Laurence Harvey Overview:

Legendary actor, Laurence Harvey, was born Zvi Mosheh Skikne on Oct 1, 1928 in Jonischkis, Lithuania. Harvey died at the age of 45 on Nov 25, 1973 in London, UK and was laid to rest in Santa Barbara Cemetery in Santa Barbara, CA.

Early Life and Career

Laurence Harvey was born Laruschka Mischa Skikne on October 1, 1928 in Joniskis, Lithuania. He was the youngest child born to Jewish parents, Ella and Ber Skikne. In 1934 Harvey and the rest of his family migrated to South Africa, eventually settling in the city of Johannesburg. While still in his teenaged years, Harvey joined the South African Army, enrolling in the military's entertainment unit. He performed for troops all across Egypt and Italy during World War II. Upon his discharge, the young Laurence decided to pursue a career in acting and found himself, once again, on the move.

Not long after his tenure in the military, Harvey received a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatics Arts (RADA) and headed north to London. However, after just three months of training at the RADA, Harvey left the school and instead decided on taking an apprentice in regional theater and moved to Manchester. During this period of his life it is reported the young actor supported himself by working as a male prostitute while acting in the city's Library Theater. It was also during this time that Harvey began living beyond his means and was often in debt - a lifestyle would continue on until his death.

Film, Theatre, and The Critics

In 1948 Harvey made his film debut in the low budget horror flick House of Darkness and with it, officially adopted the stage name of Laurence Harvey. He was then offered a two-year contract with Associated British Picture Corporation. For the next few years, Harvey paid his filmic dues by appearing in a series of low budget and undistinguished films such as Temptations, Man on the Run, Landfall, and A Killer Walks. During this time Harvey also tried to fashion himself as a star of the London stage, only to receive disastrous reviews for his role in the revival of Hassan, remembered to today as an infamous flop of a play. He then relocated to Stratford-upon-Avon to join the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre company in 1952, where his performances were regularly panned by critics despite Harvey's insistent on his own talent. His hubris was clearly an assets when, even after his negative reviews in nearly all his stage endeavors, he was signed to a long-term contract with Romulus Films in 1953.

Romulus began grooming Harvey to be star, sending the young actor off to Hollywood for a minor role in the Knights of the Round Table. He then went on to appear opposite Rex Harrison and George Sanders in King Richard and the Crusaders. The film was a hit and critics were kind to Harvey's performance as Sir Kenneth of Huntington. However, whatever love he managed to wrangle from the critics would soon dissipate with his cold turn as Romeo in Renato Castellani's 1954 film version of Romeo and Juliet. The next year he would star in another bomb, this time his Broadway debut in Island of Goats, which closed after only a week. Despite it's poor performance, Harvey did manage to with a Theatre World Award. He then returned to England where he would spend the next few years continually appearing in flop after flop.


International Success

After years of wallowing in continuous disappointments, Harvey finally scored his breakthrough hit with Jack Clayton's 1959 drama Room at the Top. Cast as the social climber Joe Lampton, Harvey received rave reviews, earning both a BAFTA and Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He then went on to star in the big screen adaptation of the Willis Hall's wartime drama The Long and the Short and the Tall. Across the pond the in Hollywood, Harvey began enjoying success in America as well. In 1960 he was hand picked by John Wayne to co-star in his western epic The Alamo. Later that year Harvey would star opposite Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8 and the next year he would star opposite Geraldine Page in the big screen adaptation of Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke.

In 1962 Harvey appeared in what is perhaps his most remembered screen performance as the brainwashed Korean War veteran in The Manchurian Candidate. In the film Harvey plays Raymond Shaw, a brainwashed solider used by his conservative mother to gain unfettered political power in the Cold War era United States. For once, his cold and often wooden screen persona worked in his favor as the performance received rave reviews from most critics. Also during this time, Harvey began to develop a reputation as somewhat difficult to work with on set.  While filming A Walk On the Wild, co-star Jane Fonda found Harvey wooden and unprofessional and Capucine found him incredibly unappealing as a leading man. None-the-less, Harvey still earn a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor with his next film The Wonderful Word of the Brothers Grimm.


In 1963 Harvey made his directorial debut with the surreal crime drama The Ceremony, in which he also starred. The critically panned film would prove to be the start to his career decline. After The Ceremony he appeared in the remake of Of Human Bondage, hoping to recreate the role which Leslie Howard, star of the 1934 classic, had mastered. Harvey did not and the film was tanked His next film, a remake of the Kurasawa classic Rashoman titled The Outrage, was also panned with critics being particularly harsh to Harvey. In 1965 it seemed as if his career was on the rebound with the success of Darling opposite Julie Christy and a fairly successful sequel to Room at the Top titled Life at the Top, however, his career would quickly spiral downward thereafter.

In 1965 Harvey gave a weak performance in the poorly reviewed film The Spy with a Cold Nose. He finished out the decade by starring in a string of forgettable fair such as The Winter's Tale, The Last Roman, and The Magic Christian. He also took over directing the cold war thrill A Dandy in Aspic after the films original director, Anthony Mann, passed away during the film's production.

Later Career and Life

By the 1970's Harvey was mostly acting in subpar films with little enthusiasm in fare like The Deep and Escape to the Son. His best performance of the decade came not from the silver screen, but from the small screen with a guest appearance on Rod Serling series Night Gallery. By this time, audiences began to notice the once coolly handsome actor seemed to be ageing quite rapidly - a consequence of his recently diagnosed stomach cancer. In 1973 he once again starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the Night Watch. Later that year Harvey directed and appeared in his final film Welcome to Arrow Beach, a horror film about a Korean War Vet whose post-traumatic stress disorder leads him cannibalism, often preying on native young women. The film would be his last as he would soon succumb to cancer. Laurence Harvey died on November 25th, 1973 in London, England. He was 45 years old.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Although Harvey was nominated for one Oscar, he never won a competitive Academy Award.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1959Best ActorRoom at the Top (1959)Joe LamptonNominated

BlogHub Articles:

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – with Frank Sinatra and

By Greg Orypeck on Mar 10, 2016 From Classic Film Freak

Share This! An idea once unbelievable. . . . Then unthinkable. . . . Now all too possible. . . .? A chilling classic. In the recent war in?Iraq?and the current one in?Afghanistan, the greatest threat and concern has been and is?torture.? Although torture had also been a concern in the?Korean confl... Read full article

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Laurence Harvey Quotes:

Raymond Shaw: Twelve days of Christmas! One day of Christmas is loathsome enough!

Mrs. Iselin: Raymond, I'm your mother. How can you talk to me this way? You know that I want nothing for myself. You know that my whole life has been devoted to helping you...
Raymond Shaw: [Balls his fists and jams them over his ears] Mother...
Mrs. Iselin: And helping Johnny!
Raymond Shaw: Mother...
Mrs. Iselin: My boys!
Raymond Shaw: Mother...
Mrs. Iselin: My two boys!
Raymond Shaw: Mother, stop it.
Mrs. Iselin: That's all I've ever cared about.
Raymond Shaw: Stop it.

Miles Brand: Why, Carlotta. How savage we are tonight. Did someone go back to their wife?
Carlotta: If he had, you'd have been there to greet him.

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Laurence Harvey Facts
He had a long run as King Arthur in the musical "Camelot" in Drury Lane in 1964, and was considered for the 1967 film version.

His death from stomach cancer is thought to have been caused by his heavy smoking and longtime alcoholism.

Became a friend of Frank Sinatra, with whom he co-starred in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). According to Sinatra's valet , Sinatra affectionately called him "Ladyboy" in recognition of Harvey's bisexuality. In an interview about the film that was included in the original video tape recording, Sinatra expressed his sorrow that "Larry" was no longer alive.

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