Laurence Olivier as Iago

Laurence Olivier as Iago

In the 1937/38 season at the Old Vic Laurence Olivier played six major Shakespearean roles. He had worked consistently in theatre and film for nearly ten years without attracting huge attention, but this season would change that. As Hamlet, he tried a new Freudian interpretation, based on Hamlet's attraction to his mother, which was mostly missed by the critics. However, they were enthusiastic about his 'pulsating vitality and excitement'. In the next productions he played Macbeth, Henry V, Sir Toby Belch and, as you see him here, Iago to Ralph Richardson's Othello.

As would happen throughout his career, he brought a new interpretation to the part. His 'cheery', prankish pursuit of comedy as Iago was not widely admired by the reviewers, who found it out of line with the play and its central figure. But in response to his final role of the season as Coriolanus, the word 'great' started to appear in reviews for the first time.

It was this season at the Old Vic, closely followed by the 1939 Hollywood success of Wuthering Heights, which established Olivier as a star.