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Diary

Alan Bennett: Fresh Revelations, 20 October 1994

... these things. 21 April. A lunch party at the Connaught for John Gielgud’s 90th birthday given by Alec Guinness. John G. in an olive-green corduroy suit, elbows pressed firmly into his sides, hands clasped over his tummy, smiling and giggling and bubbling over with things to say and (except for a small fading of the voice) no different from when I first ...

Meaningless Legs

Frank Kermode: John Gielgud, 21 June 2001

Gielgud: A Theatrical Life 1904-2000 
by Jonathan Croall.
Methuen, 579 pp., £20, November 2000, 0 413 74560 0
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John G.: The Authorised Biography of John Gielgud 
by Sheridan Morley.
Hodder, 510 pp., £20, May 2001, 0 340 36803 9
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John Gielgud: An Actor’s Life 
by Gyles Brandreth.
Sutton, 196 pp., £6.99, April 2001, 0 7509 2752 6
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... a cello, an ‘unbridled oboe’, or, most spectacularly, ‘a trumpet muffled with silk’ (Alec Guinness), had not been recognised by a person who was in court on some other, unrelated business. If all this indeed happened at the height of a homophobic witch-hunt, the actor seems to have got off easily with a small fine and a routine scolding. It ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2004, 6 January 2005

... Alan was sitting in his dressing-room when there was a tentative knock on the door. It was Alec Guinness. He shook Alan’s hand, said, ‘You must be very tired,’ and left. Alan’s languid phone calls were often to do with professional humiliation. In the 1999 production of Antony and Cleopatra at Stratford the curtain rose with Antony on his ...

The Biographer’s Story

Jonathan Coe, 8 September 1994

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers 
by Roger Lewis.
Century, 817 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 7126 3801 6
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... perfunctory dismissal of Sellers in Stage People, where we were told that to compare Sellers with Alec Guinness was ‘to notice the difference between acting and mimicry’: ‘Sellers entirely lacked grace and gravitas; he was a brattish, unintelligent performer, happy only when dodging into coarse goonery.’ It seems clear enough from this that ...

Sunshine

David Goldie: Morecambe and Wise, 15 April 1999

Morecambe and Wise 
by Graham McCann.
Fourth Estate, 416 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 1 85702 735 3
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... the show because Lionel Blair was indisposed; Yehudi Menuhin was told to turn up with his banjo; Alec Guinness was mistaken for ‘Mr Wise’s’ taxi-driver; the exotic and much fêted André Previn was plain ‘Mr Preview’ – the name by which, he told McCann, he is still known to many London cab-drivers more than twenty-five years after appearing ...

Diary

Keith Thomas: Two Years a Squaddie, 5 February 2015

... I have a shameful taste for military bands and films about army life, like Tunes of Glory, with Alec Guinness and John Mills. An intense dislike of denim, which I associate with fatigues and servility, has deterred me from ever wearing jeans. I love to hear a Jamaican accent and, despite its violence and gang warfare, I still think of the island’s ...

An Easy Lay

James Davidson: Greek tragedy, 30 September 1999

Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy 
edited by Simon Goldhill and Robin Osborne.
Cambridge, 417 pp., £45, June 1997, 0 521 64247 7
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The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy 
edited by P.E. Easterling.
Cambridge, 410 pp., £14.95, October 1997, 0 521 42351 1
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Tragedy in Athens: Performance Space and Theatrical Meaning 
by David Wiles.
Cambridge, 130 pp., £13.95, August 1999, 0 521 66615 5
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... instability of identity, it may simply be that as cultural actors Athenians were much more Alec Guinness than Method school. If actors seem to have been peculiarly uncompromised by the lines they spoke, the same was not true of the poets who wrote them. A famous passage in Aristophanes shows the poet Agathon becoming womanish in order to write a ...

Albino Sea-Cucumber

Glen Newey: The Long March of Cornelius Castoriadis, 5 February 1998

The Imaginary Institution of Society 
by Cornelius Castoriadis.
Polity, 418 pp., £14.95, May 1997, 0 7456 1950 9
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Les Carrefours de Labyrinthe: Fait et a faire 
by Cornelius Castoriadis.
Seuil, 281 pp., frs 139, February 1997, 2 02 029909 7
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The Castoriadis Reader 
edited by David Ames Curtis.
Blackwell, 470 pp., £50, May 1997, 1 55786 703 8
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... when I imagine the physical appearance of Adolf Hitler is not what I imagine when I imagine Alec Guinness made up to look just like Hitler, though the visualised content may be as similar as you like. To a first approximation, the difference is made by the conditions under which a proposition representing the imagined content would be true (or ...

Smart Alec

Peter Clarke, 17 October 1996

Alec Douglas-Home 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 540 pp., £25, October 1996, 1 85619 277 6
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... Home, a Home, a Home.’ Brought up to believe that there’s no place like it, no race like it, Alec would hardly have let the family down, amid the hubbub of a leadership contest which turned the coroneted head of another contender, the once and future Lord Hailsham, by unmasking him as nothing more than a professional politician out of the chorus line in ...

Belgravia Cockney

Christopher Tayler: On being a le Carré bore, 25 January 2007

The Mission Song 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 339 pp., £17.99, September 2006, 9780340921968
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... establishment at play’. If you sit up late enough watching DVDs of the BBC adaptation starring Alec Guinness, or Martin Ritt’s version of The Spy who Came in from the Cold with Richard Burton, it’s possible to persuade yourself that le Carré might even be the greatest English novelist alive. Unfortunately, looking at his other books the next ...

Born to Lying

Theo Tait: Le Carré, 3 December 2015

John le Carré: The Biography 
by Adam Sisman.
Bloomsbury, 652 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 1 4088 2792 5
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... get John le Carré the public author: his successes, his reviews, his celebrity friendships (with Alec Guinness and Stephen Fry), his celebrity spats (with Salman Rushdie). There is little about his son from his second marriage, Nicholas (who writes as Nick Harkaway), and practically nothing about his relationships with his three sons from the first ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: A Round of Applause, 7 January 2021

... the only time I met him, in 1977. I had a play running in the West End, The Old Country, with Alec Guinness. Wordy I think it now and thin on plot, it was an account of a Foreign Office defector, now living in Soviet Russia, who is being tempted home, possibly to face the music. It had good reviews, though journalists, and even some ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2012, 3 January 2013

... the National I am ‘young man’, which reminds me that the doorman of Durrants Hotel once called Alec Guinness ‘young man’ thereby forfeiting his tip – though he might have expected to have it doubled. Our fair-haired bin man always bellows ‘ALAN’ above the noise of the rotor. ‘Still on your bike?’ I am grateful to be so generally greeted ...

Olivier Rex

Ronald Bryden, 1 September 1988

Olivier 
by Anthony Holden.
Weidenfeld, 504 pp., £16, May 1988, 0 297 79089 7
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... are written and sold in quantities that will never be rivalled by works on Gielgud, Richardson or Alec Guinness. The nearest Holden comes is to retail a story by Gawn Grainger, the actor who helped Olivier edit On Acting from taped recollections, of watching the old man strip for his daily nude swim. Grainger could not keep his eyes from the tangle of ...

Secrets are best kept by those who have no sense of humour

Alan Bennett: Why I turned down ‘Big Brother’, 2 January 2003

... How high the highest rung. 23 January. To Sotheby’s where I’m reminded of a lunch given for Alec Guinness in 1989 when I sat next to Lord Charteris, the Provost of Eton and previously the Queen’s Private Secretary. Talking of A Question of Attribution, then playing at the National, he remarked: ‘Of course, the question everybody asks is whether ...

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