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Laurence Harvey

Laurence Harvey makes my list of favorite actors because he was such an interesting person as well as a great actor. My favorite Harvey films are The Manchurian Candidate and Room at the Top, which are very different but compelling films.  I strongly suggest seeing them all.  However, the first time I ever saw Laurence Harvey was in the Tyrone Power film, The Black Rose where he played Power’s Norman half brother. He had a small part, but he stood out for me so much that it made me seek out his other films.  Click above on the links to learn more about this wonderful actor with such a rich repertoire.

0810845628Below is an article from the Washington Jewish Weekly about the biography of Laurence Harvey titled, Reach for the Top, written by his sister-in-law, Anne Sinai.

This first-ever, personal account of one of film’s most controversial stars, clears up the many myths and misconceptions about his life, disclosing for the first time his real name. Packed with personal anecdotes, 23 black and white photographs, a filmography, and a detailed index, this book will fascinate film students, scholars, and enthusiasts.” Scarecrow Press

Written by Anne Sinai.

Paperback Hard Cover Paperback Hard Cover

Actor proud of his heritage Laurence Harvey’s sister-in-law pens star’s biography by Aaron Leibel Arts Editor Anne Sinai credits her book about her brother-in-law, the well-known actor of the 1950s and ’60s Laurence Harvey, to her son Joshua’s curiosity about his uncle.

He kept nagging us about learning about his Uncle Larry,” says the Rockville resident. “We hadn’t been in touch with him much, but knew about him from his [oldest] brother who lived in Israel.

About five years ago, Sinai decided to start doing some research about Harvey. Her son, Joshua, again played a crucial role, discovering a man in England who was a big Laurence Harvey fan and who sent her many newspaper and magazine clippings. With them in hand, Sinai began her research, which is slated to culminate this month with the publication ofReach for the Top: The Turbulent Life of Laurence Harvey (Scarecrow Press).

The youngest of three sons, Laurence Harvey was born Hirshke Skikne (Sinai’s husband, Robert, was the middle son) in the Lithuanian village of Yonishik in 1928. The family moved to South Africa in 1934.

Anne Sinai also was born in Lithuania, moved to South Africa and met her future husband there. She and her husband, a political scientist, came to the U.S. in the early 1960s.

Sinai was educated at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was editor of Middle East Review from 1967 to 1980. In addition to Reach for the Top, Sinai has written two as yet unpublished books — one on apartheid and the other on the beginnings of the state of Israel.

Harvey served in the entertainment unit of the South African army, and then won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. After finishing studying and while acting in London, Harvey won a prize in a contest sponsored by filmmaker James Woolf. When Woolf met Harvey, he was so taken with the actor, Sinai explains, that he gave him the lead in the film Room at the Top (1959), for which Harvey was nominated for the best actor Academy Award.

Harvey’s career took off after that, with the actor making movies in Hollywood, London and Europe. His best-known films, in addition to Room at the Top, were The Alamo (1960) co-starring John Wayne; Butterfield 8(1960) co-starring Elizabeth Taylor; and The Manchurian Candidate (1962) co-starring Frank Sinatra.

He won the prize for best actor at the Munich film festival in 1962 for his role in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm.

Robert Sinai, who was in touch with his brother intermittently, remembers him as “very outgoing, dramatic and good at school.”

He was a very conscientious actor, says Anne Sinai. “He took his work seriously and did a lot of research for his roles,” she says. For example, inSummer and Smoke (1961), a Tennessee Williams book made into a film, Harvey had to perfect a Southern accent. “For that role, he became the perfect Southerner,” says Sinai.

Harvey was not a practicing Jew, but never denied his heritage, she stressed. His movies, along with those of Taylor and Sinatra, were banned during the Arab boycott, Sinai notes. He was looking forward to receiving the Ben Gurion Prize for his role as a Soviet commissar who helped Jews escape the Soviet Union in Escape to the Sun (1975). However, explains Sinai, he was too sick to travel and died of stomach cancer in 1973.

His friend Taylor, a convert to Judaism, held a memorial for Harvey but at a church. The rabbi who converted Taylor was furious at her for choosing that venue. “I used to go to his [Harvey’s] house and listen to him sing Yiddish songs,” Sinai quotes the rabbi as saying.

10 Comments

  1. I’m in my 20s but I’m a huge fan of Laurence Harvey. People have been so cruel towards him especially when it comes to his acting or personal life. I think he’s a fabulous actor and one of my favorites. It’s so sad he died young but his spirit will always be kept alive through his family, friends and fans.

  2. When I was a teenager,Laurence Harvey was my hearthrob—I absolutely adored him.I must have seen Manchurian Candidate and Room at The Top at least a dozen times.He was the sexiest and most handsome actor around.I also adored him in Two Loves.He should have won the Oscar for Room at the Top—his acting talents were greatly underrated.They don’t have actors like him any more.

    1. Glad you like him. Look for him to be featured soon as a “Favorite of the Month” on this site. I loved him in The Manchurian Candidate and also Room at the Top, both great films!

  3. Laurence Harvey was terrific in ‘The Alamo’ as American hero Col. William Travis. In fact he was better in his role than even the great John Wayne was as Davy Crockett.

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