Sir Alec Guinness May 2, 2015

To many of us of a certain age our first experience with British humor was a series of dark comedies starring Alec Guinness in the nineteen fifties. Some of them still entertain TV audiences with their humor today: The Man In The White Suit (1951), The Ladykillers (1955), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Captain’s Paradise (1953), and particularly Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949) in which he played eight roles including that of a woman.

However, my favorite of all his comedies has to be his brilliant portrayal of the eccentric artist Gulley Jimson in the film adaptation of Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth (1958). It borders on slapstick.

The brilliance of Sir Alec was not in comedy alone. Though most of the younger crowd may only know Sir Alec as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars films, he disliked being identified with that role. Many people a bit older preferred him as Col. Nicholson in The Bridge On The River Kwai and Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia (1962). But perhaps his most dramatic and very untypical role was as the bully Major Jock Sinclair in Tunes Of Glory (1960). He was so convincing as a total jerk in Tunes Of Glory that I was too troubled to sit through it’s entirety the first time that I saw the film.