A Tribute to Alec Guinness
Show a group of people under thirty a photograph of Alec Guinness and the majority of them would say, “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” What’s interesting about this is that the one role he’s most famous for today is one in which he essentially played himself, speaking in his own voice and without character makeup.
But to the classic movie fan, the real Sir Alec Guinness is the one who played eight different parts in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) or who created the definitive Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948). He’s an actor’s actor, one who could always be counted upon to become the character he played, at least as far as the audience is concerned. He’s also a true gentleman, and it can’t be a concidence that an anagram of his name is “genuine class.”
Aside from the Star Wars (1977) role, of course, his most memorable performance was probably that of the obsessed Colonel in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), for which he won numerous awards, including a Best Actor Oscar. He was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1980. He was also nominated for his screenplay for The Horse’s Mouth in 1958, and knighted by Queen Elizabeth that same year.
Sir Alec was born in London in 1914. Before he was an actor, he was, like yours truly, an advertising copywriter. After studying acting and serving in WWII, he officially began his film career with a bang in 1946, starring in Great Expectations, followed by Oliver Twist and Kind Hearts and Coronets, one after the other. His other notable films have included The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and Little Dorrit (1988).
Sir Alec died on August 5, 2000, at the age of 86. (This tribute was first published in August, 1998.)
I am aware of only one dedicated tribute site for this great actor, created by Mary Murphy, listed first below. If you know of any others, please let me know by email. Mary’s site is followed by a link to the Internet Movie Database page, containing a complete filmography, and a number of Alec Guinness pages that are part of other movie database sites.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Books, Photos, Art, and Posters