Guinness, Sir Alec [key], 1914–2000, English actor, b. London. After his stage debut in 1934, Guinness performed with John Gielgud's company and at the Old Vic. An actor of enormous versatility and range on stage and in film, he was especially noted for his minimalist approach and his finely tuned interpretations of character. One of his earliest and most acclaimed stage performances was his modern-dress Hamlet (1938). Guinness's gifts for mimicry and characterization delighted audiences in such film comedies as Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), in which he performed 10 roles; The Lavender Hill Mob (1951); The Ladykillers (1955); and The Horse's Mouth (1958). Among the many dramatic films in which he appeared are The Prisoner (1955); The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), for which he won an Academy Award; Tunes of Glory (1960); and Star Wars (1977). On television he won acclaim for his portrayal of George Smiley, John le Carré's counterintelligence agent, in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979) and Smiley's People (1982).
See his autobiography (1985), and memoirs (1997 and 1999); biography by P. P. Read (2005); studies by K. Tynan (1953), J. R. Taylor (1984), and R. Tanitch (1989).
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