My father Laurence Olivier - by Tarquin Olivier 1992
"Olivier, with typical insensitivity, took his new love, Vivien Leigh, to visit mother and baby in hospital (and later asked Jill Esmond if he could have Tarquin's pram back, for the baby Vivien was briefly, unsuccessfully, expecting). Tarquin's childhood knowledge of his father was therefore confined to occasional weekends, and even more occasional parental visits to school.
Most of Olivier's paternal advice, such as it was, seems to have been about sex - the snares and dangers and delusions thereof: 'Just recognise that all the romantic ecstasies, all the rosie reveries . . . are basically, simply and solely wicked Old Nature's cold-blooded calculated bribe, to bring children into the world.' Not surprisingly, he worried that Tarquin would become gay: he insisted on urinating beside him, presumably to check appearances.
According to Tarquin, Olivier also had an obsessive interest in the female genitalia and 'seeing over and over again the designs of nature which were dedicated, among other things, to the enjoyment of men. His enthusiastic exposure to matters which his conscience had denied ever existed replaced his unnatural dread with a healthy deference.'
Later, when Tarquin was 20 and Olivier's marriage to Leigh was breaking down, they went on holiday together (the only time they ever did) and on the way back, Olivier watched a middle-aged woman crossing the road: 'See her?' he exclaimed, 'That woman? She's my age to the very day. Fifty: and who wants her? Where's the sex in her?'
Olivier said in his autobiography that he was always embarrassed by Tarquin and one can appreciate why: his son's adoration must have seemed a constant reproach. Even as an adult, Tarquin burst into tears when he learned that Joan Plowright was expecting a baby which would deprive him of his exclusive filial role, meagre though that had been. Thereafter he saw even less of his father than before, and Olivier even refused to read a travel book he wrote on the grounds that he was 'too busy'.