Joan Plowright

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The Right Honourable
The Lady Olivier
BornJoan Ann Plowright
(1929-10-28) 28 October 1929 (age 85)
Brigg, Lincolnshire, England
Years active1948–2009
Spouse(s)Roger Gage (m. 1953; div. 1960)
Laurence Olivier (m. 1961; died 1989)
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The Right Honourable
The Lady Olivier
BornJoan Ann Plowright
(1929-10-28) 28 October 1929 (age 85)
Brigg, Lincolnshire, England
Years active1948–2009
Spouse(s)Roger Gage (m. 1953; div. 1960)
Laurence Olivier (m. 1961; died 1989)

Joan Ann Plowright, Baroness Olivier DBE (born 28 October 1929), is an English actress whose career has spanned over six decades. She has won two Golden Globe Awards and a Tony Award and has been nominated for an Academy Award, an Emmy and two BAFTA Awards. She is also one of only four actresses to have won two Golden Globes in the same year.

Early life[edit]

Plowright was born in Brigg, Lincolnshire, the daughter of Daisy Margaret (née Burton) and William Ernest Plowright, who was a journalist and newspaper editor.[1][2] She attended Scunthorpe Grammar School and trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.


Plowright made her stage debut at Croydon in 1948[3] and her London debut in 1954. In 1956 she joined the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre and was cast as Margery Pinchwife in The Country Wife. She appeared with George Devine in the Eugène Ionesco play, The Chairs, Shaw's Major Barbara and Saint Joan.

Plowright as Jo with Angela Lansbury as Helen in the Broadway production of A Taste of Honey

In 1957, she co-starred with Sir Laurence Olivier in the original London production of John Osborne's The Entertainer, taking over the role of Jean Rice from Dorothy Tutin when the play transferred from the Royal Court to the Palace Theatre. She continued to appear on stage and in films such as The Entertainer (1960). In 1961, she received a Tony Award for her role in A Taste of Honey on Broadway.

Through her marriage to Laurence Olivier, she became closely associated with his work at the National Theatre from 1963 onwards. From the 1980s she began to appear more regularly in films, including Enchanted April (1992), for which she won a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination, Dennis the Menace (1993), a cameo in Last Action Hero (also 1993), and Tea With Mussolini (1999). She was also Nanny in 101 Dalmatians (1996). Among her television roles, she won another Golden Globe Award and earned an Emmy Award nomination for the HBO film Stalin in 1992 as the Soviet dictator's mother-in-law. In 1994, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award.[4]

In 2003, Plowright performed in the stage production Absolutely! (Perhaps) in London. She was appointed honorary president of the English Stage Company in March 2009, succeeding John Mortimer, who died in January 2009. She was previously vice-president of the company.[5]

Plowright was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1970 Queen's New Year Honours[6] and was promoted to Dame Commander (DBE) in the 2004 Queen's New Year Honours.[7]

In 2014, she officially announced her retirement from acting, citing her declining eyesight due to macular degeneration.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Plowright was first married to Roger Gage, an actor, in September 1953. She divorced him and, in 1961, married Laurence Olivier after the ending of his 20-year marriage with the actress Vivien Leigh. The couple had three children, Richard Kerr, Tamsin Agnes Margaret and Julie-Kate. Both daughters are actresses.[9] The couple remained married until Lord Olivier's death in 1989.

Joan Plowright's brother, David Plowright, CBE (1930–2006), was an executive at Granada Television.


The Plowright Theatre in nearby Scunthorpe is named in her honour. Upon her marriage to Sir Laurence Olivier, her formal title became "Lady Olivier"; however, she has never used it in her professional career. Her husband later became a life peer in 1970. This legally made her "The Lady Olivier" or more formally Baroness Olivier, of Brighton in the County of Sussex.


1951Sara CreweWinnie4 episodes
1954Sunday Night TheatreAdrianaEpisode: "The Comedy of Errors"
1955Moby Dick—RehearsedA Young Actress/PipUncompleted and lost Orson Welles film
1956Moby DickStarbuck's wifeUncredited
1957Sword of FreedomLisa GiocondoEpisode: "The Woman in the Picture"
1957Time Without PityAgnes Cole
1959The School for ScandalLady TeazleTV drama
1960The EntertainerJean RiceNominated—BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles
1963Uncle VanyaSonya
1969ITV Saturday Night Theatre: Twelfth NightViolaUK videotaped TV drama
1970ITV PlayhouseLisaEpisode: "The Plastic People"
1970Three SistersMasha
1973The Merchant of VenicePortiaUK Videotaped TV drama
1977EquusDora StrangNominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
1978Daphne LaureolaLady PittsUK Videotaped TV drama
1978Saturday, Sunday, MondayRosaUK Videotaped TV drama
1980The Diary of Anne FrankMrs. FrankUS Television movie
1982Brimstone & TreacleNorma Bates
1982All for LoveEdithEpisode: "A Dedicated Man"
1982Britannia HospitalPhyllis Grimshaw
1983WagnerMrs. TaylorEpisode: "1.2"
1985RevolutionMrs. McConnahay
1986The Importance of Being EarnestLady BracknellUK videotaped TV drama
1987Theatre NightMeg BowlesEpisode: "The Birthday Party"
1988Drowning by NumbersCissie Colpitts 1
1988The DressmakerNellie
1989And a Nightingale SangMamTelevision movie
1990AvalonEva KrichinskyNominated—New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress
1990I Love You to DeathNadja
1990SophieSophieTelevision movie
1991The House of Bernarda AlbaLa PonciaTelevision movie
1992StalinOlgaTelevision movie
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1992Driving Miss DaisyDaisy WethanTelevision movie
1992Enchanted AprilMrs. FisherGolden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1993Dennis the MenaceMrs. Martha Wilson
1993Last Action HeroTeacher
1993Screen TwoMrs. MonroEpisode: "The Clothes in the Wardrobe"
1994The Return of the NativeMrs. YeobrightTelevision movie
1994A Pin for the ButterflyGrandma
1994A Place for AnnieDorothyTelevision movie
1994On Promised LandMrs. AppletreeTelevision movie
Nominated—CableACE Award for Best Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1994Widows' Peak'Mrs. Doyle-Counihan
1995The Scarlet LetterHarriet Hibbons
1995A Pyromaniac's Love StoryMrs. Linzer
1995Hotel SorrentoMarge Morrisey
1996101 DalmatiansNanny
1996Surviving PicassoFrançoise's Grandmother
1996Mr. WrongMrs. Crawford
1996Jane EyreMrs. Fairfax
1997The AssistantMrs. Ida Bober
1998-1999Encore! Encore!Marie Pinoni12 episodes
1998Aldrich Ames: Traitor WithinJeanne VertefeuilleTelevision movie
1998This Could Be the Last TimeRosemaryTelevision movie
1998Dance with MeBea JohnsonNominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1999Tom's Midnight GardenMrs. Bartholomew
1999Tea with MussoliniMary Wallace
2000Frankie & HazelPhoebe HarknessTelevision movie
2001Bailey's MistakeAunt AngieTelevision movie
2001Back to the Secret GardenMartha Sowerby
2001Scrooge and MarleyNarratorTelevision movie
2002Global HeresyLady Foxley
2002Callas ForeverSarah Keller
2003Bringing Down the HouseVirginia Arness
2003I Am DavidSophieMonaco Film Festival Award for Best Actress
2004George and the DragonMother Superior
2005Mrs. Palfrey at the ClaremontMrs. PalfreyNominated—Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
2006Goose on the LooseBeatrice Fairfield
2006Curious GeorgeMs. Plushbottom
2008The Spiderwick ChroniclesAunt Lucinda Spiderwick
2009Knife EdgeMarjorie


  1. ^ "Joan Plowright Biography". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 29 June 2007. 
  2. ^ Joan Plowright profile at
  3. ^ "Entertainment | Plowright steals the limelight". BBC News. 31 December 2003. Retrieved 12 June 2012. 
  4. ^ "Past Recipients: Crystal Award". Women In Film. Retrieved 10 May 2011. 
  5. ^ Smith, Alistair (5 March 2009). "Plowright becomes honorary president of English Stage Company". The Stage. The Stage Newspaper Limited. Retrieved 12 March 2009. 
  6. ^ "Viewing Page 9 of Issue 44999". 30 December 1969. Retrieved 12 June 2012. 
  7. ^ "Viewing Page 7 of Issue 57155". 31 December 2003. Retrieved 12 June 2012. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Joan Plowright Biography". Film Reference. Retrieved 29 June 2007. 

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