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MoB Sunday Stories: Tinseltown in the Tropics

There was an excitable thrum in the city of Brisbane as Hollywood royalty flew into Archerfield aerodrome on June 20, 1948. Taking a short break on their tour as lead actors in England’s The Old Vic Theatre Company, the dashing Sir Laurence Olivier and his talented wife Vivien Leigh touched down in Brisbane in pursuit of some rest and relaxation under the sun. It was the hope of the glamorous couple that the escape would afford them some much needed privacy as they recuperated from their busy schedules. Alas, the population of Brisbane had other ideas.

Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh Arriving at Archerfield Airport 1948. Courtesy State Library Queensland

Waiting on the tarmac, no fewer than 500 adoring fans clamoured to catch a glimpse of the stars up close, with one enthusiastic woman taking the liberty of presenting the duo with two large, ripe pineapples. “Here is your first gift from Queensland,” gushed the fan as she thrust the tropical fruit into their hands.

The Oliviers did not linger amongst the hubbub long, as they were whisked away by a chauffeured car to Surfers Paradise. But if it was peace and anonymity that they were searching for in the seaside town, then they were to be dismayed with yet another bustling crowd of 200 well wishers waiting for them outside their hotel.

While some fans took to lingering outside the entrance of the hotel to catch a glimpse of the stylish duo – he in a smart double breasted wool trench, and she richly wrapped in furs – others were so bold as to stand on tiptoe to peer over the fence and into their private suite.

Sir-Laurence and Lady Olivier Disembarking from the plant at Archerfield Aerodrome. June 1948. Courtesy State Library Queensland.

Needless to say this intensity of attention was far from what the stars desired, and they quickly sought alternative accommodation on Cannes Avenue. The private home featured charming river views and the solitude that the Oliviers so desired. They stayed there peacefully for seven days before returning to Archerfield aerodrome for their return flight to Sydney on June 27. This time, wise to our enthusiastic ways, the couple evaded the throng of 200 fans by hiding in an airport hanger for 20 minutes before making a furtive dash to their waiting aircraft, which whisked them away from the adoring eyes of our starstruck residents.

Are you history’s biggest fan? Click here to take a stroll through the pages of our city at The Storytellers.

Vivien Leigh Enroute to Surfers Paradise. June 1948. Courtesy State Library of Queensland.
Vivien Leigh Enroute to Surfers Paradise. June 1948. Courtesy State Library of Queensland.
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