Alec Guinness

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Alec Guinness

Sir Alec Guinness, CH, CBE (April 2, 1914August 5, 2000) was an English actor who became one of the most versatile and best-loved performers of his generation.

Born in London, he first worked writing copy for advertising before making his debut at the Old Vic in 1936. He married the artist, playwright, and actress Merula Salaman in 1938, and they had a son, Matthew, in 1940.

Alec Guinness served in the Royal Navy throughout World War II, serving first as a seaman in 1941 and being commissioned the following year. He commanded a landing craft taking part in the invasion of Sicily and Elba and later ferried supplies to the Yugoslav partisans. During the War he appeared in Terence Rattigan's West End Play for Bomber Command, Flare Path. He returned to the Old Vic in 1946.

He was initially mainly associated with the Ealing comedies, and particularly for playing eight different characters in Kind Hearts and Coronets. Other films from this period included The Lavender Hill Mob, The Ladykillers, and The Man in the White Suit. In 1952, director Ronald Neame cast Guinness in his first romantic lead role, opposite Petula Clark in The Card.

In 1954, during the shooting of the film Father Brown, he converted to Roman Catholicism and became devout, attending church regularly for the rest of his life.

Guinness was also a talented dramatic and character actor. His film appearances ranged from Lawrence of Arabia to The Bridge on the River Kwai, for which he won an Academy Award as best actor in 1957. He was nominated again in 1958 for his screenplay adapted from Joyce Cary's novel The Horse's Mouth. He also received an Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievements in 1980. From the 1970s, Guinness made regular television appearances, including the part of George Smiley in the serialisations of two novels by John le Carr: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People. One of his last appearances was in the acclaimed BBC drama Eskimo Day.

Alec Guinness as  in
Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars

His role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the immensely successful original Star Wars trilogy brought him worldwide recognition to a new generation. However, he was never happy with being identified with the part. He would throw out any fan mail regarding Star Wars without reading it.

He was appointed CBE in 1955, was knighted in 1959, and became a Companion of Honour in 1994. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1559 Vine Street.

Guinness wrote three volumes of bestselling autobiography, beginning with Blessings in Disguise in 1985, followed by My Name Escapes Me in 1996, and A Positively Final Appearance in 1999.

Guinness died of liver cancer on August 5, 2000, at Midhurst in West Sussex, and was interred near Petersfield, Hampshire, England.

Revelations in biography

A 2003 biography of Guinness, by the author Piers Paul Read, revealed that the actor was bisexual, and before his marriage had had several homosexual relationships. It also revealed that the actor was arrested in Liverpool in 1948 for cottaging (soliciting for sex in a public toilet). When arrested, the actor gave as his name Herbert Pocket, the character he had just played in David Lean's film version of Great Expectations and was prosecuted and fined under that name. He avoided public scandal because the police did not realize the true identity of "Pocket" until decades later.

Other accounts give the date of the Liverpool arrest as 1946. Either date is several years after his 1938 marriage. [1] ( [2] (

The biography also states, on the basis of letters written by his wife, Merula, that Guinness was an emotionally abusive husband who regularly publicly humiliated both his wife and son. Merula planned to write a book about her relationship with Guinness but died before the book was written.


External link

es:Alec Guinness eo:Alec GUINNESS fr:Alec Guinness he:אלק גינס sv:Alec Guinness


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