Alec Guinness


Actor
Alec Guinness

About

Also Known As
Sir Alec Guinness
Birth Place
London, England, GB
Born
April 02, 1914
Died
August 05, 2000

Biography

Sir Alec Guinness, acting's preeminent master of disguise, first drew attention as Fagin, providing a wonderfully Dickensian performance that totally concealed the actor within in David Lean's "Oliver Twist" (1948). His most dramatic display of versatility came playing eight roles, including a woman, in "Kind Hearts and Coronets" (1949), a film that established him beyond a shadow of a d...

Photos & Videos

A Majority of One - Movie Poster
Doctor Zhivago - Publicity Art
The Swan - Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Family & Companions

Merula Salaman
Wife
Actor. Born on October 16, 1914; met Guinness in 1935; married on June 20, 1938; died on October 18, 2000.

Bibliography

"A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal 1996-98"
Alec Guinness, Haimish Hamilton (1999)
"My Name Escapes Me"
Alec Guinness, Viking (1997)
"Alec Guinness: The Films"
Kenneth Von Gunden, McFarland (1987)
"Blessings in Disguise"
Alec Guinness, Alfred A. Knopf (1985)

Notes

"I shrivel up a little every time someone mentions 'Star Wars' to me." --Guinness quoted in Talk, October 1999.

Guinness received an honorary doctorate (DFA) from Boston College in 1962.

Biography

Sir Alec Guinness, acting's preeminent master of disguise, first drew attention as Fagin, providing a wonderfully Dickensian performance that totally concealed the actor within in David Lean's "Oliver Twist" (1948). His most dramatic display of versatility came playing eight roles, including a woman, in "Kind Hearts and Coronets" (1949), a film that established him beyond a shadow of a doubt as an expert at make-up and deception. Whether he was an English prime minister (Disraeli in "The Mudlark" 1950), an Arab prince ("Lawrence of Arabia" 1962), a despicable despot (Hitler in "The Last Ten Days" 1973) or an Indian professor ("A Passage to India" 1984), Guinness demonstrated a chameleon-like ability to disappear so completely within the role that filmgoers forgot they were watching an actor and saw the character instead.

A founding member of the Ealing Film Studios repertory company, he gained wide popularity in their string of bright British comedies and was particularly appealing as the shy inventor in Alexander Mackendrick's "The Man in the White Suit" (1951). He secured an Oscar nomination as Best Actor in "The Lavender Hill Mob" (1951) but also excelled in dramatic portrayals, earning a Best Actor Academy Award for his thoughtful rendering of an English soldier bureaucrat in David Lean's "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957). His love for Joyce Carey's ribald novel "The Horse's Mouth" led him to adapt it for the screen in 1959, a labor which earned him an Academy Award nomination for the only screenplay he would ever write. The film also afforded him an outrageous turn as its monstrously comic painter Gully Jimson. That same year, Queen Elizabeth II also knighted him for his achievements on stage and screen.

Guinness resisted any temptation to move to Hollywood, preferring instead his native England where he often appeared on stage between movies. He tackled a variety of modern parts in addition to much of the Shakespeare canon and, though rarely treading the boards in the USA, did win a Tony Award for portraying Dylan Thomas in "Dylan" (1964). Success was his own worst enemy, and the decade following Lean's "Dr. Zhivago" (1965) was his most lackluster as he suffered through a spate of poor films and showy parts (i.e., "Cromwell" 1970, in which our sympathies wrongly go to his Charles I). He rebounded as the wise Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas' "Star Wars" (1977), receiving an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor (and 2-1/4 percent of the films profits). "Star Wars" introduced him to a new generation of moviegoers and his line "May the force be with you" found its way into the popular lexicon.

Guinness scored his greatest television success in 1979 when he created the role of veteran spy George Smiley in John LeCarre's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (aired in the USA on PBS' "Great Performances" in 1980) which he later reprised in "Smiley's People" (1982). Returning full circle to his cinematic beginnings with "Little Dorrit," an adaptation from Dickens, he earned yet another Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor in the role of William Dorrit, the title character's imprisoned father.

Although not retired from acting, he has worked less frequently in the 1990s, concentrating much of his time on his memoirs, published in two volumes, "Blessings in Disguise" (1985) and "My Name Escapes Me" (1997).

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Mute Witness (1995)
The Reaper
A Foreign Field (1994)
Kafka (1991)
Little Dorrit (1988)
A Handful of Dust (1988)
Little Dorrit: Part One Nobody's Fault (1988)
Little Dorrit: Part Two Little Dorrit's Story (1988)
Grace Kelly: The American Princess (1987)
A Passage to India (1984)
Professor Godbole
Lovesick (1983)
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Raise the Titanic (1980)
Little Lord Fauntleroy (1980)
Earl Of Dorincourt
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
Murder By Death (1976)
Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973)
Adolf Hitler
Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972)
Pope Innocent Iii
Cromwell (1970)
King Charles I
Scrooge (1970)
Marley's ghost
The Comedians (1967)
Major Jones
Hotel Paradiso (1966)
Benedict Boniface
The Quiller Memorandum (1966)
Pol
Situation Hopeless--But Not Serious (1965)
Herr Frick
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Yevgraf Zhivago
The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
Marcus Aurelius
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Prince Faisal
Damn the Defiant! (1962)
Captain Crawford
A Majority of One (1962)
Koichi Asano
Our Man in Havana (1960)
James Wormold
Tunes of Glory (1960)
Major Jock Sinclair
The Scapegoat (1959)
John Barratt/Jacques De Gué
The Horse's Mouth (1958)
Gulley Jimson
All at Sea (1958)
Captain William Horatio Ambrose/[Ambrose's six ancestors]
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Colonel Nicholson
The Prisoner (1956)
The cardinal
The Swan (1956)
Prince Albert
The Ladykillers (1955)
To Paris With Love (1955)
The Stratford Adventure (1954)
Himself
The Detective (1954)
Father Brown
The Square Mile (1953)
Narration
Captain's Paradise (1953)
The Malta Story (1953)
The Lavender Hill Mob (1952)
Henry Holland
The Card (1952)
Edward Henry Machin
The Man in the White Suit (1951)
Sidney Stratton
The Mudlark (1950)
[Benjamin] Disraeli
Last Holiday (1950)
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
Lady Agatha; The Admiral; The Banker; The Duke; The General; The Parson; Young Ascoyne; Young Henry
A Run For Your Money (1949)
Oliver Twist (1948)
Fagin
Great Expectations (1946)

Writer (Feature Film)

The Horse's Mouth (1958)
Screenwriter

Cast (Special)

Interview Day (1996)
Tales From Hollywood (1992)
David Lean: A Life in Film (1991)
Twelfth Night (1990)
Malvolio
Monsignor Quixote (1987)
Laurence Olivier -- A Life (1986)
Caesar and Cleopatra (1976)
Caesar

Cast (Short)

The Comedians in Africa (1967)
Himself
New Star: Geraldine Chaplin (1965)
Himself
This Is... Omar Sharif (1965)
Himself
Moscow in Madrid (1965)
Himself
Pasternak (1965)
Himself
Rowlandson's England (1955)
Narration

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Smiley's People (1982)

Life Events

1934

Film acting debut in "Evensong"

1934

Stage acting debut as walk-on

1939

Played Herbert Pocket in stage production of "Great Expectations" which he also adapted

1941

Served in Royal Navy during WWII; Enlisted as able seaman; commissioned as lieutenant the following year

1942

Given leave for New York stage debut on Broadway in "Flare Path", a propaganda play

1946

Returned to films in David Lean's "Great Expectations"; began acting steadily in features

1948

Drew attention as Fagin in Lean's "Oliver Twist"

1949

Played eight parts, including a woman, in Robert Hammer's "Kind Hearts and Coronets"

1951

Nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for Charles Crichton's "The Lavender Hill Mob"

1951

Portrayed the inventor in Alexander Mackendrick's "The Man in the White Suit"

1953

Starred as the captain with two wives in different ports in "Captain's Paradise"

1957

Won Best Actor Oscar for his thoughtful rendering of an English bureaucrat soldier in Lean's "The Bridge on the River Kwai"

1959

Scripted adaptation of Joyce Carey's "The Horse's Mouth"; also delivered a superb, monstrous rendering of lead character Gully Jimson; received Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay

1959

Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

1962

Reunited with Lean for "Lawrence of Arabia"

1964

Played Marcus Aurelius in Anthony Mann's "The Fall of the Roman Empire"

1965

Reteamed with Lean as Zhivago's brother in "Dr. Zhivago"

1970

Portrayed Charles I in Ken Hughes' "Comwell"

1972

Appeared as Pope in Franco Zeffirelli's "Brother Sun, Sister Moon"

1973

Cast as Hitler in Ennio de Concini's "The Last Ten Days"

1977

Played Obi-Wan Kenobi in "Star Wars"; received Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor; also given 2-1/4 percent of the profits by director George Lucas

1979

Created role of John LeCarre's George Smiley in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" on BBC (aired in USA on PBS' "Great Performances" in 1980)

1982

Reprised Smiley in "Smiley's People"

1984

Final collaboration with Lean, played an Indian professor in the screen adaptation of E M Forester's "A Passage to India"

1985

Received Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for role of William Dorrit in "Little Dorrit"

1985

Published first volume of memoirs, "Blessings in Disguise"

1991

Appeared as the chief clerk in Steven Soderbergh's fantasy thriller "Kafka"

1993

Co-starred with Leo McKern, Jeanne Moreau and Lauren Bacall in the BBC production "A Foriegn Field" (aired in USA on PBS in 1994)

1997

Published second memoir, "My Name Escapes Me"

Photo Collections

A Majority of One - Movie Poster
A Majority of One - Movie Poster
Doctor Zhivago - Publicity Art
Here are some specialty drawings created by MGM for newspaper and magazine reproduction to publicize Doctor Zhivago (1965), directed by David Lean.
The Swan - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of The Swan (1956), starring Grace Kelly and Alec Guinness.
Kind Hearts and Coronets - Movie Poster
Here is a movie poster from the original American release of Kind Hearts and Coronets (1946), starring Dennis Price and Alec Guinness. This is a cardstock poster, measuring 40 x 60 inches.
Doctor Zhivago - Program Book
Here is the souvenir Program Book sold at Roadshow engagements for the 1965 epic Doctor Zhivago.

Videos

Movie Clip

Tunes of Glory (1960) - The Colonel's Here! The new commanding officer of a Scottish regiment, Colonel Barrow (John Mills), arrives early, interrupting the farewell party for acting-Colonel Jock Sinclair (Alec Guinness) in director Ronald Neame's Tunes of Glory, 1960.
Tunes Of Glory (1960) - Opening, Miss Sinclair With exteriors from the real Stirling Castle on Scotland's River Forth, Susannah York (in her official debut, as "Morag") navigates around her father Col. Sinclair (Alec Guinness) and his celebrating troops in the opening to Ronald Neame's Tunes of Glory, 1960.
Scapegoat, The (1959) - Traitorous Animals, Cats Melancholy vacationing English teacher Barratt (Alec Guinness) at first doesn't realized he's being shadowed, his first night in a French country town, early in The Scapegoat, 1959, from a Gore Vidal script, co-starring Bette Davis.
Scapegoat, The (1959) - An Emptiness In The Heart Opening the MGM-British production, with affecting narration by Alec Guinness, from Gore Vidal’s screenplay based on Daphne Du Maurier’s novel, as English teacher Barratt, arriving on the ferry at Port Boulogne, Calais, then reaching Le Mans (though the city is never named) and it’s famous cathedral, briefly meeting Peter Bull, in The Scapegoat, 1959, co-starring Bette Davis.
Scapegoat, The (1959) - Lie To Me Later Alec Guinness, who really is Barrat, an English teacher just in from Paris, meets daffy French countess Du Gue (Bette Davis) who believes he's her look-alike nephew, who has disappeared, leaving his troubles to his twin, in The Scapegoat, 1959, from a Daphne Du Maurier novel.
Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) - Open, A Long Time Ago Opening in which we meet only C3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker, voice by Ben Burtt et al), following the famous prologue, from George Lucas’ 1977 landmark, re-titled upon release of the first sequel, Star Wars: A New Hope, starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.
Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) - The Dark Side Of The Force Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and his salvage robots (Anthony Daniels as C3PO, Kenny Baker as R2-D2) have been rescued from nasty Sand People by Old Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness), the “crazy old hermit” he thought the might be target of an odd message (recorded by Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher, about whom Luke knows nothing), in George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope, 1977.
Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) - Disturbance In The Force Probably underestimating her foe’s depravity, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) causes Tarkin (Peter Cushing) to unleash the death star, which rattles Obi-Wan (Alec Guinness), on board the Millenium Falcon with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammill) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), in George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope, 1977.
Detective, The (1954) - A Forest Of Priests Summoned before the bishop (Cecil Parker) and policeman Wilkins (John Horsley), amateur sleuth Father Brown (Alec Guinness) is told of the plan to protect a valuable cross from theft, in The Detective 1954, based on the first of G.K. Chesterton's "Father Brown" stories.
Detective, The (1954) - Go Up And Look Toward The Sea Father Brown (Alec Guinness), who has taken it upon himself to transport a valuable old cross to Rome to prevent its' theft, boards the London train, casually meeting a handsome bearded priest (Peter Finch), early in The Detective, 1954, from a G.K. Chesterton story.
Detective, The (1954) - After Saint Ignatius Opening scene, introducing Alec Guinness in his only appearance as G.K. Chesterton's "Father Brown," from the best-known movie adaptation of the popular short stories, released in the the U.S. as The Detective, 1954, co-starring Peter Finch.
Oliver Twist (1948) - Rather More No Than Yes The Dodger (Anthony Newley) is confronting criminal Fagin (Alec Guinness) when their boss Sykes (Robert Newton) arrives, his girlfriend Nancy (Kay Walsh, the director's wife!) catching up, all this over the title character who's been grabbed by the cops, in David Lean's Oliver Twist, 1948.

Trailer

Swan, The - (Original Trailer) On the eve of her marriage to a prince, a noblewoman falls for her brother's tutor in The Swan (1956) starring Grace Kelly.
Lavender Hill Mob, The - (Original Trailer) An overlooked gold transporter with twenty years service plots to steal a million pounds of gold in the comedy The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) starring Alec Guinness.
Doctor Zhivago - (Academy Award Trailer) Illicit lovers fight to stay together during the turbulent years of the Russian Revolution in David Lean's epic adaptation of Boris Pasternak's novel Doctor Zhivago (1965).
Cromwell - (Original Trailer) Richard Harris, Alec Guinness and Timothy Dalton star in the story of the man who overthrew the British monarchy, Cromwell (1970).
Captain's Paradise, The - (Original Trailer) Alec Guinness runs a ferryboat between Gibraltar and Tangiers, with a wife in each port. It's The Captain's Paradise (1953).
Passage to India, A - (Original Trailer) A false rape charge threatens British-Indian relations in director David Lean's last movie, A Passage to India (1984).
Quiller Memorandum, The - (Original Trailer) An international spy infiltrates a Neo-Nazi gang in The Quiller Memorandum (1966) starring George Segal and Alec Guinness.
Murder By Death - (Original Trailer) An all-star cast parodies famous detectives in the Neil Simon whodunit spoof Murder By Death (1976).
Comedians, The - (Original Trailer) American and British tourists get caught up in political unrest in Haiti in Graham Greene's The Comedians (1967) starring Elizabeth Taylor.
Hotel Paradiso - (Original Trailer) Chaos results when a mild mannered man (Alec Guinness) tries to have an affair with his neighbor's wife (Gina Lollobrigida) at Hotel Paradiso (1966).
Scapegoat, The - (Original Trailer) Alec Guinness is pulled into a mystery when he trades identities in The Scapegoat (1959) co-starring Bette Davis.
Lawrence of Arabia - (Original Trailer) A British military officer (Peter O'Toole) enlists the Arabs for desert warfare during WWI in Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

Family

Andrew Guinness
Father
Banker.
Agnes Guinness
Mother
Matthew Guinness
Son
Actor. Born in 1940; mother, Merula Salaman.

Companions

Merula Salaman
Wife
Actor. Born on October 16, 1914; met Guinness in 1935; married on June 20, 1938; died on October 18, 2000.

Bibliography

"A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal 1996-98"
Alec Guinness, Haimish Hamilton (1999)
"My Name Escapes Me"
Alec Guinness, Viking (1997)
"Alec Guinness: The Films"
Kenneth Von Gunden, McFarland (1987)
"Blessings in Disguise"
Alec Guinness, Alfred A. Knopf (1985)

Notes

"I shrivel up a little every time someone mentions 'Star Wars' to me." --Guinness quoted in Talk, October 1999.

Guinness received an honorary doctorate (DFA) from Boston College in 1962.

He received an honorary doctorate (DLitt) from Oxford University in 1978.