Alec Guinness Poster


Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (4)  | Trade Mark (4)  | Trivia (150)  | Personal Quotes (40)  | Salary (6)

Overview (4)

Born in Marylebone, London, England, UK
Died in Midhurst, Sussex, England, UK  (liver cancer)
Birth NameAlec Guinness de Cuffe
Height 5' 9¼" (1.76 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Alec Guinness was an English actor. He is known for his six collaborations with David Lean: Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations (1946), Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948), Col. Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor), Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), General Yevgraf Zhivago in Doctor Zhivago (1965), and Professor Godbole in A Passage to India (1984).

Guinness is really most remembered for his portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas' original Star Wars trilogy for which he receive a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

In 1959, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the arts. In the 1970s, Guinness made regular television appearances in Britain, including the role of George Smiley in the serialisations of two novels by John le Carré: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) and Smiley's People (1982). In 1980 he received the Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement.

Guinness was also one of three British actors, along with Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, who made the transition from Shakespearean theatre in England to Hollywood blockbusters immediately after the Second World War.

Guinness died on 5 August 2000, from liver cancer, at Midhurst in West Sussex.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Pedro Borges

Family (4)

Spouse Merula Salaman (20 June 1938 - 5 August 2000)  (his death)  (1 child)
Children Matthew Guinness
Parents Andrew Geddes
Agnes Cuff
Relatives Sally Guinness (grandchild)
Mary Ann Benfield (grandparent)
Edward Cuff (grandparent)
Natasha Guinness-Taylor (great grandchild)

Trade Mark (4)

Known for playing multiple complex characters and changing his appearance to suit.
Often played noble and fiercely proud leaders and authority figures
Often worked with David Lean and Ronald Neame
Deep smooth voice

Trivia (150)

He was known to have a love-hate relationship with what became his most famous role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (1977). Guinness claimed that Obi-Wan's death was his idea as a means to limit his involvement in the film. Guinness was also said to throw away all Star Wars related fan mail without even opening it. Contrary to popular rumors, he did not hate working on the films. What he hated was the fact that many of the Star Wars fans only knew him as Obi-Wan Kenobi despite all the success of his previous roles. He was also frank in saying that he disliked the dialogue. Although he often spoke critically of Star Wars, the three leads, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, have always spoken very fondly of him, praising him as being a very professional actor who was always respectful to the people he worked with.
He was the father of actor Matthew Guinness and grandfather of Sally Guinness.
He was one of the last surviving members of a great generation of British actors, which included Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson.
"de Cuffe" is his mother's surname; he never knew the identity of his father (source: obituary, Daily Telegraph, 7 August 2000).
He was awarded the CH (Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour) in the 1994 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to drama.
He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1955 Queen's Birthday Honours List and Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 1959 Queen's New Years Honours List for his services to drama.
He was a huge fan of the television series Due South (1994).
Despite popular belief, he never uttered the line "May the force be with you" in any of the Star Wars films (the closest he came was "the force will be with you").
He was voted third in the Orange Film 2001 survey of greatest British film actors.
The qualities he claimed to most admire in an actor were "simplicity, purity, clarity of line".
He made his final stage appearance at the Comedy Theatre in London on May 30, 1989, in a production called "A Walk in the Woods", where he played a Russian diplomat.
His widow, Merula Salaman, died on October 17, 2000, just two months after her husband.
In his last book of memoirs, "A Positively Final Appearance", he expressed a devotion to the television series The Simpsons (1989).
Many of his films, including some of his early films, were studied by Ewan McGregor in preparation for his role as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) to ensure accuracy in everything from his accent to the pacing of his words.
He received an honorary D.Litt degree from Oxford University (1977) and an honorary D.Litt degree from Cambridge University (1991).
He was a Grammy nominee in 1964, in the Spoken Word category, for the album "Alec Guinness: A Personal Choice" (RCA Victor Red Seal: 1964), on which he read a selection of his favorite poems.
He had starred as Eric Birling alongside Sir Ralph Richardson in the first-ever showing of "An Inspector Calls" at the New Theatre in London on October 1, 1946.
He was awarded the 1989 Laurence Olivier Theatre Special Award (1988 season) for his outstanding contributions to West End Theatre.
His biography is in "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith, pg. 198-199. New York: Facts on File (1992). ISBN 0816023387.
Has been succeeded in two of his roles by actors from Trainspotting (1996). Guinness portrayed Adolf Hitler in Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973). Robert Carlyle portrayed Adolf Hitler in Hitler: The Rise of Evil (2003), while Ewan McGregor succeeded him in the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Ewan McGregor was not the only actor in the Star Wars prequels to study his performances. The voice for the character Watto was modeled after Guinness' performance as Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948).
He reportedly answered one Star Wars fan's boast that he had seen the first movie over a hundred times, with a nod and the words "Promise me you will never watch it again." The boy was stunned, but his mother thanked Guinness.
His favourite hotel in London was the Connaught, in which he always stayed whenever visiting the city.
A heavy smoker for most of his life, he finally managed to give up the habit in his last years.
One of his last jobs was providing the voice (his first and only voice-over) for a cartoon character on a British television ad campaign by the Inland Revenue advising the public about the new tax return forms which were to be introduced. He said in his diary of the recording (made on March 30, 1995) "I did it feebly".
George Lucas said Guinness was very patient and helpful to him during the filming of Star Wars (1977), even to the point of getting the other actors to work more seriously.
Harrison Ford said that Guinness helped him find an apartment to stay at when he arrived in England to film Star Wars (1977).
He won Broadway's 1964 Tony Award as Best Actor (Dramatic) for "Dylan", in which he played the title character, poet Dylan Thomas.
Both he and his wife, Merula Salaman, converted to the Roman Catholic Church in the 1950s.
Following his death, he was interred at Petersfield Cemetery in Petersfield, Hampshire, England.
He had appeared with Kay Walsh in five films: Oliver Twist (1948), Last Holiday (1950), The Horse's Mouth (1958), Tunes of Glory (1960) and Scrooge (1970).
Despite being two of Britain's most distinguished actors of their generation, he appeared in only two films with John Mills: Great Expectations (1946) and Tunes of Glory (1960).
He celebrated his 62nd birthday during the filming of Star Wars (1977) in Tunisia, where the Tatooine scenes were filmed.
He was considered for the role of Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express (1974), which went to Albert Finney.
In certain prints of The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), a film in which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, his last name is misspelled "Guiness".
In his autobiographical volumes, Guinness wrote about an incident at the Old Vic when, in the company of National Theater (which originally played at the Old Vic) artistic director Laurence Olivier in the basement of the theater, he asked where a certain tunnel went. Olivier did not really know but confidently decided to take the tunnel as it must come out somewhere nearby, it being part of the Old Vic. In reality, the tunnel went under the Thames, and they were rescued after several hours of fruitless navigation of the dark, damp corridor. Guinness remarked that Olivier's willingness to plunge into the dark and unknown was characteristic of the type of person (and actor) he was. As for himself as an actor, Guinness lamented at times that he did not take enough chances.
He went bald on top, and according to his Time magazine cover story of April 21, 1958, he was embarrassed by it but chose not to wear a hairpiece in private life. He told the Time writer that he had shaved the top of his head as a young man in his first professional acting engagement, playing a coolie. It never grew back properly after that, he lamented.
He had played the Fool to Laurence Olivier's first King Lear under the direction of Tyrone Guthrie in 1946 when he was 31 and Olivier was 39. Olivier was generally considered less-than-successful in the part due to his youth and relative lack of maturity in classical parts (though his contemporaneous "Henry V" was a smash and hinted at his future greatness as an interpreter of William Shakespeare). However, Guinness received raves for his acting. Both actors went on to knighthoods and Best Actor Oscars in their long and distinguished careers.
He was the subject of a cover story in Time magazine for the week of April 21, 1958, shortly after he won the Best Actor Oscar for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
In the last year of his life, Sir Alec had been receiving hospital treatment for failing eyesight due to glaucoma, and he had been diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer in January 2000. By the time his liver cancer was discovered in July 2000, it was at an extremely advanced stage, making surgery impossible.
He had his first speaking role on the professional stage in the melodrama "Queer Cargo" (he did not appear in the film). At age 20, the tyro actor played a Chinese coolie in the first act, a French pirate in Act 2 and a British sailor in Act 3, a foreshadowing of the shape-shifting he would do in his cinema career, where he once played as many as eight roles in a single film (Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)).
He is the only person to receive a best acting nomination in any of the Star Wars movies.
Guinness was a member of the Old Vic group organized by John Gielgud in the early 1930s, which also included, among others, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quayle and Peggy Ashcroft.
He was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute in recognition of his outstanding contribution to film culture.
He had played the role of Osric in John Gielgud's theatrical production of "Hamlet" in 1934. In Laurence Olivier's 1948 film version, this role was played by Peter Cushing, with whom Guinness appeared years later in Star Wars (1977). The film was also Cushing's first collaboration with future Star Wars cast member Christopher Lee.
While filming The Swan (1956) in Hollywood, he met James Dean, just days before the young actor's death. He later recalled predicting that Dean would die in a car crash: When he saw Dean's newly-bought Porsche, he advised him to "Get rid of that car, or you will be dead in a week!". Unfortunately, Guinness' warning was right.
According to playwright Neil Simon, Alec was reading the script for Star Wars (1977) while on set filming Murder by Death (1976) and commented that Star Wars may be a "good one".
He was the favorite actor of both David Lean and Ronald Neame. He had worked on many of both director's films.
During his service in the Royal Navy, he commanded a landing craft invading Sicily and Elba, and helped to supply soldiers in Yugoslavia.
Upon notification that he was to achieve a lifetime achievement Oscar, he was not keen but expressed thanks. He informed the Academy that there was no way he would even consider flying to California to pick up this award. Academy President Fay Kanin asked Dustin Hoffman who was doing promotional work from Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) in London, to meet with Guinness and persuade him to attend. As both men had very similar attitudes to their past work, Guinness warmed up to the idea and agreed to attend.
He was considered by producer Hal B. Wallis for the lead role in Visit to a Small Planet (1960) at the same time with Danny Kaye and Jerry Lewis, the last one eventually getting the role.
He had appeared in several of David Lean's movies. In them, he has portrayed Englishmen, an Arab, a Russian and an Indian.
He preferred working on stage to appearing in films. He also preferred appearing in newer plays rather than the classics, so that his performance would not be compared to how previous actors had played the role.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1559 Vine Street in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
Alhough knighted, he did not like being referred to as Sir Alec Guinness.
His stepfather fought in the Anglo-Irish War.
At a young age, Guinness received acting lessons from Martita Hunt, who dismissed him after two lessons, telling him he would never be an actor although lessons were resumed at a later date.
After Guinness won a two year scholarship from a dramatic academy, John Gielgud, one of the competition judges, offered him a role in his production of "Hamlet" in 1934.
His experiences with the Royal Navy involved shipping supplies to Yugoslav partisans during World War II.
He was the great-grandfather of Natasha Guinness-Taylor and Otis Guinness-Walker.
He had appeared in two Best Picture Academy Award winners: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Jack Hawkins also appeared in both films.
The book "Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography" (2003) reprints several letters that Guinness wrote to his longtime friend and correspondent Anne Kaufman Schneider in which he expressed his displeasure with and dubiousness about the quality of Star Wars (1977) as it was in production. Before filming started, he wrote: "I have been offered a movie (20th Century Fox) which I may accept, if they come up with proper money. London and North Africa, starting in mid-March. Science fiction--which gives me pause--but is to be directed by Paul [sic] Lucas who did American Graffiti, which makes me feel I should. Big part. Fairy-tale rubbish but could be interesting perhaps." Then after filming started, he wrote to Kaufman again to complain about the dialogue and describe his co-stars: "new rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wadges of pink paper--and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable. I just think, thankfully, of the lovely bread, which will help me keep going until next April. I must off to studio and work with a dwarf (very sweet--and he has to wash in a bidet) and your fellow countrymen Mark Hamill and Tennyson (that can't be right) Ford. Ellison (?--No!)--well, a rangy, languid young man who is probably intelligent and amusing. But oh God, God, they make me feel ninety--and treat me as if I was 106. Oh, [the actor's name is] Harrison Ford--ever heard of him?".
Although he played Christopher Plummer's father in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), he was only fifteen years his senior in real life.
His name is an anagram for "genuine class", a fact which was mentioned in The Simpsons: Lisa's Rival (1994).
Guinness had a 2.25% interest in the revenue from Star Wars (1977), which would be the highest grossing movie at the time (and second only to Gone with the Wind (1939) when adjusted for inflation). Guinness had agreed to a 2% interest to make the film, but he reported that just before release during a telephone conversation George Lucas had offered an additional 0.5% because of how supportive and helpful Guinness had been (with dialogue, other actors, etc.). After the release and stunning results at the box office, Guinness asked to confirm the additional 0.5% in writing, but was told it was (reduced to) 0.25%, although it is not clear who had decided this. This was revealed by Guinness in the 1977 interview with BBC's Michael Parkinson on the series "Talking Pictures". It was in general supported by many public comments by Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher all speaking highly of Guinness' professionalism and impact on the set. Apparently, Guinness did not quibble the 1977 worldwide revenue for Star Wars of $400+ million making Guinness' 2.25% probably around $9m for that year alone, with additional revenue well into 1979. In comparison, that exceeds other British actor high-water marks for Sean Connery and Roger Moore in the 1970s playing James Bond ($1m salary + $3-5m depending on revenue interests per film e.g. 5-12%).
He appeared in six films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: Great Expectations (1946), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), Star Wars (1977) and A Passage to India (1984). With the exception of Star Wars (1977), all the other five films were directed by David Lean. And of those six, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962) are winners in the category.
Although Alec Guinness and Jack Hawkins each had top billings in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), they only shared one scene together in each film. Both coincidentally near the ending of each film. Both films also won Best Picture Oscars.
His mother was Agnes Cuffe, his father believed to be Andrew Geddes, a Scottish banker, who paid for his education at Fettes College, a public school (in the British sense of a private school).
In World War II, he was in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as a sub Lieutenant then temporary Lieutenant commanding a landing craft on the invasion of Sicily and later delivering supplies to the Yugoslavian partisans.
He was supposed to play Father Collins in Ryan's Daughter (1970). Being a staunch Roman Catholic, he sent David Lean a long list of objections he had to the character's portrayal. Lean reportedly said "Thank you for being so frank" and then offered the role to Trevor Howard, who accepted.
He rigidly protected his own privacy and rarely granted interviews. Even when he did, Alec Guinness ensured beforehand that nothing was revealed about himself.
From the mid-1960s, the actor focused more on working in the theatre.
Alec Guinness took great pains to avoid who he really was, via the background from which he hailed. His working class roots and difficult childhood were the sources of his deep unhappiness.
He has appeared in five films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Star Wars (1977), Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983).
Generally regarded Lord Laurence Olivier with feelings of disdain and anger. According to Guinness' friend Simon Callow, Sir John Gielgud was very supportive of Guinness when the younger man was a struggling actor, and Olivier insinuated that their relationship was transactional, which offended Guinness deeply.
Alec Guinness commented upon John Gielgud's rigid and harsh approach whilst teaching young Guinness and other drama students during the 1930s. He stated how Gielgud was quick to lose his temper for various reasons and would chastise those responsible in front of everyone present.
Alec Guinness and fellow thespian Michael Redgrave occasionally met up with each other and held secretive conversations with each other. According to Corin Redgrave these conversations might have resembled confessionals as both men led rather complex lives.
Was reluctant to reprise his role of Obi-Wan Kenobi for cameo appearances in Star Wars Episodes V and VI. He claimed the only reason he agreed to appear was as a favor to George Lucas.
In his volume "Blessings in Disguise", the actor confessed to harboring feelings of loathing and hatred toward his violent-tempered stepfather. The two of them never get on and Guinness would flee in terror at the very sight of him.
Out of the five films he made with David Lean, Alec Guinness regarded their first two collaborations as being by far their most harmonious. Afterwards, the threat of confrontation between the two was always on the horizon on later films.
Much preferred working with Ronald Neame than David Lean.
Close colleagues have described Alec Guinness as being "a fundamentally unhappy man" and was often plagued by his own inner demons throughout his life.
Guinness' official biographer Piers Paul Read came under some criticism when his biography of the actor was published.
The comedian Stan Laurel was a huge idol of Sir Alec Guinness.
During his early days as a theatre actor, Guinness would cringe with embarrassment at the sight of his mother paying him a visit and requesting money from him. She was usually drunk on these occasions.
Having had his acting training interrupted by the second world war, Alec Guinness made up for lost time once he was discharged from the Royal Navy. He was soon cast in a series of Shakespearian roles, usually to critical acclaim.
During a performance of the play "Wise Child" by Simon Gray, members of the audience left the theatre as a means of protest regarding Alec Guinness appearing in drag.
Had a job as an office clerk before embarking upon a career as an actor.
Along with his wife Merula, he enjoyed experiencing the various customs and traditions of different countries.
Confessed to having no ambition toward achieving "film star" status.
Not long before he passed away, Sir Alec Guinness gave clear instructions for his diaries to be destroyed.
During a time when he was in hospital, Guinness was visited by fellow actor Sir Ralph Richardson. Being typically eccentric, Richardson was described as entering Guinness' room on his knees and pushing along a book cart. This was mentioned in the volume "Blessings in Disguise".
Claimed that as a child, he and his mother moved around England over a dozen times.
Maintained contact with another acting tutor, Martita Hunt. The last time they met up was in 1970, not long before the actress passed away.
Is one of the biggest idols of fellow actor Mark Hamill.
Until the late 1970s, his appearances on television had been limited.
As an actor, Alec Guinness didn't believe in the idea of making sequels.
Describing himself as "a social thief", Guinness was referring to his days as a young man when he began to adapt himself into someone resembling that of the so-called upper classes. Once, when asked what his best performance was, he said it had been during his service with the Royal Navy, "pretending to be an officer and a gentleman".
From their home in the deep countryside, Alec and Merula Guinness used to enjoy hearing the chiming of the nearby village church bells.
Never forgot the first time he went to the theatre as a child (the actor long forgot the name of the production). Young Guinness was fascinated by what he saw and eventually was able to talk with members of the cast afterwards.
According to official biographer Piers Paul Read, after the passing of Guinness' mother at a nursing home, the actor celebrated by opening a bottle of champagne.
After making their one and only film together, Sir Alec Guinness stayed in touch with Grace Kelly until her death on September 14, 1982.
Had fairly high hopes about working opposite Hollywood legend Bette Davis in The Scapegoat (1959). However when that time came, Alec Guinness admitted to feeling disappointed and ended up disliking Davis.
Was always remarked upon for his sheer professionalism and preparation.
For the first several years of his life, Alec Guinness claimed that he had no idea what his real name was.
Stayed in touch on occasion with "Star Wars" co-stars Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.
On the occasions when he would stay at the Connaught hotel in London, the actor requested that no member of staff (including the hotel manager) refer to him by his name. This was done to protect his privacy.
Sir Alec Guinness said how he make his way along public streets and not easily be recognized. This was likely due to the fact that the actor never wore a hairpiece in his personal life, along with no actors make up.
For a time during his childhood, he was known as Alec Stiven - a surname he liked.
An actor whom Guinness greatly admired was Charles Laughton.
Andrew Geddes - the man introduced as Guinness' uncle - left the young Alec and his mother a monthly allowance. This lasted until Guinness reached early stages of adulthood.
When Guinness served in the Royal Navy as a captain during the second world war, he admitted many years later to harboring strong feelings of affection toward his own sailors.
Initially, the Salaman family objected to their daughter Merula getting married to Alec Guinness. However, when they heard that Guinness was more or less a "Billy Chappell", the family relented slightly.
Guinness was destitute when he arrived London during the early 1930s. According to his volume "Blessings in Disguise", he managed to sustain himself by consuming buns and tea.
Admitted to feeling somewhat surprised when approached to reprise his role of Herbert Pocket for the film version of Great Expectations (1946) after having performed in the theatre adaptation.
His great-grandson is the professional footballer Nesta Guinness-Walker.
His son had polio as a boy but fully recovered from the condition.
Had an ordinary office job before deciding on an acting career.
It was rare for the actor to discuss any of his films, once they had been made.
Before he converted to Catholicism, the actor spent some time in a monastery so as to experience the typical routines of practicing Catholics.
Described Tyrone Guthrie's approach to teaching drama students as being the opposite of John Gielgud. Alec Guinness thought Guthrie was a natural at communicating with the younger generation and in allowing a certain amount of flexibility.
Recorded three volumes of readings from his different sets of memoirs.
Disliked being approached for his autograph, as he felt his privacy was intruded upon.
It has been suggested that the character of master-spy George Smiley is the one which resembles Alec Guinness the most.
Even among his circle of close companions, the actor wasn't one for displaying much in the way of intimacy. Those who claimed to have known Alec Guinness the most, would say that he had an inner core within himself which was impenetrable.
During his time at boarding school, the future actor would keep his fellow classmates entertained with stories that were acted out by him.
His performance as Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948) inspired John Hurt in becoming an actor.
The root of the actor's unhappiness, was said to have been caused by not knowing who his real father was.
Had elocution lessons as a child.
When discovering Sir Ian McKellen was gay, Sir Alec Guinness strongly advised him not to go public about McKellen's sexuality.
First developed an interest in acting as a child, after being taken to a few pantomime shows.
During the brief period he worked as an office clerk, Guinness was greeted with ridicule when he mentioned his ambition to become an actor.
In his volume "Blessings in Disguise", Guinness described in detail some of the dangers he encountered whilst in the Royal Navy during World War II.
Playing the role of Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948) was probably the most arduous in the actor's career. Guinness usually arrived for work at about 4:30 a.m and often didn't finish until approximately 9 p.m.
His acting career began when he signed on with Fay Compton in 1934.
During his honeymoon, he and his wife Merula were invited to stay at John Gielgud's cottage in Essex. This partly compensated for the disastrous time they had in Ireland.
Was the inspiration for Sir John Hurt to take up acting.
As an actor, he usually felt most satisfied during rehearsals for a play.
Sought inspiration for his performances by observing the general public, via their body language, mannerisms etc.
During his time at school, Alec Guinness used to put on different voices in front of his classmates in the dormitories.
When in Hollywood making The Swan (1956), he was an honored guest at a party hosted by John Wayne.
In his volume "Blessings in Disguise", Guinness recalled many of his early acting experiences and of the people he encountered.
Won the "Kansas City Film Critics Circle" Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Comedians (1967).
Reacted with anger when Garry O'Connor's biography of him ("Master of Disguise") was published in 1994. Guinness apparently destroyed the copy given to him.
Along with his wife Merula, the actor was thought to have liberal-minded views and ideals.
In WWII he was in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as a sub Lieutenant then temporary Lieutenant commanding a landing craft on the invasion of Sicily and later delivering supplies to the Yugoslavian partisans.
He worked at an advertising copy writer before becoming a drama student during which time he was a walk on in Libel at the Old Kings Theatre, Hammersmith then promoted to an understudy when it transferred to the Playhouse.
He was a great admirer of the comedian Stan Laurel.
His wife of 62 years, Merula Salaman, passed away just two and a half months after he did. They were both 86.
In his autobiography 'My Name Escapes Me', states that Pierre Fresnay was his favorite actor.

Personal Quotes (40)

[on how much he disliked working on Star Wars (1977) and his attempts to encourage George Lucas to kill off Obi-Wan Kenobi] And he agreed with me. What I didn't tell him was that I just couldn't go on speaking those bloody awful, banal lines. I'd had enough of the mumbo jumbo.
I shrivel up every time someone mentions Star Wars (1977) to me.
Failure has a thousand explanations. Success doesn't need one.
We live in an age of apologies. Apologies, false or true, are expected from the descendants of empire builders, slave owners, persecutors of heretics and from men who, in our eyes, just got it all wrong. So with the age of 85 coming up shortly, I want to make an apology. It appears I must apologize for being male, white and European.
[in 1985 to The Guardian newspaper, on what he intends to do by the end of his life] A kind of little bow, tied on life. And I can see myself drifting off into eternity, or nothing, or whatever it may be, with all sorts of bits of loose string hanging out of my pocket. Why didn't I say this or do that, or why didn't I reconcile myself with someone? Or make sure that someone whom I like was all right in every way, either financially or, I don't know...
[replying to a writer whose script he rejected, who sent him a note saying "We tailored it just for you"] But no one came to take measurements.
I gave my best performances during the war, trying to be an officer and a gentleman.
I prefer full-length camera shots because the body can act better than the face.
I don't know what else I could do but pretend to be an actor.
Once I've done a film, it's finished. I never look at it again.
Getting to the theater on the early side, usually about seven o'clock, changing into a dressing-gown, applying make-up, having a chat for a few minutes with other actors and then, quite unconsciously, beginning to assume another personality which would stay with me (but mostly tucked inside) until curtain down, was all I required of life. I thought it bliss.
An actor is an interpreter of other men's words, often a soul which wishes to reveal itself to the world but dare not, a craftsman, a bag of tricks, a vanity bag, a cool observer of mankind, a child and at his best a kind of unfrocked priest who, for an hour or two, can call on heaven and hell to mesmerize a group of innocents.
Personally, I have only one great regret - that I never *dared* enough. If at all.
[To a group of reporters upon winning his Academy Award in 1958]: No doorstop shenanigans for me, boys. I have a nice mantel where I'm going to display it.
[during filming of Star Wars (1977)]: Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young.
[on media reports of his income from the Star Wars films]: The Times reports I've made £4.5 million in the past year. Where do they get such nonsense?
[on the performances in Star Wars (1977)]: The only really disappointing performance was Anthony Daniels as the robot - fidgety and over-elaborately spoken. Not that any of the cast can stand up to the mechanical things around them.
[while considering doing Star Wars (1977)]: Science fiction - which gives me pause - but it is to be directed by George Lucas, who did American Graffiti (1973), which makes me think I should. Big part. Fairytale rubbish, but could be interesting.
[on his first lunch meeting with George Lucas]: I liked him. The conversation was divided culturally by 8,000 miles and 30 years; but I think we might understand each other if I can get past his intensity.
The stage was my prime interest. I had no ambition to be a film actor, and a screen career seemed unlikely to come my way. I'd done a stage adaption of "Great Expectations" before the war and this had been seen by David Lean and Ronald Neame. I went into the navy during the war, and when I came out they were preparing their film [Great Expectations (1946)]. They remembered my performance on the stage and asked me if I'd go into their film as Herbert Pocket. I'd thought of film as a much greater mystery than the theater and I felt a need to begin in films with a character I knew something about.
[on The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)]: The original script was ridiculous, with elephant charges and girls screaming round in the jungle. When David Lean arrived, with a new screenwriter, it became a very different thing. I saw Nicholson as an effective part, without ever really believing in the character. However, it paid off; it was a huge success and I got an Oscar for it, though I don't think it made an enormous difference in my career.
Essentially I'm a small part actor who's been lucky enough to play leading roles for most of his life.
Flamboyance doesn't suit me. I enjoy being elusive.
I am always ashamed of the slowness of my reading. I think it stems from the fact that when I come across dialogue in a novel, I can't resist treating it as the text of a play and acting it out, with significant pauses and all.
[on Laurence Olivier after the death of the only acting peer of the realm] Olivier made me laugh more as an actor [in eccentric comedy parts] more than anyone else. In my case, I love him in comedy and am not always sure about him in tragedy.
[his diary entry after viewing Star Wars (1977) for the first time] It's a pretty staggering film as spectacle and technically brilliant. Exciting, very noisy and warmhearted. The battle scenes at the end go on for five minutes too long, I feel, and some of the dialogue is excruciating and much of it is lost in noise, but it remains a vivid experience.
An actor is at his best a kind of unfrocked priest who, for an hour or two, can call on heaven and hell to mesmerize a group of innocents.
An actor is totally vulnerable. His total personality is exposed to critical judgment - his intellect, his bearing, his diction, his whole appearance. In short, his ego.
[Asked if he was a rich man]: No, not rich. Compared to striking miners and workless actors very rich: compared to successful stockbrokers and businessmen I expect I would be considered nearly poor.
[Asked if Star Wars (1977) had made him a fortune]: Yes, blessed be Star Wars. But two-thirds of that went to the Inland Revenue and a sizable sum on VAT. No complaints. Let me leave it by saying I can live for the rest of my life in the reasonably modest way I am now used to, that I have no debts and I can afford to refuse work that doesn't appeal to me.
[on Star Wars (1977)]: When it came to me in script form, I was in Hollywood on the last day of another movie and I heard it was a script by George Lucas, well that meant something; you know, American Graffiti (1973), this is a new generation, lovely. And then I opened it and saw it was science fiction and groaned, I thought "oh no, they've got the wrong man." I started to read it and I thought some of the dialogue was rather creaky, but I kept turning the pages, I wanted to know what happened next. Then I met George Lucas, fell for him, I thought he was a man of enormous integrity and bright and interesting, and I found myself involved and thank God I did.
[on winning the Best Actor award for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)] No doorstop shenanigans for me. I'll put the Oscar on my mantel, which I realize makes very dull copy, except that I'll put a mirror on the mantel so that I'll get a view of Oscar's back too.
I can walk through a crowd and nobody would notice at all.
[on Star Wars (1977)] Can't say I'm enjoying the film. New rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wadges of pink paper - and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable. I just think, thankfully, of the lovely bread, which will help me to keep going until next April.
[on playing Gulley Jimson in The Horse's Mouth (1958)] I try to get inside a character and project him - one of my own private rules of thumb is that I have not got the character until I have mastered exactly how he walks.
[One day, director Ronald Neame found Guinness sulking in his dressing room, refusing to come to the set. According to Neame, Guinness felt he had not been stroked enough and explained] Actors are emotionally 14-year olds. We need to be chastised like children, and we need to be hugged and told we're doing fine work. We are the children who never grow up.
[1987, on being referred to as "the Man of a Thousand Faces"] Oh, that was a publicity stunt which has dogged me all... well not all my life...but for so many years.
My birth certificate registers me as Alec Guinness de Cuffe. My mother at the time was a Miss Agnes Cuffe; my father's name is left an intriguing, speculative blank. When I was five years old my mother married an Army captain, a Scot named David Stiven, and from then until I left preparatory school I was known as Alec Stiven (a name I rather liked, although I hated and dreaded my stepfather).
[1982, on the "Star Wars" movies] They're not really much fun to act in, not when you're put totally in the hands of technicians and asked to sit in a cylinder and imagine explosions. That's only amusing for a time. But the people couldn't have been nicer.
Actually, my boarding school days were very happy. When I was 5, my mother married . . . someone, and they wanted to go off, so I was sort of pushed off to boarding school, but it became the most solid part of my life. There were the same boys, term in and term out, and in fact it was the holidays that were never stable. I never knew in what hotel, in what town, I would find my mother.

Salary (6)

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) £6,000
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) £6,000
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) $150,000
Star Wars (1977) $150,000 + 2 1/4% of profits
Raise the Titanic (1980) £45,000
Little Dorrit (1987) £180,000

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