All the world’s a stage


Marie Ney/Laurence Olivier

All the World’s a Stage is a book of theatrical portraits published in London in 1946. A slim hardcover, it contains 52 studio portraits of leading British stage actors such as Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson. It also has many who are now forgotten, mainly the stage specialists who neglected cinema and thus have no lasting record of their talent*.

History’s short memory also applies to the photographers. The names of Angus McBean and maybe Howard Coster still circulate, but the rest are largely forgotten despite their success at the time. If you want to look up the names of John Vickers, Yvonne Gregory and Pollard Crowther and others, go to London’s National Portrait Gallery which has vast holdings of them.

The photographs are portrayals of the actors as they wanted to be seen, often in character, or acting to the camera, a professional hazard when photographing performers.

* Marie Ney, the actress at the top of this post, was not able to act for the camera to the satisfaction of William Wyler when he directed Ben Hur in 1959. She was unable to bring on tears at will and was replaced by another actress who could. Ben Hur went on to gather more Oscars and sell more tickets than any other film up to that time, so Ney may have been able to cry when she saw the success that passed her by.


Louise Hampton/Nicholas Hannen


Nancy Price/Leon Quartermaine


Margaret Scott/Athene Seyler




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