“Before penning the book, historian Philip Ziegler listened to taped interviews with Olivier that were originally intended for the actor’s own memoirs. The star made some choice omissions: chiefly, the parts where he eviscerates some of old Hollywood’s brightest stars. Joan Fontaine, his co-star in Rebecca, was ‘loathsome’, according to extracts seen by The Sunday Times, while Merle Oberon was a ‘silly little amateur’.
Olivier ‘didn’t care to be taught acting’ by Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas on the set of 1959’s The Devil’s Disciple, and his ‘hatred’ for Marilyn Monroe – a flaky and undisciplined presence during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl – was ‘one of the strongest emotions I had ever felt’. He was ‘flabbergasted’ when the final cut was released by ‘how wonderful’ she was.”