Alec Guinness

Cussler described Sir John L. Bigalow as a man with a few strands of white hair that goes along with his white beard with a ruddy weathered look of a seafaring face.

Biography (Press Kit)

Few stars in motion pictures and on the stage elicit such respect and warmth from audiences as does Alec Guinness.  Incredibly versatile, his range of roles extends from Shakespeare’s tragedies to Fedeau farce, from Dickens’ Fagin to the delightfully bemused heroes of the post-World War II comedies that made him one of the most popular actors in the world.

Guinness currently is starred in “Raise The Titanic!” a new action-adventure drama, as Commodore Sir John Bigalow, octogenarian survivor of the Titanic sinking, who served as a junior officer on the ill-fated vessel during its tragic maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York.

Also starring Jason Robards, Richard Jordan, David Selby and Anne Archer, “Raise The Titanic!” is a contemporary film depicting the Herculean efforts of a team of U.S. experts to find and raise the Titanic from its watery garve 12,500 feet below the surface of the North Atlantic.  The motion picture, filmed on twelve locations in the U.S., Alaska, England, Greece and Malta, was produced by William Frye and directed by Jerry Jameson from a screenplay by Adam Kennedy, based on the novel by Clive Cussler.  It is a Lord Grade Presentation of a martin Starger Production and will be released on August 1 by AFD (Associated Film Distribution).

Most recently, Guinness was seen in the space fantasy, “Star Wars,” and briefly in the sequel, “The Empire Strikes Back.”

His acting career has been equally divided between stage and film, comedy and drama.  He first came to the attention of American moviegoers in David Lean’s “Great Expectations” (his motion picture debut) and in “Oliver Twist.”  Then came his remarkable series of English comedies, many of them considered classics of their genre.  Those motion pictures include “Kind Hearts And Coronets,”  “The Lavender Hill Mob” (for which he received his first Academy Award nomination), “The Captain’s Paradise,” “The Lady Killers,” and “The Horse’s Mouth” (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay adaptation of the Joyce Cary novel).  For his dramatic portrayal of the British colonel in “The Bridge On The River Kwai,” Guinness won the 1957 Academy Award as Best Actor.  Some of his other American and British motion pictures are “Our Man In Havana,” “Tunes Of Glory,” “A Majority Of One,” “Lawrence Of Arabia,” “Doctor Zhivago,” “Hotel Paradiso,” “The Quiller Memorandum,” “The Comedians,” “Scrooge,” “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” and Neil Simon’s “Murder By Death.”

Following his Ben Kenobi role in “Star Wars,” for which he received an Academy Award nomination, he appeared on BBC Television in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” in a performance which won the Best TV Actor Award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.  His next starring role is in the Norman Rosemont production of “Little Lord Fauntleroy” for U.S. television and theatrical release worldwide.

Alec Guinness was born on April 2, 1914 in London.  After working as a copywriter in an advertising agency, he studied acting at the Fay Compton School of Dramatic Art.  He made his stage debut in 1934 in a walk-on bit in “Libel!”  After several more small roles in London productions, he joined the Old Vic Company in 1936.  In 1937, he joined John Gielgud’s company at the Queen’s Theatre.  He rejoined the Old Vic Company in 1938 and played “Hamlet” in modern dress.

From 1941 to 1946, Guinness served in the Royal navy.  He returned to the London stage in 1946 in his own adaptation of “The Brothers Karamazov.”  He then adapted and appeared in “Great Expectations.”  Alternating between theatre and motion pictures, Guinness rejoined the Old Vic Company again, playing the Fool to Olivier’s King Lear, as well as the Dauphin in “Saint Joan” and the title role in “Richard II.”

After starring in “The Cocktail Party” at Edinburgh, Guinness made his Broadway debut in 1950 in the American production of the T.S. Eliot comedy.  He returned to the London stage in “Hamlet,” which he also directed.

In 1953, Guinness starred in the Stratford (Ontario) Shakespeare Festival in “Richard III” and in “All’s Well That Ends Well.”  His other memorable stage appearances include “The Prisoner,” “Hotel Paradiso,” “Ross” (for which he received the London Evening Standard Award for Best Actor in 1960), “Exit The King,” “Dylan” (winning Broadway’s Tony Award for his portrayal of Dylan Thomas), “Incident At Vichy,” “Macbeth,” “Wise Child,” “Time Out Of Mind,” “A Voyage Round My Father,” “Habeas Corpus,” “A Family And A Fortune,” and “Yahoo,” which he also co-authored about the life and writing of Jonathan Swift.”

Alec Guinness married actress Merula Salaman in 1938.  They have one son, Matthew, born in 1940.  He and his wife make their home in Hampshire and also maintain an apartment in London’s Westminster.

Sir Alec Guinness was created C.B.E. in 1955 and was made a Knight Bachelor in 1959.  He also holds an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Boston University.

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OBSERVATION KEY ASPECT OF ACTING FOR ALEC GUINNESS

Before beginning his role in the new action-adventure motion picture, “Raise The Titanic!” Sir Alec Guinness, in a trans-Atlantic telephone conversation, asked producer William Frye if he could begin to assemble his wardrobe for the adventure drama.

“I suppose I start from the outside of the character and work in,” said the distinguished actor as he explained his acting methods.  “best way is to figure his appearance.  It may be the wrong procedure, but I can’t stop my imagination.”  Wrong or right, the results Guinness eventually achieves have been lauded by critics and applauded by audiences throughout the world.

In “Raise The Titanic!” Sir Alec is cast as a Cornish pub owner who served as a junior officer aboard the ill-fated Titanic and survived the disaster.  He proves to be a key to the mystery of byzanium,  a rare mineral needed by the United States to power a laser beam protection screen against atomic missiles and believed to be in the hold of the sunken ship.

Guinness joined Jason Robards, Richard Jordan, David Selby, and Anne Archer in the cast of stars.  The new film was produced by William Frye and directed Jerry Jameson from a screenplay by Adam Kennedy adapted from Clive Cussler’s novel.  It is a Lord Grade Presentation of a Martin Starger Production and will be released on August 1 by AFD (Associated Film Distribution)

When asked to further amplify on his acting technique, Alec Guinness, who is generally reluctant to talk about either his public or his private life, allowed a brief glimpse into what made his characterizations so memorable in such films as “The Bridge On The River Kwai,” “Great Expectations,” “Oliver Twist,” or any of the English screen comedies he made famous throughout the world–“Kind Hearts And Coronets,” “The Lavender Hill Mob,” and “The Captain’s Paradise,” among others.

“Never having been a handsome juvenile, I’ve always been a character actor,” he says offhandedly.  “I’ve always been determined that my work should be different each time I act.

“I always see the character first.  There’s certain to be an exterior and the exterior impression gives one a clue to the interior of the man.

“This role of the old seafarer who now owns a pub, I thought it had something that appealed to me–something very self-contained.  First, one must see him.  Then, what he says will have some meaning.  I saw him dressed in old tweeds, with oilskins against the weather, gum rubber boots, an old sailor cap.  His face would be very ruddy; he is outdoors a great deal, and he samples liberally from his own pub.”

Guinness said that he has a difficult time finding the “right” roles in films.

“Some of the stuff I’ve been offered for the most part is so tasteless or sleazy.  Not necessarily my role, but the story as a whole, and I find I don’t want to do any of that.  This script came as an intriguing, straightforward adventure story.

“I thought when I read the script that this, with the people involved in it, could look simply terrific.  I know the visual impact will be great.  I’ve never turned from playing a lesser role which is self-contained.  If they don’t like what I do, they can always cut the scenes and get someone else to play the part without hurting the bulk of the movie.  If it’s alright, it’s quite a nice little moment.”

In response to the question concerning what acting meant to him, Guinness said:  “Ideally, I suppose, being an actor should give one sympathy and understanding of all men, but it doesn’t always.

“When I was a young student, there was nothing to do except read, study my part or take walks.  I took a great many walks.  In those days, I took to following people because some instinct in me said, ‘Follow.  You may find out something about that person.’  For one hour each day I used to be like a detective, but I didn’t snoop.  I followed them purely to find out what shop window that would stop at, and to observe the way they walked.  There were old ladies, old men, all sorts of people.  I would imitate their walk because I felt that if I got into their stride, I’d begin to be in the kind of mod they were in.  An going beyond their mood, I would sense something about their natures.

“One of the tragedies of advancing age for an actor is that his power of observation decreases.  Young people observe more sharply, more instinctively.  My whole feeling about acting is that one must observe, absorb, and then forget.  The source is unimportant, but the action will remain in one’s mind.  I’ve spent over thirty years of my life living off the dividends of an initial investment–the investment of very sharp and close observations of others.”

Sir Alec Admits he has little or no patience with temperamental show people.  “In my advanced age now, I really want to work with agreeable people.  I can’t be bothered always traveling along feeling deeply impatient inside with other people.  I want to work in amiable circumstances.  I think people in the theatre and films only work well if they are happy.  If there is a conflict going on behind the scenes or on the stage, it ruins the play.  It is not my experience that good work comes out of great controversy.”

Guinness noted particularly that he enjoyed his first relationship with “Raise The Titanic!” director Jerry Jameson.

“The relationship was very nice, really, straightforward, forthright, practical.  I didn’t discuss with him any strange innuendos for any of my scenes because it was just a straight story-telling as far as I was concerned.  Jameson has a clear eye and a nice twinkle in his eyes which is very appealing, and kind of giving and helpful.  You find yourself wishing to please him.

“I would be delighted to come to the United States for a movie if I were invited to do one there, but I need a good script, a good director–like this one–pleasant fellow actors, like this cast.  That’s all I ask.”

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Biography By Kim Elder

Considered as one of the finest actors of the century who could never give a bad performance.  Best known for his character Obi-Wan-Kenobi in the Star Wars Trilogy.  Sir Alec Guinness had a glamorous career.  Alec was born on April 2, 1914 in Marylebone, London, England.  His full birth name was Alec Guinness de Cuffe.  de Cuffe was his Mother’s maiden name.  (He never knew his Father).  He was married to Merala Salaman on June 20, 1938 and they were married right up until his death on August 5, 2000.  They have one son, Matthew who is also an actor.

He started his acting career in his early twenties while working as an ad copywriter.  He played in Britain’s Old Vic theater and first appeared on the Big Screen in the 1934 film, “Evensong”  He didn’t reappear until after World War II in 1946.

One of the movies that I love of his was “Kind Hearts and Coronets” where he played eight different characters, members of a same family including the sister!!!   In another comedy called “The Lavender Hill Mob”, he played a bank robber.

He won an Oscar for Best Actor and a Golden Glove in his spectacular performance as Col. Nicholson in the film “The Bridge On The River Kwai.  He also gave an unforgettable performances as King Charles in “Cromwell”, Jacob Marley in “A Christmas Carol.  But his most unforgettable performance of all time was his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the classic Star Wars Trilogy.  In 1959, Alec Guinness was knighted by the Queen of England.

He would later appear in such films as Oliver Twist, Dr. Zhivago, Lawrence Of Arabia and Raise The Titanic!

On August 5, 2000, Sir Alec Guinness died of liver cancer in Midhurst, Sussex, England, UK.  Alec Guinness was one of a kind and there will never be anyone like him again.  He was the last of the knighted actors that included Sir Lawrence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson that left a legacy of Shakespearean performances on the stage.  He was what you called a chameleon, the way he would change from role to role and he made it look effortless.

Filmography