Alec Guinness: More than Obi Wan

Sometimes it makes me sad that Alec Guinness isn’t recognized by more people today for things other than just being our only hope. While I love me some Obi Wan as much as the next fan, the fact is that Guinness was so much more than Star Wars (a film he didn’t enjoy while he was making and liked even less after it was made. Seriously. Here’s a quote from a letter he wrote during filming:

Can’t say I’m enjoying the film. … new rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wadges of pink paper—and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable. I just think, thankfully, of the lovely bread, which will help me keep going until next April even if Yahoo collapses in a week. … I must off to studio and work with a dwarf (very sweet—and he has to wash in a bidet) and your fellow countrymen Mark Hamill and Tennyson (that can’t be right) Ford. Ellison (?—No!)—well, a rangy, languid young man who is probably intelligent and amusing. But Oh, God, God, they make me feel ninety—and treat me as if I was 106.—Oh, Harrison Ford—ever heard of him? (source)

Very amusing to me, and ironic enough (he earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in A New Hope–the only actor able to pull off such a feat in the franchise), but awesome actors shouldn’t be required to be fans on the level of Ian McKellen or Patrick Stewart. Besides, with the prequels now over, can you really blame Guinness? Clearly there were some issues with plotting and character development even then.)

I know a lot of you are asking, “So if he’s more than Obi Wan, what is he?” Well, I’ll tell you.

Many of you have (hopefully) seen Bridge on the River Kwai, the movie which earned him his best actor Oscar. A truly great movie, both critically and just as a good watch. (Earned seven Oscars overall, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor.) But even then, there’s a lot more to Guinness.

Growing up, I watched him in his early comedies. The Ladykillers, The Lavender Hill Mob, The Man in the White Suit, Kind Hearts and Coronets (where he plays numerous roles to great effect). Guinness had a talent for throwing himself into a role, and a knack for comedy that reminds me of Peter Sellers in many ways. He was one of my grandparents’ favorite actors, and watching him at work is still just a pleasure.

What reminded me of this? I came across a movie of his I hadn’t heard of before on Netflix: The Card. The premise is fairly simple: a young man figures out there are easier ways to get ahead in life than simply hard work. In fact, it’s easier to succeed if you’re conniving and cunning–but not in any mean and nasty way. He sets out to do just that, to fantastic results. It’s definitely an older film–with older pacing and subtler humor–but it was just a pleasure to watch him at work and enjoy something new. I loved it, and so did Denisa.

Unfortunately, there are none of those other movies on Netflix streaming at the moment, but if you get a chance to watch some of them at some point, you shouldn’t miss it. Anyone have any other favorite Guinness movies? Do share.

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