Starstruck Queenslanders harass the Oliviers (1948)

Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh on holiday in Queensland. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 141104

On June 20, 1948, film stars Sir Laurence Olivier and his wife Vivien Leigh flew in to Archerfield aerodrome in Brisbane's south. The famous couple were touring Australia as lead players with England's The Old Vic theatre company. After the strain of rehearsals and performances down south, the Oliviers decided to take a short break in Queensland where they hoped locals would respect their privacy - they were wrong.

Sir Laurence and Lady Olivier disembarking from the plane at Archerfield aerodrome, June 1948. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 141107

When the couple arrived at the aerodrome, there was a crowd of 500 fans (and press) ready to greet them.

Headline from The Courier-Mail, June 21, 1948

"Here is your first gift from Queensland," gushed a young lady (pictured) as she presented Sir Laurence with "two fine pineapples". Within minutes of arriving, the Oliviers jumped into a waiting car and proceeded south to Surfers Paradise.

Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh arriving at Archerfield airport, 1948. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 141112

Vivien Leigh enroute to Surfers Paradise with her husband Sir Laurence Olivier. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 141100

To their dismay, they found 200 people outside their hotel awaiting their arrival.

By the next day they'd had enough of the constant fan vigil and decided to flee their hotel. They called Brisbane "theatrical friend" Bob Geraghty for help. Geraghty later told the press: "Larry called me ... and said, 'Bob, you speak our language. Where is nobody?' " He suggested a private house on Cannes Ave, Surfers Paradise, "with pleasant river views", which the couple liked.

Sir Laurence Olivier returning to his private suite at Surfers Paradise. The entrance to the accommodation in which he and his wife, Vivien Leigh were staying was through the zoo gates. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 141114

Photograph published in The Telegraph, June 21, 1948

Photograph published in the Townsville Bulletin, June 23, 1948

On June 27, Olivier and Leigh returned to Archerfield and gave 200 "well-wishers" the slip by hiding in the aircraft hangar until their flight was ready.

Headline from The Courier-Mail, June 28, 1948

One letter to the editor attempted to atone for Queenslanders' unusual starstruck behaviour: "We are really a very kindly people, and I should like to assure Sir and Lady Olivier that we do not bite or attack strangers, even if we are so rude as to stare at them."

Myles Sinnamon - Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland


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