distracting and they take me right out of the film (see Apocalypse Now). I think it’s interesting, though, that Brando and Olivier were so dichotomous in terms of how they approached their roles. Olivier liked to work from the outside first, figuring out his characters’ appearances and physical mannerisms, and then work his way inward. Brando, of course, began from the inside and worked his way outwards.