My Sir Alec Guinness Tribute: "The Force Will Go With You..."Jul 4, 2004 Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line Sir Alec was one of our best actors.
Shame on me for using a line from this actors famous role as Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (1977) and sequel, which Sir Alec Guinness reputedly despised. If you think of the force as being like the spirit being bestowed on our now-departed soul, the line becomes more meritorious. I also hope that some of you who are only familiar with that role of his will now with my tribute realize that the Englishman, knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1959, had much more in his acting repertoire that better reveals his range of talent.
Born without knowing his fathers identity, he became a chameleon-like actor that tackled the strangest and most entertaining of characters on the big screen. Many of these characters were unforgettable in equally unforgettable movies and my list, I believe, shall give you an excellent place to start in your attempt to further appreciate him.
In order of their theatrical release:
Great Expectations (1946): David Lean, director; Anthony Havelock-Ellis for adaptation from Charles Dickens novel. The novel may be pretentious drudge, but I really loved the Pip character here, played by Anthony Wager and John Mills, who is much more sensitive as he grows up poor and becomes rich because of an anonymous sponsor. Sir Alec had his first big break playing Pips London roommate, Herbert Pocket, and its a fine and amusing role that supports Pips desire to be a gentleman. Lusciously filmed in black-and-white, its a rollercoaster love story and wonderful coming-of-age drama.
Oliver Twist (1948): David Lean, director; Charles Dickens, novel, Stanley Haynes, adaptaton. I dont know about the novel, but this black-and-white is truly a riveting piece of moviemaking. John Howard Davies plays the title character who begins life as an orphan left in a strict, religious workhouse for boys, who rebels, escapes and ends up in nineteenth-century London held hostage by petty thieves. Sir Alec as the beak-nosed thug Fagin, Robert Newton as the insane Sikes and Anthony Newley as the proud Dodger will be characters youll love to hate as much as I do.
Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949): Robert Hamer, director; Roy Horniman, novel, Robert Hamer, screenplay. Sir Alec takes on eight, yes, eight roles, including that of a woman, in this spoof on how to get away with murder over and over again to achieve his rightful title (his mother married for love instead of obligation), only to be tripped up by women. Joan Greenwood as the bad girl is pure delight in an amazing movie!
The Man In The White Suit (1951): Alexander MacKendrick, director; John Dighton and Roger MacDougall for play. Sir Alec has great fun again being a struggling chemist who, after a few lab explosions, finally creates a fiber that will never become dirty or wear out. The British textile companies and their workers rise up against him to prevent an end to their employment, except for the rebellious daughter of the labs owner, played again by the irrepressible Joan Greenwood. The droll ending may knock your socks off, hehe.
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951): Charles Crichton, director; T.E.B. Clark for Oscar-winning screenplay. Sir Alec plays a long-suffering bank worker in charge of protecting the gold bullion, but meeting Stanley Holloways character inspires him to gather together a mob that will seize the bullion during transport. Its a series of misadventures, traveling to Paris where they daze themselves hightailing it down the Eiffel Tower steps, following a schoolgirl to a police academy school and more. Audrey Hepburn debuts with a small role in the beginning.
The Ladykillers (1955): Ive already covered this delicious escapade in a previous list. The remake with Tom Hanks couldnt possibly touch the British sense of humor!
The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957): David Lean, director; Pierre Bouelle for novel, uncredited Michael Wilson and Carl Foreman for screenplay. I love to whistle and this movie definitely had me whistling along with the British soldiers captured by the Japanese in WWI. These prisoners, led by a stubborn colonel that Sir Alec embodied, have to build a bridge over the Kwai River by a certain date and the equally stubborn Japanese colonel learns a few manners from Sir Alec. William Holden plays a renegade officer and eyecandy in an enthralling masterpiece set in a teeming jungle.
The Horses Mouth (1958): Ronald Neame, director; Joyce Cary for novel, Alec Guinness for screenplay. Sir Alec impresses us with his writing skills as well as his bold rendering of artist Gully Jamison. An unconventional and striking painter, Jamison in this movie reveals an obsession with his vision and problems with the realities. Its a fascinating, often amusing story that makes me want to read the book.
Damn The Defiant or H.M.S. Defiant (1962): Lewis Gilbert, director; Frank Tilsley, novel, Nigel Kneale, screenplay. Since Sir Alec enlisted in the Royal Navy before he began acting, this movie probably brought back memories. Hes a captain with a 12-year-old son on board who cant restrain his sadistic first officer, nailed by Dirk Bogarde, from punishing his son. With the French to fight, an unhappy crew waiting to petition the Admiralty with a list of complaints and that snake of a first officer, its a seagoing tale that kept me rapt as it did my friend whos seen all of these kind of movies.
Lawrence Of Arabia (1962): David Lean, director; T.E. Lawrence for writings, Robert Bolt for screenplay. Not only do we get Sir Alec in this gorgeous war epic, but Peter OToole, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, Jose Ferrer and more. OToole as lowly mapmaker Lawrence in the British military during WWI is sent to Arabia where, like a Joan of Arc, inspires them to defeat the Turks. Youll want to prepare some time to watch this one, preferably in widescreen for the visuals.
I havent included a few others Ive seen, such as Dr. Zhivago, A Passage To India, Scrooge (1970) and Star Wars plus sequel. These arent bad movies, especially the first two, but theyre either not the best roles for Sir Alec Guinness or the best movie in my opinion like the ten above. Of course there are lots more I haven't seen, too. He received an Oscar for The Bridge On The River Kwai and many nominations and accolades for his dedication to and influence of the film industry.
Sir Alec died four years ago, but hell never be forgotten.
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