Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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 was initially mainly associated with the Ealing comedies, and particularly for playing 12 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 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. 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. He would throw out any fan mail regarding Star Wars without reading it.
From the 1970s, Guinness made regular television appearances, including the part of George Smiley in the serialisations of two novels by John le Carré: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People. One of his last appearances was in the acclaimed BBC drama Eskimo Day .
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 realise 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.
- Evensong (1934)
- Great Expectations (1946)
- Oliver Twist (1948)
- Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
- A Run for Your Money (1949)
- Last Holiday (1950)
- The Mudlark (1950)
- The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
- The Man in the White Suit (1951)
- The Card (1952)
- The Square Mile (1953) (short subject) (narrator)
- Malta Story (1953)
- The Captain's Paradise (1953)
- The Detective (1954)
- The Stratford Adventure (1954) (short subject) (narrator)
- Rowlandson's England (1955) (short subject) (narrator)
- To Paris with Love (1955)
- The Prisoner (1955)
- The Ladykillers (1955)
- The Swan (1956)
- All at Sea (1957)
- The Horse's Mouth (1958) (also writer)
- Our Man in Havana (1959)
- The Scapegoat (1959)
- Tunes of Glory (1960)
- A Majority of One (1962)
- Damn the Defiant! (1962)
- Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
- The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
- Pasternak (1965) (short subject)
- Situation Hopeless... But Not Serious (1965)
- Doctor Zhivago (1965)
- Hotel Paradiso (1966)
- The Quiller Memorandum (1966)
- The Comedians in Africa (1967) (short subject)
- The Comedians (1967)
- Cromwell (1970)
- Scrooge (1970)
- Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972)
- Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973)
- Murder by Death (1976)
- Star Wars (1977)
- Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
- Raise the Titanic (1980)
- Lovesick (1983)
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
- A Passage to India (1984)
- Little Dorrit (1988)
- A Handful of Dust (1988)
- Kafka (1991)
- A Foreign Field (1993)
- Mute Witness (1994)
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