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Alec Guinness

Alec Guinness

Sir Alec Guinness Allan Warren (2).jpg
Guinness in 1973. By Allan Warren
Alec Guinness de Cuffe

(1914-04-02)2 April 1914
Maida Vale, London, England
Died5 August 2000(2000-08-05) (aged 86)
Resting placePetersfield Cemetery
Years active1934–1996
Merula Salaman (m. 1938)
ChildrenMatthew Guinness
Military career
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Years of service1941–1943
Battles/warsWorld War II

Sir Alec Guinness, CH, CBE (born Alec Guinness de Cuffe; 2 April 1914 – 5 August 2000) was an English actor. After an early career on the stage, Guinness was featured in several of the Ealing Comedies, including The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts and Coronets in which he played nine different characters. He is known for his six collaborations with David Lean: Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations (1946), Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948), Col. Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor), Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), General Yevgraf Zhivago in Doctor Zhivago (1965), and Professor Godbole in A Passage to India (1984). He is also known for his portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas' original Star Wars trilogy; for the original film, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 50th Academy Awards.

Guinness was one of three British actors, along with Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, who made the transition from Shakespearean theatre to blockbuster films immediately after World War II. Guinness served in the Royal Naval Reserve during the war and commanded a landing craft during the invasion of Sicily and Elba. During the war he was granted leave to appear in the stage play Flare Path about RAF Bomber Command.

Guinness won an Academy Award, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe and a Tony Award. In 1959, he was knighted by Elizabeth II for services to the arts. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, the Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement in 1980 and the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award in 1989. Guinness appeared in nine films that featured in the BFI's 100 greatest British films of the 20th century, which included five of Lean's films.

Early life

Guinness was born at 155 Lauderdale Mansions South, Lauderdale Road, Maida Vale, as Alec Guinness de Cuffe.[1] His mother's maiden name was Agnes Cuff. She was born 8 December 1890 to Edward Cuff and Mary Ann Benfield. On Guinness's birth certificate, the space for the mother's name shows Agnes de Cuffe. The space for the infant's name (where first names only are given) says Alec Guinness. The column for name and surname of father is blank.[2]

The identity of Guinness's father has never been officially confirmed.[3] From 1875, under English law, when the birth of an illegitimate child was registered, the father's name could be entered on the certificate only if he were present and gave his consent. Guinness himself believed that his father was a Scottish banker, Andrew Geddes (1861–1928), who paid for Guinness's boarding-school education at Pembroke Lodge, in Southborne, and Roborough, in Eastbourne. Geddes occasionally visited Guinness and his mother, posing as an uncle.[4] Guinness's mother later had a three-year marriage to a Scottish army captain named Stiven; his behaviour was often erratic or even violent.[5][6]

Early career

Alec Guinness at the Old Vic theatre, London in 1938

Guinness first worked writing advertising copy. His first job in the theatre was on his 20th birthday, while he was still a drama student, in the play Libel, which opened at the old King's Theatre, Hammersmith, and then transferred to the Playhouse, where his status was raised from a walk-on to understudying two lines, and his salary increased to £1 a week.[7] He appeared at the Albery Theatre in 1936 at the age of 22, playing the role of Osric in John Gielgud's successful production of Hamlet. Also in 1936, Guinness signed on with the Old Vic, where he was cast in a series of classic roles.[8] In 1939, he took over for Michael Redgrave as Charleston in a road-show production of Robert Ardrey's Thunder Rock.[9] At the Old Vic, Guinness worked with many actors and actresses who would become his friends and frequent co-stars in the future, including Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Peggy Ashcroft, Anthony Quayle, and Jack Hawkins. An early influence was film star Stan Laurel, whom Guinness admired.[10]

Guinness continued playing Shakespearean roles throughout his career. In 1937, he played Aumerle in Richard II and Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice under the direction of John Gielgud. He starred in a 1938 production of Hamlet which won him acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.[8] He also appeared as Romeo in a production of Romeo and Juliet (1939), Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night, and as Exeter in Henry V in 1937, both opposite Laurence Olivier, and Ferdinand in The Tempest, opposite Gielgud as Prospero. In 1939, he adapted Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations for the stage, playing Herbert Pocket. The play was a success. One of its viewers was a young British film editor, David Lean, who would later have Guinness reprise his role in Lean's 1946 film adaptation of the play.[11]

World War II

Guinness served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in the Second World War, initially as a seaman in 1941, before receiving a commission as a Temporary Sub-lieutenant on 30 April 1942 and a promotion to Temporary Lieutenant the following year.[12][13][14] Guinness then commanded a landing craft at the Allied invasion of Sicily, and later ferried supplies and agents to the Yugoslav partisans in the eastern Mediterranean theatre.[15]

During the war, he was granted leave to appear in the Broadway production of Terence Rattigan's play, Flare Path, about RAF Bomber Command, with Guinness playing the role of Flight Lieutenant Teddy Graham.[16]

Postwar stage career

Guinness returned to the Old Vic in 1946 and stayed until 1948, playing Abel Drugger in Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, the Fool in King Lear opposite Laurence Olivier in the title role, DeGuiche in Cyrano de Bergerac opposite Ralph Richardson in the title role, and finally starring in an Old Vic production as Shakespeare's Richard II. After leaving the Old Vic, he played Eric Birling in J. B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls at the New Theatre in October 1946. He played the Uninvited Guest in the Broadway production of T. S. Eliot's The Cocktail Party (1950, revived at the Edinburgh Festival in 1968). He played Hamlet under his own direction at the New Theatre in the West End in 1951.[17]

Invited by his friend Tyrone Guthrie to join the premiere season of the Stratford Festival of Canada, Guinness lived for a brief time in Stratford, Ontario. On 13 July 1953, Guinness spoke the first lines of the first play produced by the festival, Shakespeare's Richard III: "Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this sun of York."[18][19]

Guinness won a Tony Award for his Broadway performance as Welsh poet Dylan Thomas in Dylan. He next played the title role in Macbeth opposite Simone Signoret at the Royal Court Theatre in 1966.[20] Guinness made his final stage performance at the Comedy Theatre in the West End on 30 May 1989, in the play A Walk in the Woods. In all, between 2 April 1934 and 30 May 1989, he played 77 parts in the theatre.[21]

Film career

Alec Guinness (middle) in the black comedy The Ladykillers

In films, Guinness was initially associated mainly with the Ealing Comedies, and particularly for playing nine characters in Kind Hearts and Coronets. Other films from this period included The Lavender Hill Mob, black comedy The Ladykillers, and The Man in the White Suit, with all three ranked among the Best British films.[22] In 1952, director Ronald Neame cast Guinness in his first romantic lead role, opposite Petula Clark in The Card. In 1951, exhibitors voted him the most popular British star.[23]

Drawing by Nicholas Volpe after Guinness won an Oscar in 1957 for his role in The Bridge on the River Kwai

Other notable film roles of this period included The Swan (1956) with Grace Kelly, in her second-to-last film role; The Horse's Mouth (1958) in which Guinness played the part of drunken painter Gulley Jimson, as well as writing the screenplay, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award; the lead in Carol Reed's Our Man in Havana (1959); Marcus Aurelius in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964); The Quiller Memorandum (1966); Marley's Ghost in Scrooge (1970); Charles I in Cromwell (1970); Pope Innocent III in Franco Zeffirelli's Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972) and the title role in Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973), which he considered his best film performance, though critics disagreed.[24] Another role which is sometimes referred to as one which he considered his best and is so considered by many critics, is that of Colonel Jock Sinclair in Tunes of Glory (1960). Guinness also played the role of Jamessir Bensonmum, the blind butler, in the 1976 Neil Simon film Murder by Death.

David Lean

Guinness won particular acclaim for his work with director David Lean, which today is his most critically acclaimed work. After appearing in Lean's Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, he was given a starring role opposite William Holden in The Bridge on the River Kwai. For his performance as Colonel Nicholson, the unyielding British POW commanding officer, Guinness won an Academy Award for Best Actor and a BAFTA Award for Best Actor. Despite a difficult and often hostile relationship, Lean, referring to Guinness as "my good luck charm", continued to cast Guinness in character roles in his later films: Arab leader Prince Feisal in Lawrence of Arabia; the title character's half-brother, Bolshevik leader Yevgraf, in Doctor Zhivago and Indian mystic Professor Godbole in A Passage to India. He was also offered a role in Lean's Ryan's Daughter (1970) but declined. At that time, Guinness "mistrusted" Lean and considered the formerly close relationship to be strained—although, at his funeral, he recalled that the famed director had been "charming and affable".[25] Guinness appeared in five Lean films that were ranked in the British Film Institute's top 50 greatest British films of the 20th century: 3rd (Lawrence of Arabia), 5th (Great Expectations), 11th (The Bridge on the River Kwai), 27th (Doctor Zhivago) and 46th (Oliver Twist).[26]

Star Wars

Guinness's role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy, beginning in 1977, brought him worldwide recognition to a new generation, as well as Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. In letters to his friends, Guinness described the film as "fairy tale rubbish" but the film's sense of moral good – and the studio's doubling of his initial salary offer – appealed to him and he agreed to take the part of Kenobi on the condition that he would not have to do any publicity to promote the film.[27] He negotiated a deal for 2.25% of the gross royalties paid to the director, George Lucas, who received one-fifth of the box office takings. This made him very wealthy in his later life. Upon his first viewing of the film, Guinness wrote in his diary, "It's a pretty staggering film as spectacle and technically brilliant. Exciting, very noisy and warm-hearted. The battle scenes at the end go on for five minutes too long, I feel, and some of the dialogue is excruciating and much of it is lost in noise, but it remains a vivid experience."[28]

Guinness soon became unhappy with being identified with the part and expressed dismay at the fan following that the Star Wars trilogy attracted. In the DVD commentary of the original Star Wars, Lucas says that Guinness was not happy with the script rewrite in which Obi-Wan is killed. Guinness said in a 1999 interview that it was actually his idea to kill off Obi-Wan, persuading Lucas that it would make him a stronger character and that Lucas agreed to the idea. Guinness stated in the interview, "What I didn't tell Lucas was that I just couldn't go on speaking those bloody awful, banal lines. I'd had enough of the mumbo jumbo." He went on to say that he "shrivelled up" every time Star Wars was mentioned to him.[29]

Although Guinness disliked the fame that followed work he did not hold in high esteem,[28] Lucas and fellow cast members Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels and Carrie Fisher have spoken highly of his courtesy and professionalism, on and off the set. Lucas credited him with inspiring cast and crew to work harder, saying that Guinness contributed significantly to achieving completion of the filming. Guinness was quoted as saying that the royalties he obtained from working on the films gave him "no complaints; let me leave it by saying I can live for the rest of my life in the reasonably modest way I am now used to, that I have no debts and I can afford to refuse work that doesn't appeal to me." In his autobiography, Blessings in Disguise, Guinness tells an imaginary interviewer "Blessed be Star Wars", regarding the income it provided.[30]

In the final volume of the book A Positively Final Appearance (1997), Guinness recounts grudgingly giving an autograph to a young fan who claimed to have watched Star Wars over a hundred times, on the condition that the boy promise to stop watching the film because "this is going to be an ill effect on your life". The fan was stunned at first but later thanked him (though some sources say it went differently). Guinness is quoted as saying: "'Well', I said, 'do you think you could promise never to see Star Wars again?' He burst into tears. His mother drew herself up to an immense height. 'What a dreadful thing to say to a child!' she barked, and dragged the poor kid away. Maybe she was right but I just hope the lad, now in his thirties, is not living in a fantasy world of second hand, childish banalities."[31] Guinness grew so tired of modern audiences apparently knowing him only for his role of Obi-Wan Kenobi that he would throw away the mail he received from Star Wars fans without reading it.[32]

Television appearances

Guinness was reluctant to appear on television, but accepted the part of George Smiley in the serialisation of John le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) after meeting the author.[33] Guinness reprised the role in Smiley's People (1982), and twice won the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the character. Le Carré was so impressed by Guinness's performance that he based his characterisation of Smiley in subsequent novels on him.[citation needed] One of Guinness's last appearances was in the BBC drama Eskimo Day (1996).[34][35]

Awards and honours

Plaque installed by the British Film Institute in the City of Westminster, London in recognition of Guinness's contribution to British cinema

Guinness won the Academy Award for Best Actor and the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in 1957 for his role in The Bridge on the River Kwai after having been unsuccessfully nominated for an Oscar in 1952 for his performance in The Lavender Hill Mob. He was nominated in 1958 for the Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, for his screenplay adapted from Joyce Cary's novel The Horse's Mouth. He was nominated for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars in 1977. He received an Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement in 1980. In 1988, he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Little Dorrit. He received the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award for lifetime achievement in 1989.[36]

For his theatre work, he received an Evening Standard Award for his performance as T. E. Lawrence in Ross and a Tony Award for his Broadway turn as Dylan Thomas in Dylan.[37] Guinness received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1559 Vine Street on 8 February 1960.[2] Guinness was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1955 Birthday Honours, and was knighted by Elizabeth II in the 1959 New Year Honours.[8] In 1991, he received an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University.[38] Guinness was appointed a Companion of Honour in the 1994 Birthday Honours for services to Drama.[39]

Personal life

Guinness married the artist, playwright, and actress Merula Sylvia Salaman (1914–2000) in 1938; in 1940, they had a son, Matthew Guinness, who later became an actor. From the 1950s the family lived at their home Kettlebrook Meadows, near Steep Marsh in Hampshire. The House itself was designed by Merula's brother Eusty Salaman.[40][41]

In his biography, Alec Guinness: The Unknown, Garry O'Connor reports that Guinness was arrested and fined 10 guineas (£10.50) for a homosexual act in a public lavatory in Liverpool in 1946. Guinness is said to have avoided publicity by giving his name to police and court as "Herbert Pocket", the name of the character he played in Great Expectations. No record of any arrest has ever been found, however. Piers Paul Read, in his 2003 biography, suggests "The rumour is possibly a conflation of stories about Alec's 'cottaging' and the arrest of John Gielgud, in October 1953, in a public lavatory in Chelsea after dining with the Guinnesses at St. Peter's Square."[42] This suggestion was not made until April 2001, eight months after his death, when a BBC Showbiz article related that new books claimed that Guinness was bisexual and that he had kept his sexuality private from the public eye and that the biography further said only his closest friends and family members knew he had sexual relationships with men.[43]

While serving in the Royal Navy, Guinness had planned to become an Anglican priest. In 1954, while he was filming Father Brown in Burgundy, Guinness, who was in costume as a Catholic priest, was mistaken for a real priest by a local child. Guinness was far from fluent in French, and the child apparently did not notice that Guinness did not understand him but took his hand and chattered while the two strolled; the child then waved and trotted off.[44] The confidence and affection the clerical attire appeared to inspire in the boy left a deep impression on the actor.[45] When their son was ill with polio at the age of 11, Guinness began visiting a church to pray.[46] A few years later in 1956, Guinness converted to the Roman Catholic Church. His wife, who was of paternal Sephardi Jewish descent,[47] followed suit in 1957 while he was in Sri Lanka filming The Bridge on the River Kwai, and she informed him only after the event.[48] Every morning, Guinness recited a verse from Psalm 143, "Cause me to hear your loving kindness in the morning".[49]


The graves of Alec and Merula in Petersfield, Hampshire

Guinness died on the night of 5 August 2000, from liver cancer, at Midhurst in West Sussex.[50] He had been receiving hospital treatment for glaucoma, and had recently also been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was interred at Petersfield, Hampshire.

Autobiographies and biography

Guinness wrote three volumes of a best-selling autobiography, beginning with Blessings in Disguise in 1985, followed by My Name Escapes Me in 1996, and A Positively Final Appearance in 1999. He recorded each of them as an audiobook. Shortly after his death, Lady Guinness asked the couple's close friend and fellow Catholic, novelist Piers Paul Read, to write Guinness's official biography. It was published in 2002.


Year Title Role Notes
1934 Evensong Uncredited extra
1946 Great Expectations Herbert Pocket as an adult
1948 Oliver Twist Fagin
1949 Kind Hearts and Coronets
  • The Duke, The Banker, The Parson, The General, The Admiral, Young D'Ascoyne, Young Henry, Lady Agatha
1949 A Run for Your Money Whimple
1950 Last Holiday George Bird
1950 The Mudlark Benjamin Disraeli
1951 The Lavender Hill Mob Henry Holland
1951 The Man in the White Suit Sidney Stratton
1952 The Card Edward Henry 'Denry' Machin
1953 The Square Mile Narrator Short subject
1953 The Captain's Paradise Capt. Henry St. James
1953 Malta Story Flight Lieutenant Peter Ross RAF
1954 Father Brown Father Brown
1954 The Stratford Adventure Himself Short subject
1955 Rowlandson's England Narrator Short subject
1955 To Paris with Love Col. Sir Edgar Fraser
1955 The Prisoner The Cardinal
1955 Baker's Dozen The Major Television film
1955 The Ladykillers Professor Marcus
1956 The Swan Prince Albert
1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai Col. Nicholson
1957 Barnacle Bill Captain William Horatio Ambrose
1958 The Horse's Mouth Gulley Jimson
1959 The Scapegoat John Barratt/Jacques De Gue
1959 The Wicked Scheme of Jebal Deeks Jebal Deeks Television film
1959 Our Man in Havana Jim Wormold
1960 Tunes of Glory Maj. Jock Sinclair, D.S.O., M.M. Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1961 A Majority of One Koichi Asano
1962 H.M.S. Defiant Captain Crawford
1962 Lawrence of Arabia Prince Faisal
1964 The Fall of the Roman Empire Marcus Aurelius
1965 Pasternak Himself Short subject
1965 Situation Hopeless... But Not Serious Wilhelm Frick
1965 Doctor Zhivago Lieutenant General Yevgraf Andreyevich Zhivago
1966 Hotel Paradiso Benedict Boniface
1966 The Quiller Memorandum Pol
1967 The Comedians in Africa Himself Short subject
1967 The Comedians Major H.O. Jones Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
1969 Conversation at Night The Executioner Television film
1970 Twelfth Night Malvolio Television film
1970 Cromwell King Charles I
1970 Scrooge Jacob Marley's ghost
1972 Brother Sun, Sister Moon Pope Innocent III
1973 Hitler: The Last Ten Days Adolf Hitler
1974 The Gift of Friendship Jocelyn Broome Television film
1976 Caesar and Cleopatra Julius Caesar Television film
1976 Murder by Death Jamesir Bensonmum
1977 Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi
1979 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy George Smiley 7 episodes
1980 The Empire Strikes Back Obi-Wan Kenobi
1980 Raise the Titanic John Bigalow
1980 Little Lord Fauntleroy Earl of Dorincourt Television film
1982 Smiley's People George Smiley 6 episodes
1983 Lovesick Sigmund Freud
1983 Return of the Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi
1984 A Passage to India Professor Godbole
1984 Edwin Sir Fennimore Truscott Television film
1987 Monsignor Quixote Monsignor Quixote Television film
Nominated—British Academy Television Award for Best Actor
1987 Little Dorrit William Dorrit
1988 A Handful of Dust Mr. Todd
1991 Kafka The Chief Clerk
1992 Tales from Hollywood Heinrich Mann Television film
1993 A Foreign Field Amos Television film
1994 Mute Witness The Reaper
1996 Eskimo Day James Television film


Stage credits of Guinness[51][52]
Year Production Role Theatre
(London, unless otherwise noted)
1934 Libel! Junior Counsel Playhouse Theatre Non-Speaking Role
1934 Queer Cargo Chinese coolie, French Pirate and English Sailor Piccadilly Theatre
1934 Hamlet Osric and Third Player New Theatre
1935 Noé/Noah Wolf New Theatre
1935 Romeo and Juliet Sampson and Apothecary New Theatre
1936 The Seagull Workman then Yakov New Theatre
1936 Love's Labour's Lost Boyet The Old Vic Start of a season with the Old Vic Company; September 1936-April 1937.
1936 As You Like It Le Beau and William The Old Vic
1936 The Witch of Edmonton Old Thorney The Old Vic
1937 Hamlet Osric and Reynaldo The Old Vic
1937 Twelfth Night Sir Andrew Aguecheek The Old Vic
1937 Henry V Exeter The Old Vic
1937 Hamlet Osric, Player Queen and Reynaldo Elsinore Castle, Helsingør, Denmark Put on by the Old Vic Company at Elsinore Castle
1937 Richard II Aumerle and The Groom Queen's Theatre Start of a Season with John Gielgud's Company at the Queen's Theatre, September 1937-May 1938.
1937 The School for Scandal Snake Queen's Theatre
1938 The Three Sisters Fedotik Queen's Theatre
1938 The Merchant of Venice Lorenzo Queen's Theatre
1938 The Doctor's Dilemma Louis Dubedat Richmond Theatre
1938 Trelawny of the Wells Arthur Gower The Old Vic Start of a Season with the Old Vic Company. September to December 1938.
1938 Hamlet Hamlet The Old Vic
1938 The Rivals Bob Acres The Old Vic
1939 Hamlet Hamlet The Old Vic Start of Tour of Europe and Egypt with the Old Vic Company. January to April 1939.
1939 Henry V Chorus The Old Vic Tour
1939 The Rivals Bob Acres The Old Vic Tour
1939 Libel! Emile Flordan The Old Vic Tour
1939 Macbeth Macbeth Sheffield Playhouse, Sheffield
1939 The Ascent of F6 Michael Ransom The Old Vic
1939 Romeo and Juliet Romeo Perth Theatre, Perth, Scotland Part of the first Perth Scottish Theatre Festival
1939 Great Expectations Herbert Pocket Rudolf Steiner Hall Version adapted by Guinness from Charles Dickens novel; Performed by The Actor's Company, a group Guinness had formed with George Devine and Marius Goring.
1940 Cousin Muriel Richard Meilhac Globe Theatre
1940 Saint Joan The Dauphin Palace Theatre
1940 The Tempest Ferdinand The Old Vic
1940 Thunder Rock Charleston Tour of England
1940 Flare Path Fl. Lt. Graham Henry Miller's Theatre, New York City, United States Was temporarily released from his war service to perform in this production.
1946 The Brothers Karamazov Mitya Lyric Theatre Adapted by Guinness from Fyodor Dostoevsky.
1946 The Vicious Circle[53] Garcin Arts Theatre
1946 King Lear The Fool New Theatre Start of a Season with the Old Vic Company at the New Theatre. September 1946 – May 1947.
1946 An Inspector Calls Eric Birling New Theatre
1946 Cyrano De Bergerac De Guiche New Theatre
1947 The Alchemist Abel Drugger New Theatre
1947 Richard II Richard II New Theatre Start of a Season with the Old Vic Company at the New Theatre. September 1947-May 1948.
1947 Saint Joan The Dauphin New Theatre
1948 The Government Inspector Khlestakov New Theatre
1948 Coriolanus Menenius Agrippa New Theatre
1948 Twelfth Night - New Theatre Director only for the Old Vic Company at the New Theatre. September 1948.
1949 The Human Touch Dr. James Simpson Savoy Theatre
1949 The Cocktail Party Sir Henry Harcourt-Reilly Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Scotland.
1950 The Cocktail Party Sir Henry Harcourt-Reilly Henry Miller's Theatre, New York City, USA
1951 Hamlet Hamlet New Theatre This production was also directed by Guinness.
1952 Under the Sycamore Tree The Ant Scientist Aldwych Theatre
1953 Richard III Richard III Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ontario, Canada Start of a Season at the Stratford Festival. July to September 1953.
1953 All's Well That Ends Well King of France Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ontario, Canada
1954 The Prisoner The Cardinal Globe Theatre
1954 Hotel Paradiso Boniface Winter Garden Theatre
1960 Ross Aircraftman Ross / T.E. Lawrence Theatre Royal Haymarket Evening Standard Theatre Awards – Best Actor
1963 Exit the King Berenger the First Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh and Royal Court Theatre
1964 Dylan Dylan Thomas Plymouth Theatre, New York City, USA Drama League Awards-Distinguished Performance Award; Tony Awards- Best Actor
1966 Incident at Vichy Von Berg Phoenix Theatre
1966 Macbeth Macbeth Royal Court Theatre
1967 Wise Child Jock Masters/Mrs. Artminster Wyndham's Theatre
1968 The Cocktail Party Sir Henry Harcourt-Reilly Chichester Festival Theatre, Chichester, Sussex, Wyndham's Theatre, Theatre Royal Haymarket Production was also directed by Guinness.
1970 Time out of Mind John Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, Surrey.
1971 A Voyage Round My Father Father Theatre Royal Haymarket
1973 Habeas Corpus Dr. Wickstead Lyric Theatre
1975 A Family and a Fortune Dudley Apollo Theatre
1976 Yahoo Dean Swift Queen's Theatre Adapted by Guinness from the works of Jonathan Swift.
1977 The Old Country Hilary Queen's Theatre
1984 Merchant of Venice Shylock Chichester Festival Theatre
1988 A Walk in the Woods Andrey Botvinnik Comedy Theatre

Box office ranking in Britain

For a number of years, British film exhibitors voted Guinness among the most popular stars in Britain at the box office via an annual poll in the Motion Picture Herald.

  • 1951: most popular British star (5th overall)[23]
  • 1952: 3rd most popular British star[54]
  • 1953: 2nd most popular British star
  • 1954: 6th most popular British star
  • 1955: 10th most popular British star[55]
  • 1956: 8th most popular British star[56]
  • 1958: most popular star[57]
  • 1959: 2nd most popular British star[58]
  • 1960: 4th most popular star

See also



  1. ^ GRO Register of Births: June 1914 1a 39 Paddington – Alec Guinness De Cuffe, mmn = De Cuffe.
  2. ^ a b "Alec Guinness." Hollywood Walk of Fame (Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Hollywood, California), 2011. Retrieved: 22 June 2011.
  3. ^ "Alec Guinness biography." MSN Movies. Retrieved: 29 July 2007.
  4. ^ Read, Piers Paul. Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. ISBN 978-0-7432-4498-5.
  5. ^ "Sir Alec Guinness". The Telegraph. UK. 8 August 2000. Archived from the original on 8 July 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  6. ^ "Guinness: The black stuff",; retrieved 8 April 2012.
  7. ^ Extracts from Guinness's Journals, The Daily Telegraph, 20 March 1999.
  8. ^ a b c 'Guinness, Alec (1914–2000)', The Cambridge Guide to Theatre, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK; viewed 22 June 2011, from Credo reference (subscription required)
  9. ^ Marshall, Herbert. "Obituary: Robert Ardrey (1907–1980)." Bulletin of the Center for Soviet & East European Studies Spring 1980. pp. 4–6. Print
  10. ^ On 3 June 1961, Guinness sent a letter to Stan Laurel Archived 11 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine, acknowledging that he must have unconsciously modeled his portrayal of Sir Andrew Aguecheek as he imagined Laurel might have done. Guinness was 23 at the time he was performing in Twelfth Night, so this would have been around 1937, by which time Laurel had become an international movie star.
  11. ^ "NY Times: Great Expectations". NY Times. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  12. ^ Houterman, J.N. "Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) Officers 1939–1945",; retrieved 7 March 2010.
  13. ^ "No. 35561". The London Gazette. 15 May 1942. p. 2127.
  14. ^ "No. 36096". The London Gazette. 16 July 1943. p. 3235.
  15. ^ "'Fleming': 10 Famous Brits Who Were Heroes In World War II". BBC America. 25 October 2017.
  16. ^ "Theatre Obituaries: Sir Alec Guinness",, 8 August 2000; retrieved 22 February 2011.
  17. ^ McCarten, John. "Eliot and Guinness." The New Yorker, Volume 25, Issue 50, 1950, pp. 25–26.
  18. ^ J. Alan B. Somerset. 1991. The Stratford Festival Story, 1st edition. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-27804-4
  19. ^ Tom Patterson. 1987. First Stage. McClelland and Stewart. ISBN 978-0-7710-6949-9
  20. ^ Taylor 2000, pp. 133–134.
  21. ^ Alec Guinness, Journals, November 1998.
  22. ^ "The 100 best British films". Time Out. Retrieved 24 October 2017
  23. ^ a b "Vivien Leigh Actress of the Year." Townsville Daily Bulletin, via National Library of Australia, 29 December 1951, p. 1. Retrieved: 24 April 2012.
  24. ^ Canby, Vincent. "Screen: 'Last Ten Days': Guinness Plays Hitler in Bunker Episode, The Cast." The New York Times, 10 May 1973.
  25. ^ Guinness 1998, pp. 90–91.
  26. ^ British Film Institute - Top 100 British Films (1999). Retrieved 27 August 2016
  27. ^ Selim, Jocelyn. "Alec Guinness: Reluctant Intergalactic Icon." Cancer Today magazine, Spring 2012.
  28. ^ a b Read 2005, p. 507.
  29. ^ "Alec Guinness Blasts Jedi 'Mumbo Jumbo'", 8 September 1999.
  30. ^ Guinness 1986, p. 214.
  31. ^ Guinness 2001, p. 11.
  32. ^ "The shy introvert who shone on screen." The Guardian, 7 August 2000.
  33. ^ le Carré, John (8 March 2002). Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: A Conversation with John le Carré (DVD). Disc 1.
  34. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Eskimo Day (1996)". Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  35. ^ "BBC Four - Eskimo Day". BBC. 11 January 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  36. ^ "Fellowship", British Academy of Film and Television Arts
  37. ^ Taylor 2000, p. 131.
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  49. ^ The invisible man, by Hugh Davies, originally published in the Daily Telegraph and reprinted in The Sunday Age, 13 August 2000.
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  • Chambers, Colin. Continuum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre. London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002. ISBN 0-8264-4959-X.
  • Guinness, Alec. A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, 1996–1998. London: Penguin Books, 2001. ISBN 978-0-14-029964-9.
  • Guinness, Alec. Blessings in Disguise. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0394552377.
  • Guinness, Alec. My Name Escapes Me. London: Penguin Books, 1998. ISBN 978-0-14-027745-6.
  • O'Connor, Garry. Alec Guinness: The Unknown London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 2002. ISBN 0-283-07340-3.
  • Pearce, Joseph. Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief. London: Ignatius Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-58617-159-9.
  • Read, Piers Paul. Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. ISBN 978-0-7432-4498-5.
  • Taylor, John Russell. Alec Guinness: A Celebration. London: Pavilion, 2000. ISBN 1-86205-501-7.

External links