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Alec Guinness ACTOR


Sir Alec Guinness, an English actor, was born on April 2, 1914. He is best known for the versatility that he displayed in his sixty six years of acting, for he played in many roles on television and in film. His tall figure and ordinary appearance lent themselves well for a wide range of characters, and his subtle facial expressions were perfect for nearly every role. His is most likely one of the best known twentieth century British actors in America.

Guinness was interested in acting from his youth, but discouraged from attending his boarding school’s theatrical performances by his headmaster. Nevertheless, he still continued to appear in his school plays and received much praise, leading him to further explore his passion. After finishing his education, Guinness began working as a copywriter for an advertising agency in London. During his employment, he took up theater performing. In 1934, he debuted on the stage, and three years later he was given a permanent membership in John Gielgud’s London company. In 1942, Guinness made his first visit to the New York stage and reappeared in later years.

While the actor made an uncredited extra part in “Evensong” (1934), he did not transfer his stage acting to the screen until 1946, when he appeared in “Great Expectations”. However, it wasn’t until two years later that he had his first memorable onscreen role as Fagin in “Oliver Twist” (1948). By 1949, Guinness had become a moderately renowned actor and thus he performed in a series of Ealing Studios comedies. Most notably of these performances are his eight disguises in “Kind Hearts and Coronets” (1949), as well as “The Lavender Hill Mob” (1951), in which he received an Oscar nomination, “The Man in the White Suit” (1951), and “The Lady Killers” (1955). His next prominent role was in “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957) as a British POW. This part earned the actor both an Oscar and a Golden Globe, and it remains one of his most acclaimed pieces. He later worked with the movie’s director, David Lean, in additional films like the legendary “Doctor Zhivago” (1965) and “A Passage to India” (1984). Other noteworthy pictures that Guinness acted in during this decade include “The Swan” (1956) and “The Horse’s Mouth” (1958), a film that he helped write which actually produced for him an Academy Award nomination.

1959 bestowed upon Guinness probably one of his most prestigious recognitions, a knighting by Queen Elizabeth for his stage and screen success. Following, in 1960, he once again gave a great performance in his portrayal as another officer in “Tunes of Glory”. Additional exceptional acting was demonstrated by Guinness in “The Fall of the Roman Empire” (1964) and “The Quiller Memorandum” (1966). He also depicted Jacob Marley’s Ghost in “Scrooge” (1970), Charles I of England in “Cromwell” (1970), and the lead villain (which he claims was his best film appearance) in “Hitler: The Last Ten Days” (1973) superbly and convincingly.

Into the 1970's, Guinness began to appear more regularly on television, although he had made a few prior appearances and a TV movie, “Baker’s Dozen” in 1955. He continued to make himself present in shows until 1993, but never had a regular spot in a full running series. The actor furthermore performed in a total of five made for TV movies, not limited to “The Gift of Friendship” (1974), “Tales from Hollywood” (1992), and his final acting job ever, “Interview Day” (1996).

While Guinness had accumulated a lot of popularity throughout the ‘60's and ‘70's with movies like David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) and Mel Brooks’ “Murder by Death” (1976), it was not until 1977 that he started playing his most remembered and familiar character. Director George Lucas begged him to depict Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi in his film, “Star Wars” (1977), although it is now titled “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”. With much reluctance, the actor agreed. He ended up receiving worldwide recognition for the role, and was even nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Plus he won a couple other minor awards for the part. The actor went on to appear in two more Star Wars films: “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” (1983), although he wasn’t the biggest fan of being associated with his character.

In 1985, the actor published an autobiography titled “Blessings in Disguise”, and later published two additional works called “My Name Escapes Me: The Diary of a Retiring Actor” (1997) and “A Positively Final Appearance” (1999). Moreover, through the 1990's Guinness only acted in two additional pictures: “Kafka” (1991) and “Mute Witness” (1994). However, he did appear in one TV series, “Screen One” (1993), and two television movies.

In 1996, the actor retired from acting. Four years later, in January of 2000, Guinness was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Sadly, six months later he was also given the diagnosis of liver cancer which was at too late of stage to be operated on.  On August 5, 2000 he passed away. However, he died with honor, for in 1980 he was bequeathed with the Honorary Award for his distinguished acting performances by the Academy Awards and in 1980 he was accepted into the Academy Fellowship from the British BAFTA Awards.  He also gathered numerous other lifetime and special achievement awards. Furthermore, the actor has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his accomplishments in the motion picture industry.


1996       Interview Day

1994       Mute Witness

1993       Screen One

1992       Tales from Hollywood

1991       Kafka

1988       A Handful of Dust

1988       Little Dorrit

1987       Great Performances

1984       A Passage to India

1984       Edwin

1983       Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

1983       Lovesick

1982       Smiley's People

1980       The Morecambe & Wise Show

1980       Little Lord Fauntleroy

1980       Raise the Titanic

1980       Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

1979       Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

1977       Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

1976       Murder by Death

1976       Hallmark Hall of Fame

1974       The Gift of Friendship 

1973       Hitler: The Last Ten Days 

1972       Brother Sun, Sister Moon

1970       Scrooge 

1970       Cromwell

1969       ITV Saturday Night Theatre 

1967       The Comedians

1966       The Quiller Memorandum

1966       Hotel Paradiso

1965       Doctor Zhivago

1965       Situation Hopeless... But Not Serious

1964       The Fall of the Roman Empire

1962       Lawrence of Arabia

1962       H.M.S. Defiant

1961       A Majority of One

1960       Tunes of Glory 

1959       Our Man in Havana 

1959       Startime 

1959       The Scapegoat 

1958       The Horse's Mouth

1957       All at Sea

1957       The Bridge on the River Kwai

1956       The Swan

1955       The Ladykillers

1955       Baker's Dozen

1955       The Prisoner

1955       To Paris with Love 

1954       The Detective

1953       Malta Story

1953       The Captain's Paradise 

1953       The Square Mile 

1952       The Promoter

1951       The Man in the White Suit

1951       The Lavender Hill Mob

1950       The Mudlark 

1950       Last Holiday

1949       A Run for Your Money

1949       Kind Hearts and Coronets

1948       Oliver Twist

1946       Great Expectations 

1934       Evensong

Matinee Classics - Our Man in Havana starring Alec Guinness, Burl Ives, Maureen O'Hara, Ernie Kovacs, Noel Coward, Ralph Richardson, Jo Morrow, Gregoire Aslan, Paul Rogers, Raymond Huntley, Ferdy Mayne, Maurice Denham, Joseph P. Mawra, Duncan Macrae, Gerik Schjelderup, Hugh Manning, Karel Stepanek and Maxine Audley
Matinee Classics - Star Wars starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Phil Brown, Shelagh Fraser, Jack Purvis, Alex McCrindle and Eddie Byrne
Matinee Classics - The Bridge on the River Kwai starring William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, James Donald, Geoffrey Horne, Andre Morell, Peter Williams, John Boxer, Percy Herbert, Harold Goodwin, Ann Sears, Henry Okawa and Keiichiro Katsumoto
Matinee Classics - The Bridge on the River Kwai starring William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, James Donald, Geoffrey Horne, Andre Morell, Peter Williams, John Boxer, Percy Herbert, Harold Goodwin, Ann Sears, Henry Okawa and Keiichiro Katsumoto
Matinee Classics - The Captain's Paradise starring Alec Guinness, Yvonne De Carlo, Celia Johnson, Charles Goldner, Walter Crisham, Nicholas Phipps, Joyce Barbour, Ambrosine Phillpott, Miles Malleson, Bill Fraser, Ferdy Mayne, Sebastian Cabot,Peter Bull, Claudia Grey, Ann Hefferman, Arthur Gomez and George Benson

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