Ronald Proyer Collection relating to Laurence Olivier Biography

Scope and Content

Collection of material documenting the work of English actor and director Laurence Olivier (1907-1989). The material was gathered to produce the biography Laurence Olivier by John Cottrell, with Ronald Proyer carrying out the correspondence and interviews.

The collection was accumulated between 1972-1974 and includes notes, press cuttings correspondence and interviews with British and American actors and directors. Many of Olivier’s colleagues from the filming of Richard III (1955) provide contributions to the book including Esmond Knight, Bernad Hepton and Douglas Wilmer. Co-stars from Wuthering Heights (1939) also provide interviews and correspondence, including Merle Oberon.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Cottrell is a biographer and journalist, with his previous work including Richard Burton, very close up(1972), The Anatomy of an Assassination(1966), analysing the assassination of President Lincoln, and Assassination: The World Stood Still (1964), analysing the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Ronald Proyer is a journalist and fiction writer who has written works entitled Stories of Famous Kidnappings (1972) and Famous Stories of Assassination (1973).

In 1972 John Cottrell and Ronald Proyer were commissioned to write a biography of Laurence Olivier, they worked together in producing the work however John Cottrell is accredited as the author. Ronald Proyer carried out the majority of the interviews and correspondence in 1973, remarking that ‘the deadline is tight’. Many of the letters are photocopies and the two authors have clearly kept the majority of their early planning in the folder.


The collection is arranged alphabetically by the surname of the individual providing a contribution to the biography.

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here:

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Material relating to Laurence Olivier may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photographs files.

Related archive collections are:

Please ask for details.


The published biography, which uses this archive material is also available for access in the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance reading room.