Alec Guinness

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

Born in London on April 2, 1914, he first worked in advertising, before making his debut at the Old Vic in 1936. During World War II, he served in the Royal Navy.

He is mainly associated with the Ealing comedies, and particularly for playing 12 parts in Kind Hearts and Coronets. Other films from this period included The Ladykillers and The Man in the White Suit.

Guinness was also a talented dramatic and character actor. His film appearances ranged from Lawrence of Arabia to The Bridge on the River Kwai (1958), for which he won an Academy Award. He was later awarded an honorary Academy Award in 1980. His part as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars brought him worldwide recognition by a new generation (and reputedly lots of money), though he was never happy with being identified with the part.

From the 1970s onwards, Guinness made regular television appearances, including the part of George Smiley in the serialisations of novels by John Le Carre.

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

Alec Guinness was appointed CBE in 1955, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1959 and became a Companion of Honour in 1994. He has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1559 Vine Street.

Sir Alec 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.

A 2003 biography of Guinness, by the author Piers Paul Read, revealed that the actor was bisexual, who 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, but avoided public scandal because the police never realised the true identity of 'Pocket' until decades later. 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.

Filmography, as actor, includes


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