Today is the birthdate of Alec Guiness de Cuffe, Sir Alec Guiness to us. Sadly he died in 2000 of liver cancer but today he would have been 100 years old.

He made 62 films as an actor, Wrote one screenplay (The Horse’s Mouth) in 1958 which was Oscar nominated for Best Screenplay endured the adulation of Star Wars fans but will always remain a permanent beacon of talent from the Ealing Studios days. Here are my top ten Alec Guiness films. Enjoy.

Kind Hearts and Coronets 1949. An amazing performance as he plays eight D’Ascoynes (The Duke, The Banker, The Parson, The General, The Admiral, Young Ascoyne, Young Henry and Lady Agatha) all of whom are bumped off by Dennis Price in his appempt to become the Duke of Chalfont. A superb cast, with the incomparable Joan Greenwood, Valerie Hobson, Arthur Lowe (as the Tit Bits reporter).

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Trailer

 

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The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

The greatest comedy caper movie of all time? Alongside The Italian Job I suspect, but what a wonderful film. Written by the great T.E.B. Clarke (Hue and Cry, Passport to Pimlico, The Blue Lamp, The Titfield Thunderbolt) who was born in Watford! A great cast with Stanley Holloway, Sid James and Alfie Bass  as the other members of The Mob. Cameos from Sydney Tafler, Richard Wattis, John Gregson and early film roles for Audrey Hepburn and Robert Sahw!

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“Dutch” Holland beats himself up.

 

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Hello world meet Audrey Hepburn

 

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The Man in the White Suit (1951)

What if they re-made this as The Man in the Denim Suit? Don’t even dream about it, please. Alec in fine fettle as genius boffin who creates a material that doesn’t wear out, doesn’t stain, the whole world will benefit, except the mill owners will go out of business and they want his forula to destroy it. The lovely Joan Greenwood in fabulous simpering sexy form as his love interest.

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Trailer

 

The Ladykillers (1955)

A superb central performance from Alec Guiness with great support from Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers, Cecil Parker, Danny Green and Katie Johnson as Mrs Lopsided. All round genius. I’m not even going to mention the Coen Bros re-hash. Stupid idea boys, you’re good but you’re not Alexander Mackendrick good. Leave well enough alone.

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You Can’t Send the Money Back

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Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Just two years later and David Lean’s masterful Bridge on the River Kwai Won 7 Oscars including Best Director, Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Music and of course, Best Actor in a Leading role for Alec Guiness as Colonel Nicholson.

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Madness, Madness

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Alec wins an Oscar (but Jean Simmons picks it up)

Guiness made six films with the great David Lean, Great Expectations (1946), Oliver Twist (1948), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965)and A Passage to India (1984).

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Peter O’Toole, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, what an epic.

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Then came Doctor Zhivago (1965) with Omar Sharif again, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Tom Courtney, Ralph Richardson. Rita Tushingham, Klaus Kinski.

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Lara’s Theme / Somewhere My Love

The Quiller memorandum (1966)

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Star Wars (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and return of the Jedi (1983) opened Alec up to a whole new audience, one he was not always happy with.

Empire Strikes Back 1

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Empire Strikes Back 2

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Parkinson talks Star Wars with Alec Guiness

One last outing with David Lean in A Passage to India (1984) once again, an amazing cast, Judy Davis, Victor Banerjee, Art Malik, Peggy Ashcroft, James Fox, Nigel Havers, Richard Wilson, Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth.

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A great performance but he does look surprisingly like Alf Garnett in this film. With a turban on though.

One of the all time greats, his legacy will live on forever.

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Alec wins an Honorary Oscar

 

He was also lauded for his performances as George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Smiley’s People.

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Talking Pictures on Alec Guiness

Alec Guiness on Parkinson

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