Alec Guinness

Lowest Rated: 27% The Comedians (1967)
Birthday: Apr 2, 1914
Birthplace: Marylebone, London, England, UK
A member of a generation of British actors that included Sir Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson, Sir Alec Guinness possessed an astonishing versatility that was amply displayed over the course of his 66-year career. Dubbed "the outstanding poet of anonymity" by fellow actor Peter Ustinov, Guinness was a consummate performer, effortlessly portraying characters that ranged from eight members of the same family to an aging Jedi master. Synonymous throughout most of his career with old-school British aplomb and dry wit, the actor was considered to be second only to Olivier in his popularity on both sides of the Atlantic. Theater critic J.C. Trewin once described Guinness as possessing "a player's countenance, designed for whatever might turn up." The latter half of this description was an apt summation of the actor's beginnings, which were positively Dickensian. Born into poverty in London on April 2, 1914, Guinness was an illegitimate child who did not know the name on his birth certificate was Guinness until he was 14 (until that time he had used his stepfather's surname, Stiven). Guinness never met his biological father, who provided his son's private school funds but refused to pay for his university education. It was while working as an advertising copywriter that Guinness began going to the theatre, spending his pound-a-week salary on tickets. Determined to become an actor himself, he somehow found the money to pay for beginning acting lessons and subsequently won a place at the Fay Compton School of Acting. While studying there, he was told by his acting teacher Martita Hunt that he had "absolutely no talent." However, Sir John Gielgud apparently disagreed: as the judge of the end-of-term performance, he awarded Guinness an acting prize and further rewarded him with two roles in his 1934 production of Hamlet. Three years later, Guinness became a permanent member of Gielgud's London company and in 1938, playing none other than Hamlet himself. In 1939, Guinness' stage version of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, which featured the actor as Herbert Pocket, caught the attention of fledgling director David Lean. Seven years later, Lean would cast Guinness in the novel's screen adaptation; the 1946 film was the actor's second screen engagement, the first being the 1934 Evensong, in which he was an extra. It was in Lean's Oliver Twist (1948) that he had his first memorable onscreen role as Fagin, although his portrayal -- complete with stereotypically Semitic gestures and heavy makeup -- aroused charges of anti-Semitism in the United States that delayed the film's stateside release for three years. Guinness won bona fide international recognition for his work in Robert Hamer's Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), an Ealing black comedy that featured him as eight members of the d'Ascoyne family. He would subsequently be associated with a number of the classic Ealing comedies, including The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Man in the White Suit (1951), The Detective (1954), and The Ladykillers (1955). In 1955, Guinness' contributions to the arts were recognized by Queen Elizabeth, who dubbed him Commander of the British Empire. Two years later, he received recognition on the other side of the Atlantic when he won a Best Actor Oscar for his role as Colonel Nicholson, a phenomenally principled and at times foolhardy British POW in The Bridge on the River Kwai. Ironically, Guinness turned down the role twice before being persuaded to take it by producer Sam Spiegel; his performance remained one of the most acclaimed of his career. In 1960, Guinness once again earned acclaim for his portrayal of another officer, in Tunes of Glory. Cast as hard-drinking, ill-mannered Scottish Lieutenant-Colonel Jock Sinclair, a role he would later name as his favorite, the actor gave a powerful performance opposite John Mills as the upper-crust British officer assigned to take over his duties. He subsequently became associated with David Lean's great epic


Highest Rated Movies



83% Mute Witness The Reaper 1995
No Score Yet A Foreign Field Amos 1994
No Score Yet Tales from Hollywood Actor 1992
52% Kafka Chief Clerk 1991
No Score Yet Monsignor Quixote Father Quixote 1991
No Score Yet Little Dorrit - Part Two: Little Dorrit's Story William Dorrit 1988
No Score Yet Little Dorrit - Part One: Nobody's Fault William Dorrit 1988
No Score Yet A Handful of Dust Mr. Todd 1988
No Score Yet Little Dorrit (Nobody's Fault) (Little Dorrit's Story) William Dorrit 1988
63% Little Dorrit - Set Actor 1988
No Score Yet Grace Kelly: An American Princess Actor 1987
86% A Passage to India Godbole 1984
No Score Yet Edwin Sir Fennimore Truscott 1984
81% Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi 1983
40% Lovesick Sigmund Freud 1983
No Score Yet From Star Wars to Jedi - The Making of a Saga Actor 1983
No Score Yet Little Lord Fauntleroy Earl of Dorincourt 1980
43% Raise the Titanic John Bigalow 1980
95% Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back Ben `Obi-Wan' Kenobi $4.6M 1980
93% Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope Ben `Obi-Wan' Kenobi 1977
No Score Yet To See Such Fun Actor 1977
67% Murder by Death Bensonmum 1976
No Score Yet Hitler: The Last Ten Days Adolf Hitler 1973
42% Brother Sun, Sister Moon (Fratello sole, sorella luna) Pope Innocent III 1972
75% Scrooge Marley's Ghost 1970
33% Cromwell Charles I 1970
27% The Comedians Maj. Jones 1967
62% The Quiller Memorandum Pol 1966
No Score Yet Hotel Paradiso Benedict Boniface 1966
83% Doctor Zhivago Yevgraf/Gen. Zhivago 1965
No Score Yet Situation Hopeless---But Not Serious Herr Frick 1965
100% The Fall of the Roman Empire Marcus Aurelius 1964
98% Lawrence of Arabia Prince Feisal 1962
100% Damn the Defiant! Captain Crawford 1962
60% A Majority of One Koichi Asano 1961
71% Tunes of Glory Lt. Col. Jock Sinclair 1960
No Score Yet The Scapegoat John Bartlett/Count Jacques De Gue 1959
94% Our Man in Havana Jim Wormald 1959
93% The Horse's Mouth Screenwriter Gully Jimson 1958
No Score Yet Barnacle Bill William Horatio Ambrose 1957
95% The Bridge on the River Kwai Col. Nicholson 1957
No Score Yet The Swan Prince Albert 1956
67% The Prisoner The Cardinal 1955
100% The Ladykillers Prof. Marcus 1955
No Score Yet To Paris With Love Col. Sir Edgar Fraser 1955
No Score Yet The Detective Father Brown 1954
No Score Yet The Captain's Paradise Capt. Henry St. James 1953
No Score Yet Malta Story Capt. Ross 1953
56% Promoter E.H. Machin 1952
100% Oliver Twist Fagin 1951
100% The Lavender Hill Mob Henry Holland 1951
100% The Man in the White Suit Sidney Stratton $4.4K 1951
100% Last Holiday George Bird 1950
No Score Yet The Mudlark Benjamin Disraeli 1950
No Score Yet A Run for Your Money Whimple 1949
100% Kind Hearts and Coronets Duke 1949
100% Great Expectations Pocket 1947
No Score Yet Evensong Actor 1934


100% Smiley's People
George Smiley
  • 1982
100% Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
George Smiley