Profile of Sir Alec Guinness
Name at birth: Alec Guinness de Cuffe
An Oscar-winner in 1958 and knighted in 1959, Alec Guinness became one of the most celebrated actors of the 20th century. He is known to modern audiences as the man who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), but his reputation was made long before those films. After starting on the English stage and serving in World War II, Alec Guinness starred in the David Lean films Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), and delighted audiences with the 1949 comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets, in which he played 8 different roles. Guinness was an atypical leading man, thin and handsome but never hunky, by turns wry, skeptical, taciturn, ascerbic, and witty. In the 1950s he established himself as one of the great actors in film, a master of both comedy and drama. His films included The Lavender Hill Mob (1951, his first Oscar nomination), The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957, with Guinness winning the best actor Oscar) and The Horse's Mouth (1958; he also wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay). During the '60s and '70s Guinness appeared in both epics and comedies, from Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Dr. Zhivago (1965) to Mel Brooks's Murder By Death (1976). He then signed on for the George Lucas series of Star Wars movies, earning an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi. On television Guinness was a critical and popular success as John Le Carré's George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979) and Smiley's People (1982), and one of his last films, Little Dorrit (1988), earned him yet another Oscar nomination.
Alec Guinness was given a special Oscar in 1980 for his contributions to the movies.
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