British screen legend Alec Guinness de Cuffe, better known to you and me as Alec Guinness, is an actor everyone has had the pleasure of watching on the big screen. As today would have been Guinness’ 100th birthday I was given the very hard job of selecting 3 films of his that I love because of Guinness’ superb performance and how the film fits perfectly to him. Please believe me ALL his films are worth a watch, he, like many other actors of bygone eras, just has something that the actors of today can’t perfect on screen. After many hours of great deliberation I narrowed it down to these three:
The Malta Story (1953)
Muriel Pavlow & Alec Guinness in The Malta Story
From the first time I saw this film I loved it. From the outside it’s a classic war film of the British trying to hang onto the island of Malta as the German’s and Italian’s bomb and try to kill off any hopes of the Maltese people yet on the inside it’s a true romantic tale with Flight lt. Peter Ross (Guinness) falling in love with local girl Maria (Muriel Pavlow). Guinness plays this role wonderfully and manages to be a true RAF officer we’d expect to see but have a playful and caring side when it comes to his free time with Maria. The story itself really opens your eyes to Malta’s story during WWII and the great range of actors certainly gives you a film you’ll remember.
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
Alec Guinness as Lady Agatha D’Ascoyne in Kind Hearts and Coronets
This was one of Guinness’ first big films and he nailed it, not just in one role but by playing EIGHT different characters. Kind Hearts and Coronets is an Ealing comedy and like all Ealing comedies it has a really different twist. Guinness plays eight members of the D’Ascoyne family including Lady D’Ascoyne. Unfortunately they all come to a particularly sticky end, all in their own ways. The make up and costume changes Guinness must have gone through for each character must have been tiring but in some occasions on screen you can’t even tell it’s him. He brings something unique to each character which is a true indication of his talent. Not many actors can pull off acting serious while being murdered in a, quite frankly unusual way, in an Ealing comedy.
The Ladykillers (1955)
The Cast of The Ladykillers.
This is a film I knew I couldn’t miss out because it was one of the first Alec Guinness films I watched when I was younger. Again it’s an Ealing comedy and will
appeal to those who like a bit of dark humour. Please do not get this mixed up with Tom Hank’s 2004 remake, they’re both completely different and the Guinness version is far superior in every way. The Ladykillers is a great concept for a film and the 1955 cast perfects the overall film. Guinness role has ‘Professor’ Marcus is as sinister as he is charming, especially towards the Old Lady who owns the house he’s renting a room in. The film is all about criminals, imagination, police chases and great acting. In a weird way it makes for great family viewing, just like many of Alec Guinness’ other films.
John Mills & Guinness in Great Expectations
Some films that nearly made it onto this very short list that are well worth a watch are: Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Peter O’Toole plays the lead but Guinness plays an excellent Prince Feisal. Bridge On the River Kwai (1957) A very well known war story and a must watch, also stars William Holden. Great Expectations (1946) Guinness’ first credited film. He was the perfect friend to John Mill’s Pip in this film and he looks so young.
Peter O’Toole as T.E. Lawrence & Guinness as Prince Faisal
Bridge on the River Kwai
There’s plenty more films that you could watch and enjoy in which Guinness stars. He starred in many genres so there’s something there for everyone. You may
have noticed the lack of Star Wars on here. Guinness’ is said to have disliked his time in the films and, to me, it isn’t really his best performance.
Happy Birthday Alec! You may be gone but your work and talent will be enjoyed forever!