Pages

20 February 2017

Greta Nissen

Norwegian-American Greta Nissen (1906–1988) was a blonde bombshell, who appeared in more than 30 films in Denmark, the United States and England. Unfortunately she is now most famous for a role which was re-shot with another actress.

Greta Nissen
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 878. Photo: Paramount-Film.

Greta Nissen
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3071/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Paramount / FaNaMet.

Greta Nissen
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3081/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Max Munn Autrey / Fox.

Greta Nissen
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3173/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Max Munn Autrey / Fox.

Greta Nissen
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3575/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Fox.

Greta Nissen
Dutch Postcard, no. 458. Photo: Hal Payfe / Fox Film.

Pat & Patachon


Grethe Rüzt-Nissen was born in Oslo, Norway, in 1906 (some sources say 1905). She was the daughter of Carl Andreas Frantz Nissen and Agnes Magdalene Larsen. After her parents divorced, her mother took her to Copenhagen, Denmark,

In 1911, her mother managed to get Grethe as a student at the Det Kongelige Teater's (Royal Theater) student school, after having 'made' her a year older. Grethe made her stage début as a member of the corps de ballet at the Royal Theater.

Some years later, when the famous choreographer and dancer Mikhail Fokin (or Michel Fokine) came to Denmark after the Russian Revolution, he invited her to come to Paris and she studied with him from 1918 to 1919. In 1922 she performed a series of acclaimed Fokine evenings in Norway.

Grethe made her screen début in the Danish comedies Daarskab, Dyd og Driverter/Folly, Virtue and Idler (Lau Lauritzen, 1924) followed by Lille Lise let-paa-taa/The Little Dancer (Lau Lauritzen, 1924), two vehicles for the comedy team of Fy og Bi (aka Pat & Patachon). These two comedies would be her only films in Scandinavia.

In 1924 she went to New York with a Danish ballet troupe, and there the blonde looker received an offer to appear on Broadway in George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly's lavish revue Beggar on Horseback. She changed her name to Greta Nissen. Later she worked for the famed Flo Ziegfield in the 1926 production of No Foolin'.

Only 19 years old, she was discovered by Jesse L. Lasky of Paramount Pictures, who signed her to a contract. Making her American screen debut as Greta Nissen in In the Name of Love (Howard Higgin, 1925) with Ricardo Cortez and Wallace Beery, Nissen was singled out by critic Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times, who found her 'an appealing and clever actress with a striking personality'.

Greta Nissen
Swedish postcard by Eneret Mittet & Co, no. 13.Collection: Didier Hanson.

Greta Nissen in Lost: A Wife (1925)
Italian postcard, no. 452. Photo: Films Paramount. Publicity still for Lost: A Wife (William C. de Mille, 1925).

Greta Nissen and William Collier in The Wanderer (1925)
Italian postcard by Casa Editrice Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze (Florence), no. 458. Photo: SAI Filmo Paramount, Roma. Publicity still for The Wanderer (Raoul Walsh, 1925). Collection: Didier Hanson.

Greta Nissen
Italian postcard by Casa Editrice Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze (Florence), no. 740. Photo: SAI Filmo Paramount, Roma. Publicity still for The Wanderer (Raoul Walsh, 1925).

Greta Nissen
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 358/1. Photo: Paramount-Film.

Hell's Angels


Greta Nissen played in several sophisticated comedies with Adolphe Menjou like The Wanderer (Raoul Walsh, 1925) also with William Collier and Blonde or Brunette (Richard Rosson, 1927).

She became an exotic seductress in such costume extravaganzas as The Lady of the Harem (Raoul Walsh, 1926) and Fazil (Howard Hawks, 1928) opposite Charles Farrell.

MGM, meanwhile, borrowed her for The Love Thief (John McDermott, 1926), to replace Greta Garbo. Among her other successful potboilers were Lost: A Wife (William C. de Mille, 1925), The Lucky Lady (Raoul Walsh, 1926) and The Popular Sin (Malcolm St. Clair, 1926).

In 1927 Nissen was the original choice as the leading lady of Hell's Angels (1930), Howard Hughes’ stunt-flying extravaganza set during World War I. This epic film could have made her a major contender.

Filming was well under way when it was decided that the film would be remade with sound. Unfortunately Greta was replaced because of her heavy Norwegian accent. Nissen had made $2500 a week when filming Hell's Angels and her replacement, Jean Harlow, worked for only $250. The film shot Harlow to stardom and Nissen lost much work due to the advent of sound films.

Greta Nissen
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1760/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Parufamet.

Greta Nissen
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1829/2, 1927-1928. Photo: Parufamet.

Greta Nissen
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3575/2, 1928-1929. Photo: Autrey / Fox.

Greta Nissen
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5824/2, 1930-1931. Photo: Fox.

Greta Nissen and Charles Farrell in Fazil (1928)
British postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3917/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Fox. Publicity still for Fazil (Howard Hawks, 1928).

B-films and Quota Quickies


Rebounding somewhat with a contract from Fox, Greta Nissen eventually proved that her accent could easily have been turned into an asset, but the fall-out from the Hell's Angels debacle followed her for the remainder of her film career.

She starred or co-starred in a series of B-films which included the lame Women of All Nations (Raoul Walsh, 1931), the Will Rogers comedy Ambassador Bill (Sam Taylor, 1931), the mystery drama The Circus Queen Murder (Roy William Neill, 1933) again opposite Adolphe Menjou, and the George O'Brien western Life in the Raw (Louis King, 1933).

In 1933 she moved to England where she appeared in a few ‘quota quickies’, including On Secret Service (Arthur B. Woods, 1933) and Honours Easy (Herbert Brenon, 1935) with Margaret Lockwood.

In 1934 she also appeared at the Palace Theatre in London in the original version of Agnes de Mille's ballet Three Virgins and a Devil, performed in the revue Why Not Tonight? After the spy film Cafe Colette (Paul L. Stein, 1937) she retired, and returned to the US.

Divorced from former Fox contract star Weldon Heyburn, Nissen married in 1941 industrialist Stuart Eckert and she lived quietly in California. Greta Nissen died at home in Montecito, California of Parkinson's disease in 1988. She was 82. Her husband said she still received fan letters. Greta had one son, Tor Bruce Nissen Eckert, who in 2005 gave his large collection of Greta Nissen Memorabilia to the Norwegian Emigrant Museum in Ottestad, Norway.

Greta Nissen
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5035. Photo: Autrey / Fox.

Greta Nissen
Austrian postcard by Iris-Verlag, no. 5037. Photo: Autrey / Fox.

Greta Nissen
British postcard in the Colourgraph Series, London, no. C 184. Photo: Fox.

Greta Nissen
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. 264.

Greta Nissen
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. 264b.

Sources: Hans Otto Christian Arent (Store Norske Lexikon - Norwegian), Hans J. Wollstein (AllMovie), Denny Jackson (IMDb), Allure, Pat M. Ryan (Dance Chronicle), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Wikipedia and IMDb.

19 February 2017

Imported from the USA: Baby Peggy

Diana Serra Cary (1918), best known as Baby Peggy, was one of the three major American child stars of the Hollywood silent movie era along with Jackie Coogan and Baby Marie. However, by the age of 8, her career was finished. She is now the last living star of the silent film era.

Baby Peggy
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 550/2, 1919-1924. Photo: Unifilman.

Baby Peggy
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, Paris, no. 161.

Baby Peggy
French postcard in Les Vedettes de Cinema series by A.N., Paris, no. 47. Photo: Universal Film.

The Million Dollar Baby


Diana Serra Cary was born in 1918, in San Diego, California, as Peggy-Jean Montgomery, She was the second daughter of Marian (née Baxter) and Jack Montgomery. Her family soon moved to Los Angeles so that her father, Jack, an aspiring cowboy, could find stunt work in Western pictures. He supported himself as Tom Mix's double, but never achieved the rugged stardom he yearned for himself.

Baby Peggy was 'discovered' at the age of 19 months, when she visited Century Studios on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood with her mother and a film-extra friend. Peggy had an unusually expressive face, matched with a distinctive bob haircut with short bangs.

Impressed by Peggy's well-behaved demeanour and willingness to follow directions from her father, director Fred Fishback (a.k.a. Fred Hibbard) hired her to appear in a series of short films with Century's canine star, the terrier Brownie the Wonder Dog.

The first film, Playmates (Fred Hibbard, 1921), was a success, and Peggy was signed to a long-term contract with Century Studios. Between 1921 and 1923 she made over 150 short comedies for Century. She appeared in film adaptations of novels and fairy tales, such as Hansel and Gretel (Alfred J. Goulding, 1923) and Jack and the Beanstalk (Alfred J. Goulding, 1924), contemporary comedies, and a few full-length films.

Many of Baby Peggy's popular comedies were parodies of films that grown-up stars had made, and she imitated such legends as Rudolph Valentino, Pola Negri, Mary Pickford and Mae Murray. Film historian David Robinson, cited in the Hollywood Reporter: "She wasn't the first child star, (that would be the infant in Louis Lumiere's Repas de bébé/Baby's Dinner (1895)), but she was a naturally gifted comic, a very effective mimic, with a very distinctive personality and a great sense of grown-up mannerisms and affectations."

In 1922, the 4-year-old Baby Peggy received 1.2 million fan letters and by 1924 she had been dubbed 'The Million Dollar Baby' for her $1.5 million a year salary. She was an obsession for millions of Americans who bought Baby Peggy dolls, jewelry, sheet music, even brands of milk.

In 1923, Peggy began working for Universal Studios, appearing in full-length dramatic films. Among her works from this era were The Darling of New York (King Baggot, 1923), and the first screen adaptation of Captain January (Edward F. Cline, 1924). In line with her status as a star, Peggy's Universal films were produced and marketed as Universal Jewels, the studio's most prestigious and most expensive classification. During this time she also played in Helen's Babies (William A. Seiter, 1924) which featured a young Clara Bow.

Baby Peggy
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin no. 967/2 Photo: Filmhaus Bruckmann.

Baby Peggy
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, Paris, no. 235.

Baby Peggy
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin no. 967/1, 1925-1926. Photo: Filmhaus Bruckmann.

A Poor Extra


Baby Peggy's film career abruptly ended in 1925 when her father had a falling out with producer Sol Lesser over her salary and cancelled her contract. She found herself essentially blacklisted and was able to land only one more part in silent films, a minor role in the April Fool (Nat Ross, 1926). She was forced to turn to the vaudeville circuit for survival.

Despite her childhood fame and wealth, she found herself poor and working as an extra by the 1930s. Her parents had handled all of the finances; and money was spent on expensive cars, homes, and clothing. Nothing was set aside for the welfare or education of Peggy or her sister. Through reckless spending and corrupt business partners of her father, her entire fortune was gone before she hit puberty.

A Hollywood comeback in the early 1930s as Peggy Montgomery was short-lived. She loathed screen work and retired after appearing as an extra in the Ginger Rodgers comedy Having Wonderful Time (Alfred Santell, 1938). Peggy married bar tender Gordon Ayres whom she met on the set of Ah, Wilderness! (Clarence Brown, 1935). A few years later, she adopted the name Diana Ayres in an effort to distance herself from the Baby Peggy image. The couple divorced in 1948. In 1954, she married graphic artist Robert 'Bob' Cary and they had one son, Mark (1961).

Having an interest in both writing and history since her youth, Peggy found a second career as an author and silent film historian in her later years under the name Diana Serra Cary. She wrote an autobiography of her life as a child star, What Ever Happened to Baby Peggy: The Autobiography of Hollywood's Pioneer Child Star, and a biography of her contemporary and rival, Jackie Coogan: The World's Boy King: A Biography of Hollywood's Legendary Child Star.

Only a handful of Baby Peggy shorts, including Playmates (Fred Hibbard, 1921), Miles of Smiles (Alfred J. Goulding, 1923) and Sweetie (Alfred J. Goulding, 1923) have been discovered and preserved in film archives around the world. Century Studios burned down in 1926. Only the full-length films The Family Secret (William A. Seiter, 1924),  Captain January (Edward F. Cline, 1924), Helen's Babies (William A. Seiter, 1924) with Edward Everett Horton, and April Fool (Nat Ross, 1926) have survived. In 2016, it was announced that her lost film Our Pet (Herman C. Raymaker, 1924) was found in Japan by silent film collector Ichiro Kataoka.

Diana Serra Cary herself is one of the few surviving actors of the silent film era. In 2015, she returned to the screen in the short Western Broncho Billy and the Bandit's Secret (David Kiehn, 2015), a tribute to Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson, the first cowboy star, who made Westerns for the Essanay Film Company. Cary played 'the Movie Star'.

Baby Peggy
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin no. 560/1, 1919-1924. Photo: Ivans Studio, Los Angeles / Unfilman.

Baby Peggy
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin no. 550/3, 1919-1924. Photo: Unfilman.

Sources: Chris Gardner (The Hollywood Reporter), Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

18 February 2017

Alec Guinness

English actor Sir Alec Guinness (1914–2000) was one of the most versatile and subtle actors of his time, in the cinema and on television no less than on the stage. He was master of disguise in several of the classic Ealing Comedies, including Kind Hearts and Coronets in which he played eight different characters. He later won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai, and he is probably even better known for playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy.

Alec Guinness in The Ladykillers (1955)
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg-Bergedorf, no. D 2367. Photos: J. Arthur Rank-Film. Publicity stills for The Ladykillers (Alexander Mackendrick, 1955).

Alec Guinness
Mexican collector's card, no. 338. Photo: London Films.

Alec Guinness in Star Wars (1977)
British autograph card. Photo; publicity still for Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977).

Violent, shell-shocked veteran


Alec Guinness was born as Alec Guinness de Cuffe in London in 1914. His mother's maiden name was Agnes Cuff. On Guinness's birth certificate, the space for the mother's name shows Agnes de Cuffe. The space for the infant's name (where first names only are given) says Alec Guinness. The column for name and surname of the father is blank.

It has been frequently speculated that the actor's father was a member of the Irish Guinness family. However, it was an elder Scottish banker, Andrew Geddes, who paid for Guinness's private school education. From 1875, under English law, when the birth of an illegitimate child was registered, the father's name could only be entered on the certificate if he were present and gave his consent.

At five Alec became Alec Stiven, as a consequence of his mother's three-year marriage to Scottish army captain David Stiven, a violent, shell-shocked veteran of the Irish War of Independence. To persuade Alec's mother to submit to his demands, the captain was given to holding a loaded revolver to the boy's head, or hanging him upside down from a bridge.

It was a relief when, at six, Alec was sent away to a prep school, the fees being at least partly paid by Andrew Geddes. At school he directed performances of The Pirates of Penzance and Silas Marner. Later while working as a junior copywriter in an advertising agency, he studied at the Fay Compton Studio of Dramatic Art.

In 1934, he made his stage debut and in 1936, at the age of 22, he played the role of Osric in John Gielgud's successful production of Hamlet. With the Old Vic he starred in plays by William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, and Anton Chekhov, and worked with actors and actresses who would become his friends and frequent co-stars in the future, including John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Anthony Quayle, and Jack Hawkins.

In 1938, he starred in a famous modern dress production of Hamlet which won him acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. He also appeared as Romeo in a production of Romeo and Juliet (1939), as Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night and as Exeter in Henry V in 1937, both opposite Laurence Olivier, and as Ferdinand in The Tempest, opposite Gielgud as Prospero. In 1939, he adapted Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations for the stage, playing the part of Herbert Pocket. The play was a success.

In World War II, Guinness served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve first serving 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.

In 1946, he returned to the Old Vic and stayed until 1948, playing Abel Drugger in Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, the Fool in King Lear opposite Laurence Olivier in the title role, DeGuiche in Cyrano de Bergerac opposite Ralph Richardson in the title role, and finally starring in an Old Vic production as Shakespeare's Richard II.

After leaving the Old Vic, he played Eric Birling in J. B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls at the New Theatre in October 1946. He played the Uninvited Guest in the Broadway production of T. S. Eliot's The Cocktail Party (1950, revived at the Edinburgh Festival in 1968). His third attempt at the title role of Hamlet, this time under his own direction at the New Theatre (1951), proved a major theatrical disaster.

Alec Guinness
British autograph card.

Alec Guinness
British postcard in the Film Star Autograph Portrait Series by L.D. LTD., London, no. 53.

Alec Guinness
Italian postcard by Alterocca, Terni, no. 49454.

One of the great acting knights of the century


At British Pictures, David Absalom writes: “Alec Guinness was one of the great acting knights of the century. His reputation is sometimes overshadowed by that of the great triumvirate of Olivier, Gielgud and Richardson and it is true that his theatre work is slightly less distinguished than that of the big three, but when it comes to film acting, he far outstrips them.”

 Beyond an extra part in Evensong (Victor Saville, 1934) with Evelyn Laye, Guinness’ film career began after World War II with the small but memorable role of Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations (David Lean, 1946) starring John Mills.

Guinness and director David Lean would continue to work on acclaimed films together. Guinness appeared as a repulsive Fagin in Oliver Twist (David Lean, 1948), what was widely criticised for being a Jewish stereotype. Lean later gave him a starring role as the insanely uncompromising Colonel Nicholson opposite William Holden in The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957). For this performance Guinness won an Academy Award.

Despite a difficult and often hostile relationship, Lean, referring to Guinness as ‘my good luck charm’, continued to cast Guinness in character roles in his later films: Arab leader Prince Feisal in Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962), the title character's half-brother, Bolshevik leader Yevgraf, in Doctor Zhivago (David Lean, 1965), and Indian mystic Godbole in A Passage to India (David Lean, 1984). He was also offered a role in Ryan's Daughter (David Lean, 1970), but declined.

Initially Guinness was associated mainly with the Ealing comedies that made him one of the great character stars of British films. His virtuosity as a master of disguise reached a peak in Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949), when he played all eight members of the D'Ascoyne family whom Dennis Price bumped off on his way to the Dukedom of Chalfont.

Other memorable roles in Ealing classics include the mild and underpaid bank clerk who plots the perfect robbery in The Lavender Hill Mob (Charles Crichton, 1951), an inventor who, to the consternation of management and the unions, invents a fabric that never gets dirty and never wears out in The Man in the White Suit (Alexander Mackendrick, 1951), and the unctuous, snaggle-toothed leader of a gang of incompetent burglars in the last great Ealing Comedy, The Ladykillers (Alexander Mackendrick, 1955).

Director Ronald Neame cast Guinness in his first romantic lead role, opposite Petula Clark in The Card (Ronald Neame, 1952). His conversion to Roman Catholicism followed the shooting of Father Brown (Robert Hamer, 1954) in which he played G.K. Chesterton's cheery parish priest. The film was shot in Burgundy. Between takes Guinness, wandering about the local village in his clerical fig, found himself taken by the hand and subjected to the prattle of a local boy, who imagined he was a genuine priest. The confidence which the Church inspired in the child made a profound impression. Guinness became a Roman Catholic in 1956.

Other notable film roles of this period included the part of the Crown Prince in The Swan (Charles Vidor, 1956) starring Grace Kelly, in her second to last film role, and The Horse's Mouth (Ronald Neame, 1958) in which Guinness played the part of drunken painter Gulley Jimson as well as contributing the screenplay, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.

He was a vacuum cleaner salesman enlisted into the secret service by Noel Coward in Our Man in Havana (Carol Reed, 1959), Marcus Aurelius in The Fall of the Roman Empire (Anthony Mann, 1964) starring Sophia Loren, Jacob Marley's Ghost in Scrooge (Ronald Neame, 1970) opposite Albert Finney, and Charles I of England in Cromwell (Ken Hughes, 1970) featuring Richard Harris.

He considered the title role in Hitler: The Last Ten Days (Ennio De Concini, 1973) as his best film performance, though critics disagreed. The Telegraph commented in its obituary: “Guinness, having discovered through his usual assiduous research that Hitler was a boring man, unfortunately succeeded brilliantly in bringing this interpretation to the screen.” Guinness won a Tony Award for his Broadway performance as poet Dylan Thomas in Dylan. He next played the title role in Macbeth opposite Simone Signoret at the Royal Court Theatre in 1966, a conspicuous failure.

Alec Guinness
Italian postcard by Bromofoto, Milano (Milan), no. 1291. Photo: Rank. Publicity still for To Paris with Love (Robert Hamer, 1955).

Alec Guinness
Italian postcard by Bromofoto, Milano (Milan), no. 1500. Photo: Dear Film. Publicity still for The Horse's Mouth (Ronald Neame, 1958).

Alec Guinness in The Horse's Mouth (1958)
Italian postcard by B.F.F. Edit., no. 3686. Photo: Dear Film. Publicity still for The Horse's Mouth (Ronald Neame, 1958).

Enigmatic Master Spy


From the 1970s, Alec Guinness made regular television appearances. He was perfect as the enigmatic master spy George Smiley in the two television series adapted from John Le Carré's novels, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (John Irvin, 1979) and Smiley's People (Simon Langton, 1982). Le Carré was so impressed by Guinness's performance as Smiley that he based his characterisation of Smiley in subsequent novels on Guinness. In the cinema Guinness excelled as Jamessir Bensonmum, the blind butler, in the Neil Simon film Murder By Death (Robert Moore, 1976).

Guinness is now probably best known as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (George Lucas, 1977), Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980), and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (Richard Marquand, 1983). The part brought him worldwide recognition by a new generation.

Guinness agreed to take the part on the condition that he would not have to do any publicity to promote the film. He was also one of the few cast members who believed that the film would be a box office hit; he negotiated a deal for 2.5 % of the gross, which made him very wealthy in his later life. His role would also result in Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Despite these rewards, Guinness soon became unhappy with being identified with the part, and expressed dismay at the fan-following that the Star Wars trilogy attracted.

Guinness received an Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement in 1980. In 1988, he got an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Little Dorrit (Christine Edzard, 1988) starring Dereki Jacobi and Joan Greenwood. For his theatre work, he received an Evening Standard Award for his performance as T.E. Lawrence in Ross and a Tony Award for his Broadway turn as Dylan Thomas in Dylan. Guinness was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1955, and was knighted in 1959.

Guinness married the artist, playwright, and actress Merula Sylvia Salaman in 1938. In 1940, they had a son, Matthew Guinness, who later became an actor. In his biography, Alec Guinness: The Unknown, Garry O'Connor says that Guinness was arrested and fined 10 guineas for a homosexual act in a public lavatory in Liverpool in 1946. Guinness avoided publicity by giving his name to police and court as 'Herbert Pocket', the name of the character he played in Great Expectations. The incident did not become public knowledge until April 2001, eight months after his death.

Piers Paul Read, Guinness's official biographer, doubts that this incident actually occurred. He believes that Guinness was confused with John Gielgud, who was infamously arrested for such an act around the same period. According to Piers Paul Read, Guinness' friends and family knew of his bisexuality.

Guinness wrote three volumes of a bestselling autobiography, beginning with Blessings in Disguise (1985), followed by My Name Escapes Me (1996), and A Positively Final Appearance (1999). He continued to act almost until his death, submerging himself in an amazing array of characters. His final stage performance was at the Comedy Theatre in 1989 in the play A Walk in the Woods. Between 1934 and 1989, he had played 77 parts in the theatre.

His final film role was a one-scene cameo in the horror thriller Mute Witness (Anthony Waller, 1994) and his last TV role was in the TV-film Eskimo Day (Piers Haggard, 1996).

Alec Guinness died in 2000, from liver cancer, at Midhurst in West Sussex at the age of 86. In his obituary in The Guardian, Tom Sutcliffe calls him ‘a by nature an unostentatious and reserved man’: “Though he undertook a great variety of roles, all were informed, at heart, with the wisdom of the sad clown. It was that spiritual severity, together with those clear, wide-open eyes - capable of melting in close-up on screen into the most reassuringly serene of smiles - which lent his performances force and authenticity.“


Trailer Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949). Source: Film365 (YouTube).


Trailer The Ladykillers (1955). Source: webothlovesoup (YouTube).


Trailer The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). Source: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (YouTube).


Trailer Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Source: Cherry Movies (YouTube).


Video trailer Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Source: Video Detective (YouTube).

Sources: Brian McFarlane (Encyclopedia of British Cinema), Tom Sutcliffe (The Guardian), David Absalom (British Pictures), Ed Stephan (IMDb), The Telegraph, BritMovie, Wikipedia, and IMDb.