Alec Guinness, the British actor who made his professional stage debut in 1933-34 and was a star of theatre, film and TV over a 60-year career, died Aug. 5 in a West Sussex, England, hospital of undisclosed causes, according to wire reports.
Mr. Guinness, who was 86, started his career in the same time and place that produced other major British actors: Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave, John Gielgud, Anthony Quayle and Ralph Richardson. Mr. Guinness was part of Gielgud' s Queens Theatre company in London in the late 1930s , along with Peggy Ashcroft and Redgrave. Gielgud died earlier this year.
Although many stage roles would be part of Mr. Guinness' career, and his role as a conflicted colonel in "The Bridge On the River Kwai" earned him an Academy Award, he became an international megastar in his senior years playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in the science-fiction picture, "Star Wars," in 1977.
Reuters reported that Mr. Guinness took ill Aug. 3 and was taken to the hospital. His health had been poor for several years, it was reported.
Mr. Guinness was born in London in 1914 and by the age of 24 he played the title role in a modern-dress Hamlet at The Old Vic. After the war, he played with the Old Vic company again and later starred in such films as "Lawrence of Arabia," "Great Expectations," "Oliver Twist," "Kind Hearts and Coronets," "The Lavender Hill Mob," "Dr. Zhivago," "Scrooge," "The Empire Strikes Back," "Return of the Jedi," "A Passage to India," and more. Of his famed role as patronly good guy Obi-Wan in "Star Wars," he once said he hated reading "those bloody awful lines.''
"I shrivel up every time someone mentions 'Star Wars' to me,'' he said.
Mr. Guinness became Sir Alec when he was knighted in 1959. He was famous for his dignified style but would play varied genres, from comedy ("Murder By Death") to dry spy drama (TV's "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy") to classic stage dramas such as Cyrano de Bergerac, Saint Joan, Coriolanus, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice and many others.
His theatre credits include playing Mitya in a production of The Brothers Karamazov, which he also adapted, in London in 1946; The Cocktail Party at the Lyceum in Edinburgh and Henry Miller's Theatre in New York in 1950; Richard III and All's Well That Ends Well at Ontario's Stratford Festival in 1953 (under the direction of longtime colleague Tyrone Guthrie, who had helmed his Old Vic work in the 1930s); Dylan, in which he played Dylan Thomas and won the Tony Award in New York, in 1964; and Jonathan Swift in Yahoo, a piece he co-created.