Jill Esmond

Jill Esmond

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Jill Esmond

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Jill Esmond (26 January 1908 – 28 July 1990) was an English actress and first wife of Sir Laurence Olivier.

Early life

Esmond was born Jill Esmond Moore in London, the daughter of stage actors Henry V. Esmond and Eva Moore. While her parents toured with theatre companies, Esmond spent her childhood in boarding schools until she decided at the age of 14 to become an actress. She made her stage debut playing Wendy to Gladys Cooper's Peter Pan but her success was short-lived. When her father died suddenly in 1922, Esmond returned to school and at the time considered abandoning her ambition to act.

After reassessing her future and coming to terms with her father's death she studied with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and returned to the West End stage in 1924. In 1925, she starred with her mother in a play Mary, Mary Quite Contrary, and after a few more successful roles, won critical praise for her part as a young suicide in Outward Bound.

Marriage and career

In 1928 she appeared in the production of Bird in the Hand where she met fellow cast member Laurence Olivier for the first time. In his autobiography Olivier later wrote that he was smitten with Esmond, and that her cool indifference to him did nothing but further his ardour. When Bird in the Hand was being staged on Broadway, Esmond was chosen to join the American production - but Olivier was not.

Determined to be near Esmond, he travelled to New York where he found work as an actor. Esmond won...
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