Alec Guinness - Rotten Tomatoes

Alec Guinness

Lowest Rated:   27% The Comedians (1967)
Birthday:  
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 a

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Highest Rated Movies

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT BOX OFFICE YEAR
81% Mute Witness
  • The Reaper
1995
No Score Yet A Foreign Field
  • Amos
1994
57% 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
71% Little Dorrit - Set
  • Actor
1988
No Score Yet Grace Kelly: An American Princess
  • Actor
1987
85% A Passage to India
  • Godbole
1984
No Score Yet Edwin
  • Sir Fennimore Truscott
1984
80% 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
50% Raise the Titanic
  • John Bigalow
1980
94% 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
65% Murder by Death
  • Bensonmum
1976
No Score Yet Hitler: The Last Ten Days
  • Adolf Hitler
1973
44% Brother Sun, Sister Moon (Fratello sole, sorella luna)
  • Pope Innocent III
1972
75% Scrooge
  • Marley's Ghost
1970
No Score Yet Cromwell
  • Charles I
1970
27% The Comedians
  • Maj. Jones
1967
67% The Quiller Memorandum
  • Pol
1966
No Score Yet Hotel Paradiso
  • Benedict Boniface
1966
No Score Yet Situation Hopeless---But Not Serious
  • Herr Frick
1965
100% The Fall of the Roman Empire
  • Marcus Aurelius
1964
97% Lawrence of Arabia
  • Prince Feisal
1962
100% Damn the Defiant!
  • Captain Crawford
1962
No Score Yet A Majority of One
  • Koichi Asano
1961
67% Tunes of Glory
  • Lt. Col. Jock Sinclair
1960
No Score Yet The Scapegoat
  • John Bartlett/Count Jacques De Gue
1959
87% Our Man in Havana
  • Jim Wormald
1959
93% The Horse's Mouth
  • Gully Jimson
  • Screenwriter
1958
No Score Yet Barnacle Bill
  • William Horatio Ambrose
1957
94% The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Col. Nicholson
1957
No Score Yet The Swan
  • Prince Albert
1956
60% 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 Father Brown (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

Quotes from Alec Guinness' Characters