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John Gielgud

John Gielgud

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Sir Arthur John Gielgud, OM, CH (ˈɡiːlɡʊd; 14 April 1904 – 21 May 2000) was an English actor, director, and producer. A descendant of the renowned Terry acting family, he achieved early international acclaim for his youthful, emotionally expressive Hamlet which broke box office records on Broadway in 1937. He was known for his beautiful speaking of verse and particularly for his warm and expressive voice, which his colleague Sir Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness
Sir Alec Guinness, CH, CBE was an English actor. He was featured in several of the Ealing Comedies, including Kind Hearts and Coronets in which he played eight different characters. He later won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai...

 likened to "a silver trumpet muffled in silk". Gielgud is one of the few entertainers who have won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award.

Birth and family background


John Gielgud was born in South Kensington
South Kensington
South Kensington is a district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London. It is a built-up area located 2.4 miles west south-west of Charing Cross....

 in London to Kate Terry and Frank Gielgud. He was of theatrical lineage on his mother's side, being the grandson of actress Kate Terry
Kate Terry
Kate Terry was an English actress. Elder sister of the famous Ellen Terry, she was born into a theatrical family, made her debut when still a child, became a leading lady in her own right, and left the stage in 1867 to marry. In retirement she commented that she was 20 years on the stage, yet...

 and the great nephew of Dame Ellen Terry
Ellen Terry
Dame Ellen Terry, GBE was an English stage actress who became the leading Shakespearean actress in Britain. Among the members of her famous family is her great nephew, John Gielgud....

, as well as of Marion Terry
Marion Terry
Marion Bessie Terry was an English actress. In a career spanning half a century, she played leading roles in more than 125 plays. Always in the shadow of her more famous sister Ellen, Terry nevertheless achieved considerable success in the plays of W. S...

, Fred Terry
Fred Terry
Fred Terry was an English actor and theatrical manager. After establishing his reputation in London and in the provinces for a decade, he joined the company of Herbert Beerbohm Tree where he remained for four years, meeting his future wife, Julia Neilson...

 and all their actor siblings.

Gielgud's Catholic father, Franciszek Giełgud, born 1880, was a descendant of a Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

n noble family residing at a manor in Gelgaudiškis
Gelgaudiškis
Gelgaudiškis is a city in the Šakiai district municipality, Lithuania. It is located north of Šakiai. The city is just south of Neman River.-Name:Gelgaudiškis is the Lithuanian name of the city...

, a town called Giełgudyszki in Polish, dating back to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

 (now a town in Marijampolė County
Marijampole County
Marijampolė County is one of the ten counties in Lithuania. It is in the south of the country in the historical Suvalkija region, and its capital is the town Marijampolė...

, Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

). In his autobiography, Gielgud states repeatedly and clearly that his father was Polish
Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 Catholic
Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

, and mentions Gelgaudiškis as being his ancestral home from where his family and their surname originated.

His elder brother Val Gielgud
Val Gielgud
Val Henry Gielgud was an English actor, writer, director and broadcaster. He was a pioneer of radio drama for the BBC, and also directed the first ever drama to be produced in the newer medium of television....

 came to be a pioneering influence in BBC Radio
BBC Radio
BBC Radio is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation which has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927. For a history of BBC radio prior to 1927 see British Broadcasting Company...

. His niece Maina Gielgud
Maina Gielgud
Maina Gielgud is a former British ballet dancer and a veteran ballet administrator. She was artistic director of the Australian Ballet from 1983 to 1996 and is that company's longest serving director to date. She had a twenty year career as a dancer in Europe and the United Kingdom. Gielgud...

 is a dancer and one time artistic director of the Australian Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet
Royal Danish Ballet
The Royal Danish Ballet is one of the oldest ballet companies in the world. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, it originates from 1748, when the Royal Danish Theatre was founded, and was finally organized in 1771 in response to the great popularity of French and Italian styles of dance...

.

Early stages


After Hillside Preparatory School in Godalming
Godalming
Godalming is a town and civil parish in the Waverley district of the county of Surrey, England, south of Guildford. It is built on the banks of the River Wey and is a prosperous part of the London commuter belt. Godalming shares a three-way twinning arrangement with the towns of Joigny in France...

, Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

, and Westminster School
Westminster School
The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, almost always known as Westminster School, is one of Britain's leading independent schools, with the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rate of any secondary school or college in Britain...

, where he gained a King's Scholarship, Gielgud trained briefly at RADA
Rada
Rada is the term for "council" or "assembly"borrowed by Polish from the Low Franconian "Rad" and later passed into the Czech, Ukrainian, and Belarusian languages....

 and understudied Noel Coward
Noël Coward
Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise".Born in Teddington, a suburb of London, Coward attended a dance academy...

 in Coward's The Vortex
The Vortex
The Vortex is a play by the English writer and actor Noël Coward. The story focuses on sexual vanity and drug abuse among the upper classes. The play was Coward's first great commercial success....

 at the Everyman Theatre in Hampstead
Hampstead
Hampstead is an area of London, England, north-west of Charing Cross. Part of the London Borough of Camden in Inner London, it is known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical and literary associations and for Hampstead Heath, a large, hilly expanse of parkland...

 under the direction of Norman MacDermott (1890–1977). He had his initial success as a stage actor in classical roles, first winning stardom during a successful two seasons at the Old Vic Theatre from 1929 to 1931 where his performances as Richard II
Richard II (play)
King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's...

 and Hamlet
Prince Hamlet
Prince Hamlet is a fictional character, the protagonist in Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet. He is the Prince of Denmark, nephew to the usurping Claudius and son of the previous King of Denmark, Old Hamlet. Throughout the play he struggles with whether, and how, to avenge the murder of his father, and...

 were particularly acclaimed, the latter being the first Old Vic production to be transferred to the West End
West End theatre
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...

 for a run. He returned to the role of Hamlet
Prince Hamlet
Prince Hamlet is a fictional character, the protagonist in Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet. He is the Prince of Denmark, nephew to the usurping Claudius and son of the previous King of Denmark, Old Hamlet. Throughout the play he struggles with whether, and how, to avenge the murder of his father, and...

 in a famous production under his own direction in 1934 at the New Theatre
Noël Coward Theatre
The Noël Coward Theatre, formerly known as the Albery Theatre, is a West End theatre on St. Martin's Lane in the City of Westminster. It opened on 12 March 1903 as the New Theatre and was built by Sir Charles Wyndham behind Wyndham's Theatre which was completed in 1899. The building was designed by...

 in the West End. He was hailed as a Broadway star in Guthrie McClintic
Guthrie McClintic
Guthrie McClintic was a successful theatre director, film director and producer based in New York. -Life and career:...

's production in which Lillian Gish
Lillian Gish
Lillian Diana Gish was an American stage, screen and television actress whose film acting career spanned 75 years, from 1912 to 1987....

 played Ophelia in 1936. (The production's popularity was assisted when a rival staging featuring film star Leslie Howard
Leslie Howard (actor)
Leslie Howard was an English stage and film actor, director, and producer. Among his best-known roles was Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind and roles in Berkeley Square , Of Human Bondage , The Scarlet Pimpernel , The Petrified Forest , Pygmalion , Intermezzo , Pimpernel Smith...

 opened shortly afterward and was critically denounced in comparison to Gielgud's. Gielgud's production broke the long-run record for a Broadway "Hamlet.") There followed a 1939 production that Gielgud again directed at the Lyceum Theatre, historic for having been the professional home for Henry Irving
Henry Irving
Sir Henry Irving , born John Henry Brodribb, was an English stage actor in the Victorian era, known as an actor-manager because he took complete responsibility for season after season at the Lyceum Theatre, establishing himself and his company as...

's company. This was the last production to play the Lyceum until 50 years later when it was restored to host, among other shows, the hit musical The Lion King
The Lion King (musical)
The Lion King is a musical based on the 1994 Disney animated film of the same name with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice along with the musical score created by Hans Zimmer with choral arrangements by Lebo M. Directed by Julie Taymor, the musical features actors in animal costumes as well...

. Gielgud's Hamlet was later taken to Elsinore Castle in Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 (the actual setting of the play), there was a 1944 production directed by George Rylands, and finally a 1945 production that toured the Far East
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

 under Gielgud's own direction. In his later years, Gielgud played the Ghost of Hamlet's Father in productions of the play, first to Richard Burton
Richard Burton
Richard Burton, CBE was a Welsh actor. He was nominated seven times for an Academy Award, six of which were for Best Actor in a Leading Role , and was a recipient of BAFTA, Golden Globe and Tony Awards for Best Actor. Although never trained as an actor, Burton was, at one time, the highest-paid...

's Melancholy Dane on the Broadway stage which Gielgud directed in 1964, then on television with Richard Chamberlain
Richard Chamberlain
George Richard Chamberlain is an American actor of stage and screen who became a teen idol in the title role of the television show Dr. Kildare .-Early life:...

, and finally in a radio production starring Gielgud's protégé Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Charles Branagh is an actor and film director from Northern Ireland. He is best known for directing and starring in several film adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays including Henry V , Much Ado About Nothing , Hamlet Kenneth Charles Branagh is an actor and film director from...

.

Gielgud had triumphs in many other plays, notably his greatest popular success Richard of Bordeaux
Richard of Bordeaux (play)
Richard of Bordeaux is a play by Gordon Daviot that depicts the story of Richard II of England in a romantic fashion, emphasizing the relationship between Richard and his queen Anne of Bohemia. Daviot wrote the play after seeing John Gielgud play Shakespeare's Richard II at the Old Vic Theatre,...

 (1933) (a romantic version of the story of Richard II
Richard II of England
Richard II was King of England, a member of the House of Plantagenet and the last of its main-line kings. He ruled from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard was a son of Edward, the Black Prince, and was born during the reign of his grandfather, Edward III...

), The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play by Oscar Wilde. First performed on 14 February 1895 at St. James's Theatre in London, it is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personae in order to escape burdensome social obligations...

 which he first performed at the Lyric Hammersmith
Lyric Hammersmith
The Lyric Theatre, also known as the Lyric Hammersmith, is a theatre on King Street, in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, which takes pride in its original, "groundbreaking" productions....

 in 1930 and which remained in his repertory until 1947, and a legendary production of Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...

 (1935) which Gielgud directed and alternated the roles of Romeo
Romeo Montague
Romeo is one of the fictional protagonists in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Romeo is the son of old Montague and his wife, who secretly loves and marries Juliet, a member of the rival House of Capulet...

 and Mercutio
Mercutio
Mercutio a fictional character in William Shakespeare's 1597 tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. He is a close friend of Romeo, and Romeo's cousin Benvolio, and also a blood relative to Prince Escalus and Count Paris. As such, being neither a Montague nor a Capulet, Mercutio is one of the few in Verona...

 with a young Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM was an English actor, director, and producer. He was one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. He married three times, to fellow actors Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright...

 in his first professional Shakespearean leading role. Olivier's performance won him an engagement as the leading man of the Old Vic Theatre the following season, starting his career as a classical actor, but he was said to have resented Gielgud's direction and developed a wary relationship with Gielgud which resulted in Olivier turning down Gielgud's request to play the Chorus in Olivier's film of Henry V
Henry V (1944 film)
Henry V is a 1944 film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play of the same name. The on-screen title is The Cronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France . It stars Laurence Olivier, who also directed. The play was adapted for the screen by Olivier, Dallas...

 and later doing his best to block Gielgud from appearing at the Royal National Theatre
Royal National Theatre
The Royal National Theatre in London is one of the United Kingdom's two most prominent publicly funded theatre companies, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company...

 when Olivier was its director.

Queen's Theatre season


Gielgud had hoped to stay in America after his Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 performance as Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

 in 1936 to play Richard II
Richard II (play)
King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's...

 in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, but director Guthrie McClintic
Guthrie McClintic
Guthrie McClintic was a successful theatre director, film director and producer based in New York. -Life and career:...

 was so certain that the production would fail in the United States that Gielgud gave up the idea (and was dismayed when Maurice Evans
Maurice Evans (actor)
Maurice Herbert Evans was an English actor noted for his interpretations of Shakespearean characters. In terms of his screen roles, he is probably best known as Dr...

 had a legendary success in the play on Broadway after Gielgud gave him his blessing to mount it when he decided not to).

However much Gielgud may have wished to stay in America, his return to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in 1937 had an enormous influence on the development of English Theatre. In 1937/38, he brought his celebrity and talent to bear in producing a season of plays at the Queen's Theatre
Queen's Theatre
The Queen's Theatre is a West End theatre located in Shaftesbury Avenue in the City of Westminster. It opened on 8 October 1907 as a twin to the neighbouring Gielgud Theatre which opened ten months earlier. Both theatres were designed by W.G.R...

, presenting the aforementioned Richard II
Richard II (play)
King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's...

, The School for Scandal
The School for Scandal
The School for Scandal is a play written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. It was first performed in London at Drury Lane Theatre on May 8, 1777.The prologue, written by David Garrick, commends the play, its subject, and its author to the audience...

, Three Sisters
Three Sisters (play)
Three Sisters is a play by Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov, perhaps partially inspired by the situation of the three Brontë sisters, but most probably by the three Zimmermann sisters in Perm...

, and The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice is a tragic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic...

 with a permanent company that included himself, Peggy Ashcroft
Peggy Ashcroft
Dame Peggy Ashcroft, DBE was an English actress.-Early years:Born as Edith Margaret Emily Ashcroft in Croydon, Ashcroft attended the Woodford School, Croydon and the Central School of Speech and Drama...

, Michael Redgrave
Michael Redgrave
Sir Michael Scudamore Redgrave, CBE was an English stage and film actor, director, manager and author.-Youth and education:...

 and Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness
Sir Alec Guinness, CH, CBE was an English actor. He was featured in several of the Ealing Comedies, including Kind Hearts and Coronets in which he played eight different characters. He later won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai...

. Although not always acknowledged for this achievement, Gielgud set a precedent in establishing a company of actors gathered together to present classics. This effort proved it could be done and shaped the development of such future theatrical institutions as the Royal Shakespeare Company
Royal Shakespeare Company
The Royal Shakespeare Company is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs 700 staff and produces around 20 productions a year from its home in Stratford-upon-Avon and plays regularly in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and on tour across...

 and the Royal National Theatre
Royal National Theatre
The Royal National Theatre in London is one of the United Kingdom's two most prominent publicly funded theatre companies, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company...

. Gielgud acted in all four productions and directed the two Shakespeare plays, while Tyrone Guthrie
Tyrone Guthrie
Sir William Tyrone Guthrie was an English theatrical director instrumental in the founding of the Stratford Festival of Canada, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, at his family's home, Annaghmakerrig, in County Monaghan, Ireland.-Life and career:Guthrie...

 directed The School for Scandal
The School for Scandal
The School for Scandal is a play written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. It was first performed in London at Drury Lane Theatre on May 8, 1777.The prologue, written by David Garrick, commends the play, its subject, and its author to the audience...

 and Michael Saint-Denis staged Three Sisters
Three Sisters (play)
Three Sisters is a play by Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov, perhaps partially inspired by the situation of the three Brontë sisters, but most probably by the three Zimmermann sisters in Perm...

. From Sheridan Morley's authorised biography: "Accustomed as we have now become to...the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, it is almost impossible to conceive how revolutionary John's idea was for the West End of 1937, where there had simply been nothing like it since the heyday of Henry Irving and the actor-managers more than fifty years earlier." Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM was an English actor, director, and producer. He was one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. He married three times, to fellow actors Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright...

 said that Gielgud's performance in The School for Scandal
The School for Scandal
The School for Scandal is a play written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. It was first performed in London at Drury Lane Theatre on May 8, 1777.The prologue, written by David Garrick, commends the play, its subject, and its author to the audience...

  was "the best light comedy performance I have ever seen - or ever shall!" and considered his Shylock
Shylock
Shylock is a fictional character in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.-In the play:In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock is a Jewish moneylender who lends money to his Christian rival, Antonio, setting the security at a pound of Antonio's flesh...

 to be among his greatest impersonations, but the greatest success of the season was the production of Three Sisters
Three Sisters (play)
Three Sisters is a play by Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov, perhaps partially inspired by the situation of the three Brontë sisters, but most probably by the three Zimmermann sisters in Perm...

. That production went far toward Gielgud's successful effort to establish Chekhov's
Anton Chekhov
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a Russian physician, dramatist and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history. His career as a dramatist produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics...

's viability on the English-speaking stage. Gielgud's own performance as Vershinin, along with his past successes as Treplev in The Seagull
The Seagull
The Seagull is the first of what are generally considered to be the four major plays by the Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov. The Seagull was written in 1895 and first produced in 1896...

 (1929 and 1936), and his later work in The Cherry Orchard
The Cherry Orchard
The Cherry Orchard is Russian playwright Anton Chekhov's last play. It premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre 17 January 1904 in a production directed by Constantin Stanislavski. Chekhov intended this play as a comedy and it does contain some elements of farce; however, Stanislavski insisted on...

 (1954), and Ivanov (1965) were part of that Chekhovian legacy.

Shakespearean legacy


It has always been, however, for his Shakespearean work that Gielgud has been best known. In addition to Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

, which he played over 500 times in six productions, he gave what some consider definitive performances in The Tempest
The Tempest
The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place,...

 (as Prospero) in four productions (and in the 1991 film Prospero's Books
Prospero's Books
Prospero's Books , written and directed by Peter Greenaway, is a cinematic adaptation of The Tempest, by William Shakespeare. John Gielgud is Prospero, the protagonist who provides the off-screen narration and the voices to the other story characters...

), as well as in other roles - Richard II
Richard II (play)
King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's...

 in three productions, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by William Shakespeare about two pairs of lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero....

 which he first played in 1930 and revived throughout the 1950s, Macbeth
Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

 and Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play that was written by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1590 and 1596. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta...

 twice, Romeo
Romeo Montague
Romeo is one of the fictional protagonists in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Romeo is the son of old Montague and his wife, who secretly loves and marries Juliet, a member of the rival House of Capulet...

 three times, and King Lear
King Lear
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

 four times (as well as taking on the part for a final time in a radio broadcast at the age of 90). He also had triumphs as Malvolio
Malvolio
Malvolio is the steward of Olivia's household in William Shakespeare's comedy, Twelfth Night, or What You Will.-Style:Malvolio's ethical values are commonly used to define his appearance.In the play, Malvolio is defined as a "kind of" Puritan...

 in Twelfth Night (1931), Shylock
Shylock
Shylock is a fictional character in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.-In the play:In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock is a Jewish moneylender who lends money to his Christian rival, Antonio, setting the security at a pound of Antonio's flesh...

 in The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice is a tragic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic...

 (1937), Angelo in Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603 or 1604. It was classified as comedy, but its mood defies those expectations. As a result and for a variety of reasons, some critics have labelled it as one of Shakespeare's problem plays...

 (1950), Cassius in Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar (play)
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, also known simply as Julius Caesar, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1599. It portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against...

 (1950) (which he immortalised in the 1953 film
Julius Caesar (1953 film)
Julius Caesar is an 1953 MGM film adaptation of the play by Shakespeare, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who also wrote the uncredited screenplay, and produced by John Houseman. The original music score is by Miklós Rózsa...

), Leontes in The Winter's Tale
The Winter's Tale
The Winter's Tale is a play by William Shakespeare, originally published in the First Folio of 1623. Although it was grouped among the comedies, some modern editors have relabelled the play as one of Shakespeare's late romances. Some critics, among them W. W...

 (1951), and Cardinal Wolsey in Henry VIII
Henry VIII (play)
The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight is a history play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, based on the life of Henry VIII of England. An alternative title, All is True, is recorded in contemporary documents, the title Henry VIII not appearing until the play's publication...

 (1959) (although his 1960 performance as Othello
Othello
The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565...

 was not a success). It became rumoured that Gielgud also provided the voice for the uncredited role of the Ghost of Hamlet's Father in Laurence Olivier's 1948 film version
Hamlet (1948 film)
Hamlet is a 1948 British film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, adapted and directed by and starring Sir Laurence Olivier. Hamlet was Olivier's second film as director, and also the second of the three Shakespeare films that he directed...

, but the voice was actually that of Olivier, electronically distorted. Gielgud did voice the Ghost in both the stage and film
Richard Burton's Hamlet
Richard Burton’s Hamlet is a common name for both the Broadway production of William Shakespeare's tragedy that played from April 9 through August 8 of 1964 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, and for the filmed record of it that has been released theatrically and on home video.-Background:The production...

 version of the Richard Burton Hamlet, which he directed in 1964, and in the 1970 Hallmark Hall of Fame
Hallmark Hall of Fame
Hallmark Hall of Fame is an anthology program on American television, sponsored by Hallmark Cards, a Kansas City based greeting card company. The second longest-running television program in the history of television, it has a historically long run, beginning in 1951 and continuing into 2011...

 presentation starring Richard Chamberlain
Richard Chamberlain
George Richard Chamberlain is an American actor of stage and screen who became a teen idol in the title role of the television show Dr. Kildare .-Early life:...

.

Gielgud's crowning achievement, many believe, was Ages of Man
Ages of Man (play)
Ages of Man is a one-man show performed by John Gielgud featuring a collection of speeches in Shakespeare's plays. Based on an anthology edited by Oxford professor George Rylands in 1939 that organized the speeches to show the journey of life from birth to death, the show takes its title from...

, his one-man recital of Shakespearean excerpts which he performed throughout the 1950s and 1960s, winning a Tony Award
Tony Award
The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known as a Tony Award, recognizes achievement in live Broadway theatre. The awards are presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League at an annual ceremony in New York City. The awards are given for Broadway...

 for the Broadway production, a Grammy Award
Grammy Award
A Grammy Award — or Grammy — is an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry...

 for his recording of the piece, and an Emmy Award
Emmy Award
An Emmy Award, often referred to simply as the Emmy, is a television production award, similar in nature to the Peabody Awards but more focused on entertainment, and is considered the television equivalent to the Academy Awards and the Grammy Awards .A majority of Emmys are presented in various...

 for producer David Susskind
David Susskind
David Susskind was a producer of TV, movies, and stage plays and also a pioneer TV talk show host.-Personal:...

 for the 1966 telecast on CBS
CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

. Gielgud made his final Shakespearean appearance on stage in 1977 in the title role of John Schlesinger
John Schlesinger
John Richard Schlesinger, CBE was an English film and stage director and actor.-Early life:Schlesinger was born in London into a middle-class Jewish family, the son of Winifred Henrietta and Bernard Edward Schlesinger, a physician...

's production of Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar (play)
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, also known simply as Julius Caesar, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1599. It portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against...

 at the Royal National Theatre
Royal National Theatre
The Royal National Theatre in London is one of the United Kingdom's two most prominent publicly funded theatre companies, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company...

. He also made a recording of many of Shakespeare's sonnets
Shakespeare's sonnets
Shakespeare's sonnets are 154 poems in sonnet form written by William Shakespeare, dealing with themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality. All but two of the poems were first published in a 1609 quarto entitled SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS.: Never before imprinted. Sonnets 138 and 144...

 in 1963. Among his non-Shakespearean Renaissance roles, his Ferdinand in John Webster
John Webster
John Webster was an English Jacobean dramatist best known for his tragedies The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi, which are often regarded as masterpieces of the early 17th-century English stage. He was a contemporary of William Shakespeare.- Biography :Webster's life is obscure, and the dates...

's The Duchess of Malfi
The Duchess of Malfi
The Duchess of Malfi is a macabre, tragic play written by the English dramatist John Webster in 1612–13. It was first performed privately at the Blackfriars Theatre, then before a more general audience at The Globe, in 1613-14...

 was well-known.

Later stage work


As he aged, Gielgud sought out distinctive new voices in the theatre, appearing in plays by Edward Albee
Edward Albee
Edward Franklin Albee III is an American playwright who is best known for The Zoo Story , The Sandbox , Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , and a rewrite of the screenplay for the unsuccessful musical version of Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's . His works are considered well-crafted, often...

 (Tiny Alice
Tiny Alice
Tiny Alice, a three act play written by Edward Albee, premiered on Broadway at the Billy Rose Theatre on December 29, 1964.- Billy Rose Theatre production :...

), Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett is a British playwright, screenwriter, actor and author. Born in Leeds, he attended Oxford University where he studied history and performed with The Oxford Revue. He stayed to teach and research mediaeval history at the university for several years...

 (Forty Years On
Forty Years On (play)
Forty Years On is a 1968 play by Alan Bennett. It was his first West End play.-Subject:The play is set in a British public school called Albion House , which is putting on an end of term play in front of the parents, i.e. the audience...

), Charles Wood
Charles Wood (playwright)
Charles Wood is a playwright and scriptwriter for radio, television, and film. He lives in England....

 (Veterans), Edward Bond
Edward Bond
Edward Bond is an English playwright, theatre director, poet, theorist and screenwriter. He is the author of some fifty plays, among them Saved , the production of which was instrumental in the abolition of theatre censorship in the UK...

 (Bingo
Bingo (play)
Bingo: Scenes of Money and Death is a 1973 play by English Marxist playwright Edward Bond. It depicts an aging William Shakespeare at his Warwickshire home in 1615 and 1616, suffering pangs of conscience in part because he signed a contract which protected his landholdings, on the condition that...

, in which Gielgud played William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

), David Storey (Home
Home (play)
Home is a play by David Storey. It is set in a mental asylum, although this fact is only revealed gradually as the story progresses.The five characters include seemingly benign Harry, highly opinionated Jack, cynical Marjorie, and flirtatious Kathleen...

), and Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter, CH, CBE was a Nobel Prize–winning English playwright and screenwriter. One of the most influential modern British dramatists, his writing career spanned more than 50 years. His best-known plays include The Birthday Party , The Homecoming , and Betrayal , each of which he adapted to...

 (No Man's Land
No Man's Land (play)
No Man's Land is a play by Harold Pinter written in 1974 and first produced and published in 1975. Its original production was at the Old Vic Theatre in London by the National Theatre on 23 April 1975, and it later transferred to Wyndhams Theatre, July 1975 - January 1976, the Lyttelton Theatre...

), the latter two in partnership with his old friend Ralph Richardson
Ralph Richardson
Sir Ralph David Richardson was an English actor, one of a group of theatrical knights of the mid-20th century who, though more closely associated with the stage, also appeared in several classic films....

, but he drew the line at being offered the role of Hamm in Beckett's
Samuel Beckett
Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet. He wrote both in English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour.Beckett is widely regarded as among the most...

 Endgame
Endgame (play)
Endgame, by Samuel Beckett, is a one-act play with four characters, written in a style associated with the Theatre of the Absurd. It was originally written in French ; as was his custom, Beckett himself translated it into English. The play was first performed in a French-language production at the...

, saying that the play offered "nothing but loneliness and despair". It looked as though Gielgud would retire from the stage after appearing in Half Life at the Duke of York's Theatre in 1978, but he made a successful comeback in 1988 in Hugh Whitemore
Hugh Whitemore
Hugh Whitemore is an English playwright and screenwriter.Whitemore studied for the stage at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he is now a Member of the Council. He began his writing career in British television with both original teleplays and adaptations of classic works by Charles...

's play The Best of Friends
The Best of Friends (play)
The Best of Friends is an epistolary play by Hugh Whitemore about the friendship of George Bernard Shaw, Sydney Cockerell, and Dame Laurentia McLachlan, based in the lengthy correspondence that passed between them for over 25 years...

 as museum curator Sydney Cockerell
Sydney Cockerell
Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell was an English museum curator and collector.-Life:Sydney Cockerell made his way initially as clerk in the family coal business, George J. Cockerell & Co, until he met John Ruskin. According to John Ruskin by Tim Hilton , around 1887 Cockerell sent Ruskin some sea...

.

Directing career



Gielgud was almost as highly regarded for his work as a theatre director as for his acting, having staged his first production as a guest director of the Oxford University Dramatic Society
Oxford University Dramatic Society
The Oxford University Dramatic Society is the principal funding body and provider of theatrical services to the many independent student productions put on by students in Oxford, England...

 production of Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...

 in 1932. The custom of OUDS at the time was to cast student undergraduates in the male roles and professional actresses in the female roles. Gielgud engaged Peggy Ashcroft
Peggy Ashcroft
Dame Peggy Ashcroft, DBE was an English actress.-Early years:Born as Edith Margaret Emily Ashcroft in Croydon, Ashcroft attended the Woodford School, Croydon and the Central School of Speech and Drama...

 as Juliet
Juliet Capulet
Juliet is one of the title characters in William Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet, the other being Romeo. She is the daughter of old Capulet, head of the house of Capulet. The story has a long history that precedes Shakespeare himself....

 and Edith Evans
Edith Evans
Dame Edith Mary Evans, DBE was a British actress. She was known for her work on the British stage. She also appeared in a number of films, for which she received three Academy Award nominations, plus a BAFTA and a Golden Globe award.Evans was particularly effective at portraying haughty...

 as the nurse, who played the same roles three years later in his legendary production of the play at the New Theatre
Noël Coward Theatre
The Noël Coward Theatre, formerly known as the Albery Theatre, is a West End theatre on St. Martin's Lane in the City of Westminster. It opened on 12 March 1903 as the New Theatre and was built by Sir Charles Wyndham behind Wyndham's Theatre which was completed in 1899. The building was designed by...

.

Gielgud quickly rose to the status of being one of the top directors for Binkie Beaumont
Binkie Beaumont
Hugh 'Binkie' Beaumont was a British theatre manager and producer, referred to as the "Eminence Grise" of the West End Theatre. He was one of the most successful manager-producers in the West End during the middle of the 20th century...

's H.M. Tennent, Ltd. production company in London's West End Theatre
West End theatre
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...

 and later on Broadway, his productions including Lady Windermere's Fan
Lady Windermere's Fan
Lady Windermere's Fan, A Play About a Good Woman is a four act comedy by Oscar Wilde, first produced 22 February 1892 at the St James's Theatre in London. The play was first published in 1893...

 (1945), The Glass Menagerie
The Glass Menagerie
The Glass Menagerie is a four-character memory play by Tennessee Williams. Williams worked on various drafts of the play prior to writing a version of it as a screenplay for MGM, to whom Williams was contracted...

 (1948), The Heiress
The Heiress
The Heiress is a 1949 American drama film. It was written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, adapted from their 1947 play of the same title that was based on the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James. The film was directed by William Wyler, with starring performances by Olivia de Havilland as...

 (1949), his own adaptation of The Cherry Orchard
The Cherry Orchard
The Cherry Orchard is Russian playwright Anton Chekhov's last play. It premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre 17 January 1904 in a production directed by Constantin Stanislavski. Chekhov intended this play as a comedy and it does contain some elements of farce; however, Stanislavski insisted on...

 (1954), The Potting Shed
The Potting Shed
The Potting Shed is a play by Graham Greene. The psychological drama centers on a secret held by the Callifer family for nearly thirty years....

 (1958), Five Finger Exercise
Five Finger Exercise
Five Finger Exercise is a 1962 drama film made by Columbia Pictures. It was directed by Daniel Mann and produced by Frederick Brisson from a screenplay by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, based on the play by Peter Shaffer....

 (1959), Peter Ustinov
Peter Ustinov
Peter Alexander Ustinov CBE was an English actor, writer and dramatist. He was also renowned as a filmmaker, theatre and opera director, stage designer, author, screenwriter, comedian, humourist, newspaper and magazine columnist, radio broadcaster and television presenter...

's comedy Half Way Up a Tree (1967), and Private Lives
Private Lives
Private Lives is a 1930 comedy of manners in three acts by Noël Coward. It focuses on a divorced couple who discover that they are honeymooning with their new spouses in neighbouring rooms at the same hotel. Despite a perpetually stormy relationship, they realise that they still have feelings for...

 (1972). Gielgud won a Tony Award
Tony Award
The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known as a Tony Award, recognizes achievement in live Broadway theatre. The awards are presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League at an annual ceremony in New York City. The awards are given for Broadway...

 for his direction of Big Fish, Little Fish in 1961, the only time he won the award in a competitive category (having won honorary awards for "Best Foreign Company" for his 1947 production of The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play by Oscar Wilde. First performed on 14 February 1895 at St. James's Theatre in London, it is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personae in order to escape burdensome social obligations...

 and for his one-man show Ages of Man
Ages of Man
The Ages of Man are the stages of human existence on the Earth according to Greek mythology. Two classical authors in particular offer accounts of the successive ages of mankind, which tend to progress from an original, long-gone age in which humans enjoyed a nearly divine existence to the current...

). He also directed the operas The Trojans in 1957 and A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream (opera)
A Midsummer Night's Dream is an opera with music by Benjamin Britten and set to a libretto adapted by the composer and Peter Pears from William Shakespeare's play, A Midsummer Night's Dream...

  in 1960.

Gielgud directed other actors in many of the Shakespearean roles that he was famous for playing, notably Richard Burton
Richard Burton
Richard Burton, CBE was a Welsh actor. He was nominated seven times for an Academy Award, six of which were for Best Actor in a Leading Role , and was a recipient of BAFTA, Golden Globe and Tony Awards for Best Actor. Although never trained as an actor, Burton was, at one time, the highest-paid...

 as Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

 (1964), Anthony Quayle
Anthony Quayle
Sir John Anthony Quayle, CBE was an English actor and director.-Early life:Quayle was born in Ainsdale, Southport, in Lancashire to a Manx family....

 as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by William Shakespeare about two pairs of lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero....

 (1950), and Paul Scofield
Paul Scofield
David Paul Scofield, CH, CBE , better known as Paul Scofield, was an English actor of stage and screen...

 as the title role in Richard II
Richard II (play)
King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's...

 (1952). But Gielgud didn't always have the magic touch, staging a disappointing revival of Twelfth Night with Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM was an English actor, director, and producer. He was one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. He married three times, to fellow actors Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright...

 and Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh, Lady Olivier was an English actress. She won the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire , a role she also played on stage in London's West End, as well as for her portrayal of the southern belle Scarlett O'Hara, alongside Clark...

 in 1955 and a disastrous production of Macbeth
Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

 with Ralph Richardson
Ralph Richardson
Sir Ralph David Richardson was an English actor, one of a group of theatrical knights of the mid-20th century who, though more closely associated with the stage, also appeared in several classic films....

 in 1952.

But Gielgud was best known for directing productions in which he also starred, including his greatest commercial success Richard of Bordeaux (1933), his definitive production of The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play by Oscar Wilde. First performed on 14 February 1895 at St. James's Theatre in London, it is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personae in order to escape burdensome social obligations...

 (1939, 1942, 1947), Medea
Medea
Medea is a woman in Greek mythology. She was the daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis, niece of Circe, granddaughter of the sun god Helios, and later wife to the hero Jason, with whom she had two children, Mermeros and Pheres. In Euripides's play Medea, Jason leaves Medea when Creon, king of...

 with Judith Anderson
Judith Anderson
Dame Judith Anderson, AC, DBE was an Australian-born American-based actress of stage, film and television. She won two Emmy Awards and a Tony Award and was also nominated for a Grammy Award and an Academy Award.-Early life:...

's Tony Award
Tony Award
The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known as a Tony Award, recognizes achievement in live Broadway theatre. The awards are presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League at an annual ceremony in New York City. The awards are given for Broadway...

-winning performance of the title role with Gielgud supporting her as Jason
Jason
Jason was a late ancient Greek mythological hero from the late 10th Century BC, famous as the leader of the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. He was the son of Aeson, the rightful king of Iolcus...

 (1947), The Lady's Not for Burning
The Lady's Not for Burning
The Lady's Not for Burning is a 1948 play by Christopher Fry.A romantic comedy in three acts, set in verse, it is set in the Middle Ages, it reflects the world's "exhaustion and despair" following World War II, with a war-weary soldier who wants to die, and an accused witch who wants to live...

 (1949) that won Richard Burton
Richard Burton
Richard Burton, CBE was a Welsh actor. He was nominated seven times for an Academy Award, six of which were for Best Actor in a Leading Role , and was a recipient of BAFTA, Golden Globe and Tony Awards for Best Actor. Although never trained as an actor, Burton was, at one time, the highest-paid...

 his first notoriety as an actor, and Ivanov (1965). But many believed that his greatest successes were in Shakespearean productions in which he both directed and starred, especially Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...

 (1935), Richard II
Richard II (play)
King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's...

 (1937, 1953), King Lear
King Lear
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

 (1950, 1955), Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by William Shakespeare about two pairs of lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero....

 (1952, 1955, 1959) and his signature role of Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

 (1934, 1939, 1945).

Radio work


Gielgud's brother Val Gielgud
Val Gielgud
Val Henry Gielgud was an English actor, writer, director and broadcaster. He was a pioneer of radio drama for the BBC, and also directed the first ever drama to be produced in the newer medium of television....

 became the head of BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 Radio Production in 1928, and John made his radio debut there the following year in a version of Pirandello's
Luigi Pirandello
Luigi Pirandello was an Italian dramatist, novelist, and short story writer awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1934, for his "bold and brilliant renovation of the drama and the stage." Pirandello's works include novels, hundreds of short stories, and about 40 plays, some of which are written...

 The Man With the Flower in His Mouth
The Man With The Flower In His Mouth
The Man With the Flower in His Mouth is a play by the Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello. It is particularly noteworthy for becoming, in 1930, the first piece of television drama ever to be produced in Britain, when a version was screened by the British Broadcasting Corporation as part of their...

, which he was then performing at the Old Vic Theatre. In the ensuing years, John played many of his greatest stage roles on BBC Radio including Richard of Bordeaux, The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play by Oscar Wilde. First performed on 14 February 1895 at St. James's Theatre in London, it is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personae in order to escape burdensome social obligations...

, The Tempest
The Tempest
The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place,...

, and Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

, one production of which featured Emlyn Williams
Emlyn Williams
George Emlyn Williams, CBE , known as Emlyn Williams, was a Welsh dramatist and actor.-Biography:He was born into a Welsh-speaking, working class family in Mostyn, Flintshire....

 as Claudius, Celia Johnson
Celia Johnson
Dame Celia Elizabeth Johnson DBE was an English actress.She began her stage acting career in 1928, and subsequently achieved success in West End and Broadway productions. She also appeared in several films, including the romantic drama Brief Encounter , for which she received a nomination for the...

 as Ophelia, and Martita Hunt
Martita Hunt
Martita Hunt was an English theatre and film actress.-Early life:Hunt was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 30 January 1900 to British parents Alfred and Marta Hunt...

 as Gertrude (the part she played in Gielgud's debut in the role at the Old Vic in 1930). He also played some Shakespearean roles which he never essayed on stage, such as Iago
Iago
Iago is a fictional character in Shakespeare's Othello . The character's source is traced to Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinthio's tale "Un Capitano Moro" in Gli Hecatommithi . There, the character is simply "the ensign". Iago is a soldier and Othello's ancient . He is the husband of Emilia,...

 in a 1932 broadcast of Othello
Othello
The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565...

 opposite Henry Ainley
Henry Ainley
Henry Hinchliffe Ainley was an English Shakespearean stage and screen actor. He was married three times to Susanne Sheldon, Elaine Fearon and the novelist Bettina Riddle, later Baroness von Hutten zum Stolzenberg...

 as the Moor, Buckingham (1954) and Cranmer (1977) in Henry VIII
Henry VIII (play)
The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight is a history play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, based on the life of Henry VIII of England. An alternative title, All is True, is recorded in contemporary documents, the title Henry VIII not appearing until the play's publication...

, and Friar Laurence in Romeo & Juliet for the first time when he was eighty-nine.

John Gielgud played Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is a fictional detective created by Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The fantastic London-based "consulting detective", Holmes is famous for his astute logical reasoning, his ability to take almost any disguise, and his use of forensic science skills to solve...

 for BBC radio in the 1950s, with Ralph Richardson
Ralph Richardson
Sir Ralph David Richardson was an English actor, one of a group of theatrical knights of the mid-20th century who, though more closely associated with the stage, also appeared in several classic films....

 as Watson. Gielgud's brother, Val Gielgud, appeared in one of the episodes, perhaps inevitably, as the great detective's brother Mycroft
Mycroft Holmes
Mycroft Holmes is a fictional character in the stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. He is the elder brother of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes.- Profile :...

. This series was co-produced by the American Broadcasting Company. Orson Welles
Orson Welles
George Orson Welles , best known as Orson Welles, was an American film director, actor, theatre director, screenwriter, and producer, who worked extensively in film, theatre, television and radio...

 appeared as Professor Moriarty
Professor Moriarty
Professor James Moriarty is a fictional character and the archenemy of the detective Sherlock Holmes in the fiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Moriarty is a criminal mastermind, described by Holmes as the "Napoleon of Crime". Doyle lifted the phrase from a real Scotland Yard inspector who was...

 in The Final Problem.

Gielgud gave one of his final radio performances in the title role of an All Star production of King Lear
King Lear
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

 in 1994 that was mounted to celebrate his 90th birthday. The cast included Judi Dench
Judi Dench
Dame Judith Olivia "Judi" Dench, CH, DBE, FRSA is an English film, stage and television actress.Dench made her professional debut in 1957 with the Old Vic Company. Over the following few years she played in several of William Shakespeare's plays in such roles as Ophelia in Hamlet, Juliet in Romeo...

, Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Charles Branagh is an actor and film director from Northern Ireland. He is best known for directing and starring in several film adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays including Henry V , Much Ado About Nothing , Hamlet Kenneth Charles Branagh is an actor and film director from...

, Derek Jacobi
Derek Jacobi
Sir Derek George Jacobi, CBE is an English actor and film director.A "forceful, commanding stage presence", Jacobi has enjoyed a highly successful stage career, appearing in such stage productions as Hamlet, Uncle Vanya, and Oedipus the King. He received a Tony Award for his performance in...

, and Simon Russell Beale
Simon Russell Beale
Simon Russell Beale, CBE is an English actor. He has been described by The Independent as "the greatest stage actor of his generation."-Early years:...

.

Film work


Although he began to appear in British films as early as 1924, making his debut in Who Is the Man?
Who Is the Man?
Who Is The Man? is a 1924 British silent film drama directed by Walter Summers. The film was based on the successful French play Daniel by Louis Verneuil and is notable as the first screen appearance of John Gielgud.-Plot:...

 and appearing in the Edgar Wallace
Edgar Wallace
Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace was an English crime writer, journalist, novelist, screenwriter, and playwright, who wrote 175 novels, 24 plays, and numerous articles in newspapers and journals....

-based thriller The Clue of the New Pin
The Clue of the New Pin (1929 film)
The Clue of the New Pin is a British crime film directed by Arthur Maude and starring Benita Hume, Kim Peacock, and Donald Calthrop. The film was one of the few filmed in British Phototone, a sound-on-disc system which used 12-inch discs...

 (1929), he did not make an international impact in the medium until the last decades of his life. His early important film roles included Inigo Jollifant in Victor Saville
Victor Saville
Victor Saville was an English film director, producer and screenwriter. He directed 39 films between 1927 and 1954...

's The Good Companions
The Good Companions (1933 film)
The Good Companions is a 1933 comedy film directed by Victor Saville starring Jessie Matthews and John Gielgud. It is based on the novel of the same name.-Cast:* Jessie Matthews - Susie Dean* Edmund Gwenn - Jess Oakroyd* John Gielgud - Inigo Jollifant...

 (1933), the lead in Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

's Secret Agent (1936), Benjamin Disraeli in The Prime Minister (1940), Cassius in Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar (1953 film)
Julius Caesar is an 1953 MGM film adaptation of the play by Shakespeare, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who also wrote the uncredited screenplay, and produced by John Houseman. The original music score is by Miklós Rózsa...

 (1953) (BAFTA Award for Best British Actor), George, Duke of Clarence to Olivier's Richard III
Richard III (1955 film)
Richard III is a 1955 British film adaptation of William Shakespeare's historical play of the same name, also incorporating elements from his Henry VI, Part 3. It was directed and produced by Sir Laurence Olivier, who also played the lead role. The cast includes many noted Shakespearean actors,...

 (1955), and Henry IV
Henry IV of England
Henry IV was King of England and Lord of Ireland . He was the ninth King of England of the House of Plantagenet and also asserted his grandfather's claim to the title King of France. He was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence his other name, Henry Bolingbroke...

 to Orson Welles
Orson Welles
George Orson Welles , best known as Orson Welles, was an American film director, actor, theatre director, screenwriter, and producer, who worked extensively in film, theatre, television and radio...

' Falstaff
Falstaff
Sir John Falstaff is a fictional character who appears in three plays by William Shakespeare. In the two Henry IV plays, he is a companion to Prince Hal, the future King Henry V. A fat, vain, boastful, and cowardly knight, Falstaff leads the apparently wayward Prince Hal into trouble, and is...

 in Chimes at Midnight
Chimes at Midnight
Chimes at Midnight, also known as Falstaff and Campanadas a medianoche , is a 1965 film directed by and starring Orson Welles. Focused on William Shakespeare's recurring character Sir John Falstaff, the film stars Welles himself as Falstaff, Keith Baxter plays Prince Hal , and John Gielgud plays...

 (1966). A brief glimpse of his Hamlet from the gravediggers scene appears in the Humphrey Jennings
Humphrey Jennings
Frank Humphrey Sinkler Jennings was an English documentary filmmaker and one of the founders of the Mass Observation organization...

 short A Diary for Timothy
A Diary for Timothy
A Diary for Timothy is a British documentary film directed by Humphrey Jennings. It was produced by Basil Wright for the Crown Film Unit....

 (1945). But he lost his aversion to filming in the late 1960s, and by the 1980s and 1990s he was appearing in films so regularly that it was jokingly said that he was prepared to do almost anything for his art. He won an Academy Award
Academy Awards
An Academy Award, also known as an Oscar, is an accolade bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers...

 for his supporting role as a sardonic butler in the 1981 comedy Arthur, starring Dudley Moore
Dudley Moore
Dudley Stuart John Moore, CBE was an English actor, comedian, composer and musician.Moore first came to prominence as one of the four writer-performers in the ground-breaking comedy revue Beyond the Fringe in the early 1960s, and then became famous as half of the highly popular television...

 and Liza Minnelli
Liza Minnelli
Liza May Minnelli is an American actress and singer. She is the daughter of singer and actress Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli....

, a New York Film Critics Circle Award
New York Film Critics Circle Awards
New York Film Critics' Circle Awards are given annually to honor excellence in cinema worldwide by an organization of film reviewers from New York City-based publications. It is considered one of the most important precursors to the Academy Awards....

 for Providence
Providence (1977 film)
Providence is a French/Swiss 1977 film directed by Alain Resnais and starring Dirk Bogarde, David Warner, Ellen Burstyn, Elaine Stritch, and John Gielgud. The film won the 1978 César Award for Best Film.-Plot summary:...

 (1977), and a BAFTA Award for Murder on the Orient Express
Murder on the Orient Express (1974 film)
Murder on the Orient Express is a 1974 British mystery film directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot, and based on the1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.-Overview:...

 (1974), and his performances in The Charge of the Light Brigade
The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968 film)
The Charge of the Light Brigade is a 1968 British war film made by Woodfall Film Productions and distributed by United Artists . It was directed by Tony Richardson and produced by Neil Hartley....

 (1968), The Elephant Man
The Elephant Man (film)
The Elephant Man is a 1980 American drama film based on the true story of Joseph Merrick , a severely deformed man in 19th century London...

 (1981), and Shine
Shine (film)
Shine is a 1996 Australian film based on the life of pianist David Helfgott, who suffered a mental breakdown and spent years in institutions. It stars Geoffrey Rush, Lynn Redgrave, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Noah Taylor, John Gielgud, Googie Withers, Justin Braine, Sonia Todd, Nicholas Bell, Chris...

 (1996) were critically acclaimed. In 1991, Gielgud was able to satisfy his life's ambition by immortalising his Prospero
Prospero
Prospero is the protagonist in The Tempest, a play by William Shakespeare.- The Tempest :Prospero is the rightful Duke of Milan, who was put to sea on "a rotten carcass of a butt [boat]" to die by his usurping brother, Antonio, twelve years before the play begins. Prospero and Miranda survived,...

 on screen in Peter Greenaway
Peter Greenaway
Peter Greenaway, CBE is a British film director. His films are noted for the distinct influence of Renaissance and Baroque painting, and Flemish painting in particular...

's extremely offbeat version of The Tempest
The Tempest
The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place,...

, a film called Prospero's Books
Prospero's Books
Prospero's Books , written and directed by Peter Greenaway, is a cinematic adaptation of The Tempest, by William Shakespeare. John Gielgud is Prospero, the protagonist who provides the off-screen narration and the voices to the other story characters...

 in which Gielgud voiced every single character in the play.

Television also developed as one of the focal points of his career, with Gielgud giving a particularly notable performance in Brideshead Revisited
Brideshead Revisited (TV serial)
Brideshead Revisited is a 1981 British television serial produced by Granada Television for broadcast by the ITV network. The teleplay is based on Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited...

 (1981). He won an Emmy Award
Emmy Award
An Emmy Award, often referred to simply as the Emmy, is a television production award, similar in nature to the Peabody Awards but more focused on entertainment, and is considered the television equivalent to the Academy Awards and the Grammy Awards .A majority of Emmys are presented in various...

 for Summer's Lease
Summer's Lease
Summer's Lease is a novel, set predominantly in Italy, by Sir John Mortimer, author of the Rumpole novels. It was first published in 1988 and made into a British television mini-series, first shown in 1989. The name "Summer's Lease" comes from William Shakespeare's Sonnet 18. The relevant line is...

 (1989) and televised his stage performances of A Day by the Sea (1957), Home (1970), No Man's Land
No Man's Land (play)
No Man's Land is a play by Harold Pinter written in 1974 and first produced and published in 1975. Its original production was at the Old Vic Theatre in London by the National Theatre on 23 April 1975, and it later transferred to Wyndhams Theatre, July 1975 - January 1976, the Lyttelton Theatre...

 (1976) and his final theatre role in The Best of Friends
The Best of Friends
The Best of Friends is a compilation album by singer/songwriter duo Loggins and Messina, released in late 1976 ....

 as Sydney Cockerell
Sydney Cockerell
Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell was an English museum curator and collector.-Life:Sydney Cockerell made his way initially as clerk in the family coal business, George J. Cockerell & Co, until he met John Ruskin. According to John Ruskin by Tim Hilton , around 1887 Cockerell sent Ruskin some sea...

 in the 1991 Masterpiece Theatre Production, along with Patrick McGoohan
Patrick McGoohan
Patrick Joseph McGoohan was an American-born actor, raised in Ireland and England, with an extensive stage and film career, most notably in the 1960s television series Danger Man , and The Prisoner, which he co-created...

 and Dame Wendy Hiller
Wendy Hiller
Dame Wendy Margaret Hiller DBE was an Academy Award-winning English film and stage actress, who enjoyed a varied acting career that spanned nearly sixty years. The writer Joel Hirschorn, in his 1984 compilation Rating the Movie Stars, described her as "a no-nonsense actress who literally took...

. In 1983, he made his second onscreen appearance with fellow theatrical knights Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM was an English actor, director, and producer. He was one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. He married three times, to fellow actors Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright...

 and Ralph Richardson
Ralph Richardson
Sir Ralph David Richardson was an English actor, one of a group of theatrical knights of the mid-20th century who, though more closely associated with the stage, also appeared in several classic films....

 (following Olivier's own Richard III
Richard III (1955 film)
Richard III is a 1955 British film adaptation of William Shakespeare's historical play of the same name, also incorporating elements from his Henry VI, Part 3. It was directed and produced by Sir Laurence Olivier, who also played the lead role. The cast includes many noted Shakespearean actors,...

) in a television miniseries about composer Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

. In 1996 he played a wizard in the TV adaptation of Gulliver's Travels
Gulliver's Travels (TV miniseries)
Gulliver's Travels is a U.S. TV miniseries based on Jonathan Swift's novel of the same name, produced by Jim Henson Productions and Hallmark Entertainment. This miniseries is notable for being one of the very few adaptations of Swift's novel to feature all four voyages. The miniseries aired in the...

. Gielgud and Ralph Richardson
Ralph Richardson
Sir Ralph David Richardson was an English actor, one of a group of theatrical knights of the mid-20th century who, though more closely associated with the stage, also appeared in several classic films....

 were the first guest stars on Second City Television
Second City Television
Second City Television is a Canadian television sketch comedy show offshoot from Toronto's The Second City troupe that ran between 1976 and 1984.- Premise :...

. Playing themselves, they were in Toronto during their tour of Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter, CH, CBE was a Nobel Prize–winning English playwright and screenwriter. One of the most influential modern British dramatists, his writing career spanned more than 50 years. His best-known plays include The Birthday Party , The Homecoming , and Betrayal , each of which he adapted to...

's No Man's Land
No Man's Land (play)
No Man's Land is a play by Harold Pinter written in 1974 and first produced and published in 1975. Its original production was at the Old Vic Theatre in London by the National Theatre on 23 April 1975, and it later transferred to Wyndhams Theatre, July 1975 - January 1976, the Lyttelton Theatre...

. According to Dave Thomas
Dave Thomas (actor)
David "Dave" Thomas is a Canadian comedian and actor. He was born in St. Catharines, Ontario, but moved to Durham, North Carolina where his father, John E. Thomas, attended Duke University and earned a PhD in Philosophy. Thomas attended George Watts and Moorehead elementary schools...

, in his book, SCTV: Behind the Scenes, their sketch was very poor and the actors gave bad performances. Gielgud's final television performance was on film in Merlin
Merlin (film)
Merlin is a television miniseries which originally aired in 1998 that retells the legend of King Arthur from the perspective of the wizard Merlin...

 in 1998, his final television studio appearance having been in A Summer Day's Dream recorded in 1994 for the BBC 2 Performance series.

Gielgud was one of the few people who has won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award.

Gielgud's final onscreen appearance in a major release motion picture was as Pope Pius V in Elizabeth
Elizabeth (film)
Elizabeth is a 1998 biographical film written by Michael Hirst, directed by Shekhar Kapur, and starring Cate Blanchett in the title role of Queen Elizabeth I of England, alongside Geoffrey Rush, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Fiennes, Sir John Gielgud, Fanny Ardant and Richard Attenborough...

 which was released in 1998. His final acting performance was in a film adaptation of Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett
Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet. He wrote both in English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour.Beckett is widely regarded as among the most...

's short play Catastrophe
Catastrophe (play)
Catastrophe is a short play by Samuel Beckett, written in French in 1982 at the invitation of A.I.D.A. and “[f]irst produced in the Avignon Festival … Beckett considered it ‘massacred.’” It is one of his few plays to deal with a political theme and, arguably, holds the title of Beckett's most...

, opposite longtime collaborator Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter, CH, CBE was a Nobel Prize–winning English playwright and screenwriter. One of the most influential modern British dramatists, his writing career spanned more than 50 years. His best-known plays include The Birthday Party , The Homecoming , and Betrayal , each of which he adapted to...

 and directed by American playwright David Mamet
David Mamet
David Alan Mamet is an American playwright, essayist, screenwriter and film director.Best known as a playwright, Mamet won a Pulitzer Prize and received a Tony nomination for Glengarry Glen Ross . He also received a Tony nomination for Speed-the-Plow . As a screenwriter, he received Oscar...

; Gielgud died mere weeks after production was completed at the age of 96 of natural causes.

Personal life


Gielgud lived and worked in an era when there was a conspiracy of silence around homosexuality outside of theatrical circles. Shortly after he was knighted, Gielgud endured a horrific humiliation. In 1953, he was convicted of "persistently importuning for immoral purposes" (cottaging
Cottaging
Cottaging is a British gay slang term referring to anonymous sex between men in a public lavatory , or cruising for sexual partners with the intention of having sex elsewhere...

) in a Chelsea
Chelsea, London
Chelsea is an area of West London, England, bounded to the south by the River Thames, where its frontage runs from Chelsea Bridge along the Chelsea Embankment, Cheyne Walk, Lots Road and Chelsea Harbour. Its eastern boundary was once defined by the River Westbourne, which is now in a pipe above...

 mews, having been arrested for trying to pick up a man in a public lavatory. Gielgud avoided Hollywood for over a decade for fear of being denied entry because of the arrest. There was much discussion behind closed doors about whether his career could endure the ignominy, but he continued to rehearse the play in which he was scheduled to direct and act. Instead of being rejected by the public, he received a standing ovation at the play's initial opening in Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

, in part because of his co-star Sybil Thorndike
Sybil Thorndike
Dame Agnes Sybil Thorndike CH DBE was a British actress.-Early life:She was born in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire to Arthur Thorndike and Agnes Macdonald. Her father was a Canon of Rochester Cathedral...

; Thorndike seized him as he stood in the wings unable to bring himself to make his first entrance and brought him onstage, whispering "Come on, John darling, they won't boo me." Biographer Sheridan Morley
Sheridan Morley
Sheridan Morley was an English author, biographer, critic, director, actor and broadcaster. He was the eldest son of actor Robert Morley and grandson of actress Dame Gladys Cooper, and wrote biographies of both...

 writes that while Gielgud never denied being homosexual, he always tried to be discreet about it and felt humiliated by the ordeal. Some speculate that it helped to bring to public attention a crusade to decriminalise homosexuality in England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

.

The 'Gielgud case' of 1953, above, was dramatised by critic turned playwright Nicholas de Jongh
Nicholas de Jongh
Nicholas de Jongh is a British theatre critic and playwright. He served as the senior drama critic of the Evening Standard from 1991 to 2009. Prior to that, he worked for the Guardian newspaper for almost 20 years...

 in the play Plague Over England
Plague Over England
Plague Over England is a play written by Nicholas de Jongh, based on an incident that occurred during John Gielgud's life, when he was arrested for lewd behaviour; it offers an insight into the changes of the gay lifestyle over the last fifty years...

 and performed at the Finborough
Finborough Theatre
The Finborough Theatre is a fifty seat theatre in the Earls Court area of London, United Kingdom , which presents new British writing, UK and premieres of new plays, primarily from the English speaking world including North America, Canada, Scotland and Ireland, music theatre, and rarely seen...

, a small London theatre, in 2008, with Jasper Britton
Jasper Britton
Jasper Britton, in is an actor.Britton is the son of veteran actor Tony Britton, and Danish sculptor and member of the World War II Danish Resistance Eva Castle Britton...

 as Gielgud. In 2009 the play was presented for a limited run at the Duchess Theatre
Duchess Theatre
The Duchess Theatre is a West End theatre in the City of Westminster, London, located in Catherine Street, near Aldwych.The theatre opened on 25 November 1929 and is one of the smallest 'proscenium arched' West End theatres. It has 479 seats on two levels....

, in London's West End, with Michael Feast (who had worked with Gielgud) in the main role.

Gielgud's long-standing professional relationship with producer Hugh "Binkie" Beaumont
Binkie Beaumont
Hugh 'Binkie' Beaumont was a British theatre manager and producer, referred to as the "Eminence Grise" of the West End Theatre. He was one of the most successful manager-producers in the West End during the middle of the 20th century...

 had its personal side as well. Gielgud's first significant lover, playwright John Perry, left Gielgud for Beaumont. Later, Perry went on to partner Beaumont in the H. M. Tennent organisation, within which Gielgud continued to work. Beaumont, himself closeted
Closeted
Closeted and in the closet are metaphors used to describe lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and intersex people who have not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity and aspects thereof, including sexual identity and sexual behavior.-Background:In late 20th...

 outside the theatrical community, was a very powerful producer who oversaw a great deal of high-profile and artistically ambitious work. He stood behind Gielgud during the 1953 scandal, and, with Perry, took the risk of backing Gielgud's Queens' Theatre season. However, Morley's biography states: "Binkie...was..to keep him.....on such an extremely tight salary that it wasn't until Gielgud first escaped to Hollywood in 1953 that he began to earn the kind of money that Olivier and Richardson
Ralph Richardson
Sir Ralph David Richardson was an English actor, one of a group of theatrical knights of the mid-20th century who, though more closely associated with the stage, also appeared in several classic films....

 and Redgrave
Michael Redgrave
Sir Michael Scudamore Redgrave, CBE was an English stage and film actor, director, manager and author.-Youth and education:...

 had earned for decades."

In the same biography, Keith Baxter remarks on Gielgud's private life: "...the theatre was always much more important to John G. than any private relationship..."

Longtime partner Martin Hensler died in December 1998, 16 months before Gielgud's own death in 2000. He publicly acknowledged Hensler as his lover only in 1988, in the programme notes for The Best of Friends, which was his final stage performance. Sir John gave the opening address at the Queen Mother's 90th Birthday Celebration Gala at the London Palladium
London Palladium
The London Palladium is a 2,286 seat West End theatre located off Oxford Street in the City of Westminster. From the roster of stars who have played there and many televised performances, it is arguably the most famous theatre in London and the United Kingdom, especially for musical variety...

 in 1990, referring to a glittering array of stars and personalities assembled saying that because of the love and affection in which she was held they were laying at her feet, this rather large Birthday present, which provoked tremendous approval. He also read from Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett is a British playwright, screenwriter, actor and author. Born in Leeds, he attended Oxford University where he studied history and performed with The Oxford Revue. He stayed to teach and research mediaeval history at the university for several years...

's 40 Years On, in which he had appeared in earlier years.

Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM was an English actor, director, and producer. He was one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. He married three times, to fellow actors Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright...

's friendship with Gielgud was peppered with barely acknowledged competitive tension, for, while Olivier's fame as a film actor eventually eclipsed Gielgud's, Gielgud had been the great Shakespearean actor when Olivier was just coming up and that was hard for Olivier to forget. Gielgud maintained a very close relationship with Olivier's second wife, Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh, Lady Olivier was an English actress. She won the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire , a role she also played on stage in London's West End, as well as for her portrayal of the southern belle Scarlett O'Hara, alongside Clark...

, throughout their marriage, divorce, and her long struggle with manic depression
Bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder or bipolar affective disorder, historically known as manic–depressive disorder, is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels, cognition, and mood with or without one or...

. In Curtain (1991), Michael Korda
Michael Korda
Michael Korda is a writer and novelist who was editor-in-Chief of Simon & Schuster in New York City.-Early Years:...

's novel based on the marriage of Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM was an English actor, director, and producer. He was one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. He married three times, to fellow actors Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright...

 and Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh, Lady Olivier was an English actress. She won the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire , a role she also played on stage in London's West End, as well as for her portrayal of the southern belle Scarlett O'Hara, alongside Clark...

, Gielgud becomes Philip Chagrin.

Another fictionalised Gielgud – this time given the family name John Terry – appeared around the same time as de Jongh's play in Nicola Upson's detective novel An Expert in Murder
An Expert in Murder
-Plot:The novel is set in the London theatres of the 1930s. The book revolves around Josephine Tey, a version of the famous novelist. The story begins with Tey taking the train from Scotland to London in order to attend the final week of performances of her renowned play, Richard of Bordeaux,...

, a crime story woven around the original production of Richard of Bordeaux.

John Gielgud died of a respiratory infection and was cremated
Cremation
Cremation is the process of reducing bodies to basic chemical compounds such as gasses and bone fragments. This is accomplished through high-temperature burning, vaporization and oxidation....

 at Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

 Crematorium.

Awards and honours

  • He was knighted
    Knight Bachelor
    The rank of Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. It is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry...

     in the 1953 coronation
    Coronation of the British monarch
    The coronation of the British monarch is a ceremony in which the monarch of the United Kingdom is formally crowned and invested with regalia...

     honours, became a Companion of Honour
    Order of the Companions of Honour
    The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion....

     in 1977, and was admitted to the Order of Merit in 1996.

  • The National Portrait Gallery, London commissioned artist David Remfry
    David Remfry
    David Remfry, MBE RA is a British painter currently living in New York City. Best known for his life-size watercolors of urban scenes and nightclubs, his work is held by many museums in the United States of America and United Kingdom.-Exhibitions:Remfry's work is based on the figure...

     to paint a portrait of Sir John for the collection in 1980, which now holds 112 likenesses of Gielgud in its collections.

  • The Globe Theatre in London was renamed the Gielgud Theatre
    Gielgud Theatre
    The Gielgud Theatre is a West End theatre, located on Shaftesbury Avenue in the City of Westminster, London, at the corner of Rupert Street. The house currently has 889 seats on three levels.-History:...

     in 1994 in his honour.

Academy Awards
Academy Awards
An Academy Award, also known as an Oscar, is an accolade bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers...

  • 1964: Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, for Becket
  • 1981: Winner for Best Supporting Actor
    Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
    Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role is one of the Academy Awards of Merit presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize an actor who has delivered an outstanding performance while working within the film industry. Since its inception, however, the...

    , for Arthur

Emmy Awards

  • 1966: Emmy for Outstanding Dramatic Program, for Gielgud's Ages of Man
    Ages of Man (play)
    Ages of Man is a one-man show performed by John Gielgud featuring a collection of speeches in Shakespeare's plays. Based on an anthology edited by Oxford professor George Rylands in 1939 that organized the speeches to show the journey of life from birth to death, the show takes its title from...

  • 1982: Nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Special, for Brideshead Revisited
    Brideshead Revisited (TV serial)
    Brideshead Revisited is a 1981 British television serial produced by Granada Television for broadcast by the ITV network. The teleplay is based on Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited...

  • 1984: Nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Special, for The Master of Ballantrae
  • 1985: Nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Special, for Romance on the Orient Express
    Romance on the Orient Express
    Romance on the Orient Express is a 1985 television film directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark.- Plot :Lily Parker is a sophisticated American magazine editor who is on a business trip in Europe with her friend Susan Lawson . Susan convinces her to travel from Venice to Paris by train, instead of by...

  • 1989: Nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a miniseries or Special, for War and Remembrance
    War and Remembrance
    War and Remembrance is a novel by Herman Wouk, published in 1978, which is the sequel to The Winds of War. It continues the story of the extended Henry family and the Jastrow family starting on 15 December 1941 and ending on 6 August 1945. This novel was adapted into a mini-series presented on...

  • 1991: Winner for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
    Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor - Miniseries or a Movie
    This is a list of winners of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie.-1950s:*1952: Thomas Mitchell*1953: no award*1954: Robert Cummings – 12 Angry Men*1955: Lloyd Nolan – Caine Mutiny Court Marshal...

    , for Summer's Lease
    Summer's Lease
    Summer's Lease is a novel, set predominantly in Italy, by Sir John Mortimer, author of the Rumpole novels. It was first published in 1988 and made into a British television mini-series, first shown in 1989. The name "Summer's Lease" comes from William Shakespeare's Sonnet 18. The relevant line is...


Tony Awards

  • 1948: Winner for Outstanding Foreign Company, The Importance of Being Earnest
    The Importance of Being Earnest
    The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play by Oscar Wilde. First performed on 14 February 1895 at St. James's Theatre in London, it is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personae in order to escape burdensome social obligations...

  • 1959: Winner, Special Award, for contribution to theatre for his extraordinary insight into the writings of Shakespeare as demonstrated in his one-man show, Ages of Man
    Ages of Man (play)
    Ages of Man is a one-man show performed by John Gielgud featuring a collection of speeches in Shakespeare's plays. Based on an anthology edited by Oxford professor George Rylands in 1939 that organized the speeches to show the journey of life from birth to death, the show takes its title from...

  • 1961: Winner for Best Director (Dramatic), for Big Fish, Little Fish, a play by Hugh Wheeler
    Hugh Wheeler
    Hugh Callingham Wheeler was an English-born playwright, screenwriter, librettist, poet, and translator. He resided in the United States from 1934 until his death and became a naturalized citizen in 1942. He had attended London University.Under the noms de plume Patrick Quentin, Q...

  • 1963: Nominated for Best Director (Dramatic), for The School for Scandal
    The School for Scandal
    The School for Scandal is a play written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. It was first performed in London at Drury Lane Theatre on May 8, 1777.The prologue, written by David Garrick, commends the play, its subject, and its author to the audience...

  • 1965: Nominated for Best Actor (Dramatic)
    Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
    The Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play presented since 1947, is awarded to actors in productions of new or revival plays.-1940s:*1947 - José Ferrer – Cyrano de Bergerac / Fredric March – Years Ago...

    , for Tiny Alice
    Tiny Alice
    Tiny Alice, a three act play written by Edward Albee, premiered on Broadway at the Billy Rose Theatre on December 29, 1964.- Billy Rose Theatre production :...

  • 1971: Nominated for Best Actor (Dramatic), for Home
    Home (play)
    Home is a play by David Storey. It is set in a mental asylum, although this fact is only revealed gradually as the story progresses.The five characters include seemingly benign Harry, highly opinionated Jack, cynical Marjorie, and flirtatious Kathleen...


Evening Standard Awards
Evening Standard Awards
The Evening Standard Theatre Awards, established in 1955, are presented annually for outstanding achievements in London Theatre. Sponsored by the Evening Standard newspaper, they are announced in late November or early December...

  • 1970 Co-winner for Best Actor for Home
    Home (play)
    Home is a play by David Storey. It is set in a mental asylum, although this fact is only revealed gradually as the story progresses.The five characters include seemingly benign Harry, highly opinionated Jack, cynical Marjorie, and flirtatious Kathleen...

     (with Ralph Richardson
    Ralph Richardson
    Sir Ralph David Richardson was an English actor, one of a group of theatrical knights of the mid-20th century who, though more closely associated with the stage, also appeared in several classic films....

    )
  • 1975 Winner for Best Actor for No Man's Land
    No Man's Land (play)
    No Man's Land is a play by Harold Pinter written in 1974 and first produced and published in 1975. Its original production was at the Old Vic Theatre in London by the National Theatre on 23 April 1975, and it later transferred to Wyndhams Theatre, July 1975 - January 1976, the Lyttelton Theatre...

  • 1982 Winner, Special Award for Lifetime Achievement

Grammy Awards

  • 1959: Nominated for Best Documentary or Spoken Word Recording, for Ages of Man
    Ages of Man (play)
    Ages of Man is a one-man show performed by John Gielgud featuring a collection of speeches in Shakespeare's plays. Based on an anthology edited by Oxford professor George Rylands in 1939 that organized the speeches to show the journey of life from birth to death, the show takes its title from...

  • 1964: Nominated for Best Documentary or Spoken Word Recording, for Hamlet with Richard Burton
    Richard Burton
    Richard Burton, CBE was a Welsh actor. He was nominated seven times for an Academy Award, six of which were for Best Actor in a Leading Role , and was a recipient of BAFTA, Golden Globe and Tony Awards for Best Actor. Although never trained as an actor, Burton was, at one time, the highest-paid...

    , Hume Cronyn
    Hume Cronyn
    Hume Blake Cronyn, OC was a Canadian actor of stage and screen, who enjoyed a long career, often appearing professionally alongside his second wife, Jessica Tandy.-Early life:...

    , Alfred Drake
    Alfred Drake
    Alfred Drake was an American actor and singer.-Biography:Born as Alfred Capurro in New York City, the son of parents emigrated from Recco, Genoa, Drake began his Broadway career while still a student at Brooklyn College...

    , George Voskovec, Eileen Herlie
    Eileen Herlie
    Eileen Herlie was a Scottish-American actress.-Life and career:Eileen Herlie was born Eileen Isobel Herlihy to a Catholic father and a Protestant mother in Glasgow, Scotland, and was one of five children. Herlie was trained as a theatre actress. Among her West End London theatre successes were The...

    , William Redfield
    William Redfield (actor)
    William Redfield was an American actor and author who appeared in numerous theatrical, film, radio, and television roles.-Acting career:...

     and George Rose
    George Rose (actor)
    \...

  • 1964: Nominated for Best Documentary or Spoken Word Recording, for Ages of Man, Volume 2 (One Man in His Time) Part Two - Shakespeare
  • 1979: Winner for Best Spoken Word, Documentary or Drama Recording, for Ages of Man - Recordings from Shakespeare
  • 1982: Nominated for Best Spoken Word, Documentary or Drama Recording, for No Man's Land
    No Man's Land (play)
    No Man's Land is a play by Harold Pinter written in 1974 and first produced and published in 1975. Its original production was at the Old Vic Theatre in London by the National Theatre on 23 April 1975, and it later transferred to Wyndhams Theatre, July 1975 - January 1976, the Lyttelton Theatre...

     with Ralph Richardson
    Ralph Richardson
    Sir Ralph David Richardson was an English actor, one of a group of theatrical knights of the mid-20th century who, though more closely associated with the stage, also appeared in several classic films....

  • 1983: Nominated for Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording, for Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats
    Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats
    Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is a collection of whimsical poems by T. S. Eliot about feline psychology and sociology, published by Faber and Faber. It is the basis for the record-setting musical Cats....

     with Irene Worth
    Irene Worth
    Irene Worth, CBE was an American stage and screen actress who became one of the leading stars of the English and American theatre. -Early life:...

  • 1986: Nominated for Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording, for Gulliver
    Gulliver
    Gulliver can refer to:In fiction:*Lemuel Gulliver, the main character of the story Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift*Gulliver "Gully" Foyle, the lead protagonist in the science fiction novel The Stars My Destination...

  • 1988: Nominated for Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording, for A Christmas Carol
    A Christmas Carol
    A Christmas Carol is a novella by English author Charles Dickens first published by Chapman & Hall on 17 December 1843. The story tells of sour and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge's ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after the supernatural visits of Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of...

  • 1989: Nominated for Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording, for Sir John Gielgud Reads Alice in Wonderland
  • 1991: Nominated for Best Album for Children, for The Emperor's New Clothes with Mark Isham
    Mark Isham
    Mark Isham is an American trumpeter, synthesist, and film composer. He works in a variety of genres, including jazz, electronic, and film.-Life and career:...


New York Film Critics Circle Awards
New York Film Critics Circle Awards
New York Film Critics' Circle Awards are given annually to honor excellence in cinema worldwide by an organization of film reviewers from New York City-based publications. It is considered one of the most important precursors to the Academy Awards....

  • 1977: Best Actor, for Providence
    Providence (1977 film)
    Providence is a French/Swiss 1977 film directed by Alain Resnais and starring Dirk Bogarde, David Warner, Ellen Burstyn, Elaine Stritch, and John Gielgud. The film won the 1978 César Award for Best Film.-Plot summary:...

  • 1981: Best Supporting Actor, for Arthur

Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

  • 1981: Best Supporting Actor, for Arthur
  • 1985: Best Supporting Actor, for Plenty
    Plenty (film)
    Plenty is a 1985 British drama film directed by Fred Schepisi and starring Meryl Streep . It was adapted from David Hare's play of the same name.-Plot:...


Golden Globe Awards

  • 1981: Winner for Best Supporting Actor, for Arthur
  • 1988: Winner for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television, for War and Remembrance
    War and Remembrance
    War and Remembrance is a novel by Herman Wouk, published in 1978, which is the sequel to The Winds of War. It continues the story of the extended Henry family and the Jastrow family starting on 15 December 1941 and ending on 6 August 1945. This novel was adapted into a mini-series presented on...

  • 1989: Nominated for Best Actor in a Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television, for War and Remembrance
    War and Remembrance
    War and Remembrance is a novel by Herman Wouk, published in 1978, which is the sequel to The Winds of War. It continues the story of the extended Henry family and the Jastrow family starting on 15 December 1941 and ending on 6 August 1945. This novel was adapted into a mini-series presented on...



There is also the Sir John Gielgud Award for "Excellence in the Dramatic Arts" presented by the US-based Shakespeare Guild. Past winners include Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen
Sir Ian Murray McKellen, CH, CBE is an English actor. He has received a Tony Award, two Academy Award nominations, and five Emmy Award nominations. His work has spanned genres from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction...

, Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Charles Branagh is an actor and film director from Northern Ireland. He is best known for directing and starring in several film adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays including Henry V , Much Ado About Nothing , Hamlet Kenneth Charles Branagh is an actor and film director from...

, Glen Joseph, Kevin Kline
Kevin Kline
Kevin Delaney Kline is an American theatre, voice, film actor and comedian. He has won an Academy Award and two Tony Awards, and has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, two BAFTA Awards and an Emmy Award.- Early life :...

 and Judi Dench
Judi Dench
Dame Judith Olivia "Judi" Dench, CH, DBE, FRSA is an English film, stage and television actress.Dench made her professional debut in 1957 with the Old Vic Company. Over the following few years she played in several of William Shakespeare's plays in such roles as Ophelia in Hamlet, Juliet in Romeo...


Other interests


Sir John Gielgud believed that animals should not be exploited. He was particularly fond of birds and joined PETA
Peta
Peta can refer to:* peta-, an SI prefix denoting a factor of 1015* Peta, Greece, a town in Greece* Peta, the Pāli word for a Preta, or hungry ghost in Buddhism* Peta Wilson, an Australian actress and model* Peta Todd, English glamour model...

's campaign against the foie gras
Foie gras
Foie gras ; French for "fat liver") is a food product made of the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened. This fattening is typically achieved through gavage corn, according to French law, though outside of France it is occasionally produced using natural feeding...

 industry in the early 1990s, narrating PETA's video exposé of the force-feeding of geese and ducks. Many chefs and restaurateurs who saw that video dropped foie gras from their menus. Sir John received PETA's Humanitarian of the Year Award twice, in 1994 and 1999.

Following his death it was revealed that late in his life he had made financial contributions to the lobby group Stonewall
Stonewall (UK)
Stonewall is a lesbian, gay and bisexual rights charity in the United Kingdom named after the Stonewall Inn of Stonewall riots fame. Now the largest gay equality organization not only in the UK but in Europe, it was formed in 1989 by political activists and others lobbying against section 28 of the...

, but had insisted that his support not be made public.

He also authored several books, including his memoirs in An Actor and His Time, Early Stages
Early Stages
Early Stages is a box set containing six separate live albums by Marillion with their former singer Fish, recorded at various venues in the UK between 1982 and 1987 and released to retail by EMI on 17 November 2008...

 and Distinguished Company. He also co-wrote, with John Miller, Acting Shakespeare
Acting Shakespeare
Acting Shakespeare is a one-man show of Shakespearean monologues devised and performed by Ian McKellen. McKellen first performed the recital in Scandinavia in 1980 and later performed it throughout the world. It was broadcast by PBS in 1982. For the 1984 Broadway engagement, McKellen received the...

.

John Gielgud in popular culture


Gielgud is referenced in Bruce Robinson
Bruce Robinson
Bruce Robinson is an English director, screenwriter, novelist and actor. He is arguably most famous for writing and directing the cult classic Withnail and I , a film with comic and tragic elements, set in London during the 1960s which drew on his experiences as 'a chronic alcoholic and resting...

's 1986 cult film
Cult film
A cult film, also commonly referred to as a cult classic, is a film that has acquired a highly devoted but specific group of fans. Often, cult movies have failed to achieve fame outside the small fanbases; however, there have been exceptions that have managed to gain fame among mainstream audiences...

 Withnail and I
Withnail and I
Withnail and I is a British black comedy made in 1986 by HandMade Films. It was written and directed by Bruce Robinson and is based on his life in London in the late 1960s. The main plot follows two unemployed young actors, Withnail and “I” who live in a squalid flat in Camden in 1969 while...

. In an early scene in which Withnail is complaining about his lack of work as an actor, Marwood attempts to console him by suggesting that September is a "bad patch" for actors. Withnail responds by saying "Rubbish! Haven't seen Gielgud down the labour exchange. Oh, why doesn't he retire?"

In the Australian satirical news television show Newstopia
Newstopia
Newstopia is an Australian half-hour satirical comedy programme hosted by Shaun Micallef. The first series premiered at on SBS TV on 10 October 2007 and concluded on 3 December 2007. A second season began on 27 February 2008 and concluded on 30 April 2008. A third season of the show screened from...

, Shaun Micallef
Shaun Micallef
Shaun Patrick Micallef is an Australian actor, comedian and writer. After ten years of working in insurance law as a solicitor in Adelaide, Micallef moved to Melbourne to pursue a full-time comedy career in 1993...

's impersonation of Gielgud acts as the African correspondent.

In the satirical puppet comedy Spitting Image
Spitting Image
Spitting Image is a British satirical puppet show that aired on the ITV network from 1984 to 1996. It was produced by Spitting Image Productions for Central Television. The series was nominated for 10 BAFTA Awards, winning one for editing in 1989....

, Gielgud was regularly shown in a short segment where he poetically read a nursery rhyme or other short stanza and then fell asleep immediately after. He was also mocked in other sketches.

As of early 2009, there is currently a West End play running based on a section of Gielgud's life titled Plague Over England
Plague Over England
Plague Over England is a play written by Nicholas de Jongh, based on an incident that occurred during John Gielgud's life, when he was arrested for lewd behaviour; it offers an insight into the changes of the gay lifestyle over the last fifty years...

, starring Celia Imrie
Celia Imrie
Celia Diana Savile Imrie is an English actress. In a career starting in the early 1970s, Imrie has played Marianne Bellshade in Bergerac, Philippa Moorcroft in Dinnerladies, Miss Babs in Acorn Antiques, Diana Neal in After You've Gone and Gloria Millington in Kingdom...

 and Michael Feast.

In the book Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction
Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction
Published in 2004 by Penguin Books, Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction is Sue Townsend's sixth full Adrian Mole novel . It is set in 2002/3 and Adrian is 33¾ years of age...

 by Sue Townsend
Sue Townsend
-Adrian Mole series:* The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ , her best selling book, and the best-selling new British fiction book of the 1980s.* The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole * The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole...

, Adrian names the swan that terrorises him outside his apartment Gielgud as he believes they share similar physical attributes.

In the book The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah by Stephen King
Stephen King
Stephen Edwin King is an American author of contemporary horror, suspense, science fiction and fantasy fiction. His books have sold more than 350 million copies and have been adapted into a number of feature films, television movies and comic books...

, Eddie Dean remembers hearing an audiobook version of The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings is a high fantasy epic written by English philologist and University of Oxford professor J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's earlier, less complex children's fantasy novel The Hobbit , but eventually developed into a much larger work. It was written in...

 trilogy read by Gielgud back when he was younger and lived with his brother Henry.

External links