Gielgud, Sir John

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Gielgud, Sir John

Sir John Gielgud (Arthur John Gielgud) (gĬl´gŏŏd), 1904–2000, English actor, director, and producer. A grandnephew of Ellen Terry, Gielgud made his debut at the Old Vic in 1921. His intelligence, sensitivity, fine voice, and ability to interpret both classic and modern playwrights established him as one of the finest actors of his time. His performance of Hamlet, first given in 1929 and repeated more than 500 times, is considered one of the great interpretations of the role. He also gave outstanding performances in revivals of plays by Congreve, Sheridan, Chekov, Wilde, Shaw, and other masters, in the Shakespearean collage solo Ages of Man (1959), and in modern plays such as Edward Albee's Tiny Alice (1965), David Storey's Home (1970), Harold Pinter's No Man's Land (1975), and Hugh Whitemore's Best of Friends (1988), his last stage role. Gielgud appeared in numerous films, notably Julius Caesar (1953), Richard III (1956), Becket (1964), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), Chariots of Fire (1980), Arthur (1981, Academy Award), Prospero's Books (1991), Portrait of a Lady (1996), Shine (1996), and Elizabeth (1998). He also made several appearances on television, e.g., Brideshead Revisited (1981), and was a director and a writer, e.g., Shakespeare—Hit or Miss (1991). He was knighted in 1953.

Bibliography

See his autobiography, Early Stages (1939); his subsequent memoirs Stage Directions (1963), Distinguished Company (1973), An Actor and His Time (1980, rev. ed. 1997), and Backward Glances (1990); R. Mangan, ed., Sir John Gielgud: A Life in Letters (2004); biographies by R. Hayman (1971), C. Francis (1995), J. Croall (2001), and S. Morley (2002); studies by R. Findlater (1984) and G. Bandreth (1994).

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