Blessings in Disguise

Blessings in Disguise Stas No Son Unas Memorias Que Lo Cuentan Todo Y, Menos A N, Un Mero Ejercicio De Egolatr A Lo Que S Puede Decirse, Sin Temor A Equivocarse, Es Que Son Las Memorias M S Ingeniosas, Entretenidas E Inteligentes Que Han Venido Del Mundo Del Teatro Y Del Cine

Sir Alec Guinness, CH, CBE was an English actor After an early career on the stage he was featured in several of the Ealing Comedies, including The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts and Coronets in which he played eight different characters He is also known for his six collaborations with David Lean Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations 1946 , Fagin in Oliver Twist 1948 , Col Nicholson in The Bridg

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  • Blessings in Disguise
  • Alec Guinness
  • 10 May 2019

10 thoughts on “Blessings in Disguise

  1. says:

    The memoir, for the most part, covers approximately 50 years 1930 1980 of the life and career of one of Britain s greatest actors It begins with scenes from a Dickensian childhood a mostly absent mother, a despised Army officer step father, frequent moves one step ahead of creditors, and boarding schools The narrative also jumps around, from childhood, to middle age, back to youth, and then to middle and the beginning of old age, and includes a spiritual journey running parallel to the actor s career It also includes an interesting hiatus from acting during WWII, when Guinness served as an officer in the Royal Navy.The narrative includes insightful observations on the acting profession, including distinctions made between traditional and contemporary approaches to the craft, the differences between acting on stage and in film, the inconveniences and occasional dangers of working on location and in various venues Guinness may have come close to death or serious injury in films times than he did as an LSI commander in WWII.The memoir includes reminiscences, and in some cases whole chapters devoted to great actors known to most readers, such as John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Laurence Olivier and Edith Evans, or those who would now be known mainly to devotees of early to mid twentieth century British theater, such as Ernest Milton and Martita Hunt.Regarding the title, Guinness gives examples of such blessings, and at least one is worth mentioning During his first season at the Old Vic, the young and relatively unknown Guinness was given a character role in a major production Ruth Gordon was brought in from America as leading lady During their first read through Ms Gordon put down her script and called out to the director, Tony Guthrie, Tony Tony, I can t act with this young man Would you get another actor for the part, please She then suggested the flamboyant old character actor Ernest Thesiger to replace Guinness Guthrie thought highly of Guinness, but he wouldn t go against his star Guinness was fired, and received only three pounds for his troubles He was promised seven pounds a week for the run of the play Young Alec Guinness was humiliated, devastated and what s worse, broke But one of his mentors, Dame Edith Evans consoled him with her support and good advice I ve heard what happened this morning and I m sorry But you know, it s probably just as well You are not quite right for the part In another ten years perhaps, but not now I came down to tell you that I believe in you Tony Guthrie believes in you and I know Johnny Gielgud does In ten years time you won t be playing parts like Mr Sparkish, unless you want to By then you should have your name in lights, but, importantly, you will be a good actor That s all Good night Needless to say, Dame Edith was prophetic This well written memoir is highly recommended for Guinness admirers as well as anyone interested in the 20th century British theater and cinema.

  2. says:

    I first saw Alec Guinness when I was ten years old in the original theatrical release of the Han shot first version of Star Wars in 1977 Even at that tender age, I recognized talent when I saw it I liked Obi wan A lot When I watch my DVD of that original version, many of the best moments are associated with him Your eyes can deceive you Don t trust them In my experience, there s no such thing as luck etc.I picked up this memoir at the library for 0.25.I had read John Gielgud s Acting Shakespeare several years ago and was expecting much of the same a portrait of people and a world long since vanished And I got that but what I wasn t expecting was how enjoyable it was to read Guinness writes spritely, deftly and elegantly Which doesn t prevent him from treating with serious matters like his experience in the World War II or conversion to Roman Catholicism This is not a chronological narrative of the author s life though the first chapter does start off with his birth in 1914 but a collection of reminiscences that move back and forth across the decades.Guinness has a great deal of fun recounting some of the eccentric characters in his life, like Tyrone and Judy Guthrie, whose breakfast table sounds formidable All assembled for breakfast, which was a porridgy affair eaten out of pretty chipped bowls If Merula Guinness wife and I couldn t cope with the bridge we were equally put out by the breakfast conversation, which was a quick fire quiz game on the lines of who said what and to whom ranging through the entire works of Dickens p 80 Or his dismay at the lack of experience and incompetence both his and the RN s in general I was in dubious command of LCI L 124 with a crew of twenty and, most fortunately, an efficient and charming First Lieutenant, John Bostock We were all very young and inexperienced my own lack of know how and swift rash judgments hampered the Allied Cause like small but irritating gnat bites p 107 There s a scene in the second longest chapter, The Quintessence of Dust, which tells of his conversion, that reads very oddly in light of the Church s ongoing problems with pedophile priests Guinness was working on Father Brown in France and was walking home one evening He hadn t removed his priest s costume and as he ambled down the path, a small boy ran up, grabbed his hand and began babbling in French A one sided conversation that persisted until they had reached the lad s home and he scampered off By the time dusk fell I was bored and, dressed in my priestly black, I climbed the gritty winding road to the village By now it was dark I hadn t gone far when I heard scampering footsteps and a piping voice calling, Mon p re My hand was seized by a boy of seven or eight, who clutched it tightly, swung it and kept up a non stop prattle He was full of excitement, hops, skips and jumps, but never let go of me I didn t dare speak in case my excruciating French should scare him Although I was a total stranger he obviously took me for a priest and so to be trusted Suddenly with a Bonsoir, mon p re , and a hurried sideways sort of bow, he disappeared through a hole in a hedge He had had a happy, reassuring walk home, and I was left with an odd calm sense of elation Continuing my walk I reflected that a Church which could inspire such confidence in a child, making its priests, even when unknown, so easily approachable could not be as scheming and creepy as so often made out I began to shake off my long taught, long absorbed prejudices p 36 There are a few eye rolling quotes that remind the reader that for all his wit, charm and intelligence Sir Alec had been born in 1914 and was very much a citizen of the British Empire For example, while filming The Comedians in what would become Benin, Guinness comments on the night life The Cotonou markets were wonderfully colourful and the oil lit back streets little than wide dirt tracks full of noisy night life French domination over several decades had left its civilising landmarks, particularly in little coffee shops and two hotels where a very good dinner could be obtained emphasis mine p 210 For those interested in this type of material, I would recommend this book.For the curious, Guinness only references Star Wars twice, and then only once directly The first is an allusion to time spent filming in Tunisia when he says he d like to go back to Africa one day the second comes when he s writing about a recurring dream where an annoying reporter keeps asking him annoying questions Are you a rich man My readers have to be satisfied, she said sternly No, not rich Compared to striking miners and workless actors very rich compared to successful stockbrokers and businessmen I expect I would be considered nearly poor But Star Wars must have made you a fortune Yes Blessed be Star Wars But two thirds of that went to the Inland Revenue and a sizeable lump on VAT No complaints p 214 emphasis in original The man knew his priorities.

  3. says:

    This first volume in the trio of memoirs by Alec Guinness ranks high on my list as one of the best memoirs I ve read The writing equates to the acting of Guinnessrefined, detailed, absorbing In fact, it wasn t until I first read this book that I became a fan of his film acting usually it s the other way around I even flew in to watch his last stage performance, which says something about his way with words Enter EGO from the wings, pursued by fiends Exit EGO.His very first chapter wastes little time explaining his confusion as to his true paternal parentage, his mother s violent marriage, and the characters he meets as a little boy She was an impoverished Miss Havishamthere was no cobwebbed wedding cake but under her bed she did have a partially eaten rice puddingHe has a sense of humour throughout and he describes the heck out of everything Very enjoyable Along with David Niven s books, this is one of the few autobiographies I would ever consider re reading.Book Season Year Round we shall not cease from exploration

  4. says:

    FINAL OK, well, what I wrote before still holds This was a pleasant, witty, observant autobiography, though perhaps it s about what s going on around Guinness than inside his head Some people might find it shallow the man was an awfully conventional and level headed stiff upper lip sort of chap But the era he documents fascinates me, and the portraits he draws in literary terms of the primadonna theatrical eccentrics around him are delicious He doesn t stick to a rigid linear chronological narrative, but rather goes from thought to thought, batting things around in different eras but he always pursues each thought to its conclusion I rather like this way of writing it assumes the reader already knows something which in this case, I do but also doesn t torture us in having to wait for the chronological event to be finished up later in the book I enjoyed the section also about his service as a naval ship commander in the Mediterranean in WWII Some of it sounds like the comedy of errors material that could easily have served as grist for any of the many Ealing Studios comedy classics in which he starred in the late 40s and early 50s There also are interesting anecdotes about the making of the 1967 film, The Comedians, adapted by Graham Greene himself from his novel, which in and of itself is of great interest to me because The Comedians is a favorite novel of mine and the movie is a fascinating misfire All in all, a great summer read earlier comments The late Sir Alec Guinness was in many great movies, but there are three that I adore him for 1949 s Kind Hearts and Coronets and 1950 s The Lavender Hill Mob my favorite two of the ironic and witty Ealing Studios comedies of the 40s and 50s back when they knew how to write smart comedy and 1960 s Tunes of Glory, in which he plays a bastard bully Scottish officer, Jock Sinclair Tunes of Glory is intelligent, literate, emotionally tart adult drama with the kind of gravitas that really no longer exists in movies Anyway, there were two masterful performances given in 1960 Guinness in this film, and Lawrence Olivier later Lord as washed up music hall performer Archie Rice in The Entertainer another example of extinct adult film drama Either one of them should have won the Academy Award for best actor of 1960 but didn t Olivier was nominated Guinness wasn t in any case, both had won statuettes previously.I digress at the outset, in order to justify why I d want to read an autiobiography of Guinness As it happened, the man wrote several, at least three that I know of, and I only know this because those three showed up on the clearance shelf for 2 apiece at Half Price Books in the last few days.This one is the earliest of those, and it whisks us back effortlessly to Guinness sort of Dickensian boyhood and his early brushes with the early 20th century British theater But first, the great actor apologizes, refreshingly, for the embellishments of his Ego he disarms and charms the reader right off the bat The wit sparkles from the first sentence and the storytelling is free and deft and smooth as silk He knows how to stick to a chronology but not rigidly so, unlike most stilted biographers today, so that he manages to complete a thought but not belabor the point telling us about a person s later life while he relates their earlier days There s great satisfaction in this approach and genuine regard for the reader in it Guinness was an actor who wrote better than 99 percent of people who call themselves writers.We re introduced early on to eccentrics and theater folk who took the young Guinness to their hearts and wings marvelous stories of a washed up old recluse who once entertained, so she claimed, before Russian royals Guinness calls her a Mrs Havisham he doesn t much pretend to hide the Dickens influences and atmosphere he uses to frame the tale his first major role was as Pocket in the 1946 version of Great Expectations, after all And then there s the story of how his roses sent to the renowned stage actress Sybil Thorndike got him an exclusive peek backstage to see how thunder and rain special effects were made with Thordike herself turning the metallic crank I m very early into the book and already it s an intoxicating, winning and utterly irresistible read by the kind of man who must have been an amazing dinner conversationalist or monologuist, for who would do anything other than listen I m already confident enough in this to give it five stars PAGE 77 Measure for Measure , with Charles Laughton, Flora Robson and James Mason was the finest evening of Shakespeare I had as yet experienced This actually makes me damn near weep to think about Laughton, Robson and Mason on the same stage at the same time It makes me pissed that we will never see anything like this again, and that I never saw it

  5. says:

    Odd but charming memoir Picked this up on a whim, don t remember where or when Did not like it at first, so it sat around gathering dust for a while But I knew it had to be interesting, because how could it not be Eventually started reading it again and it held my interest In the end, I enjoyed it, but still find it as odd as it is charming You get some funny stories, and some touching ones, and a bit of a peek behind the scenes of theater and movies, but if you can make head or tail of it as a whole, please explain it to me.

  6. says:

    Alec Guinness was as gifted a writer as he was an actor, and that s saying something Shining through this memoir are his great wit, his humility rare in a star of his magnitude , and his gift for seeing the good in almost everyone a fortunate gift for him, because some of the people he knew were absolute horrors There was the poet who refused to speak to him for two years after he said he liked Beethoven the actress who declared she couldn t act with him and got him fired from his first leading role the actor who decked him as he walked through a door, just because he the decker was in a bad mood Sir Alec treats most of these as little than amusing quirks I d probably be on the psychiatrist s couch, sobbing and tearing my hair out But his friendships were deeply important to him made clear in the lovely last line Of one thing I can boast I am unaware of ever having lost a friend and he was able to see the big picture with these people, and balance the good and the bad His generous, affectionate, and forgiving spirit taught me some things that will be helpful in my own life and relationships.His description of actress Edith Evans is typical When I think of her now my mind see saws between gratitude for what she was, her enormous generosity in big things, and exasperation at her meanness in small ones, amusement at her egocentricity, reverence for her artistry, and astonishment at her occasional lapses into artistic blindness, which almost amounted to dishonesty If I think of, and record, a pettiness or silliness in Edith s behaviour, I can always cheerfully outweigh it with five times as many actions of human warmth, affection and wisdom Let me put two of her different sides back to back, so to speak, like bookends and then cap her large, generous action with the gesture of beautiful thoughtfulness and kindness she showed me And he enjoys telling a good story on himself as well as on others Some of his stories of theatrical mishaps and wartime blunders made me laugh aloud.Guinness doesn t even attempt to tell this story in any kind of order Chapters are organized around various people who were important to him, with a couple of exceptions there s one chapter on his conversion to Catholicism, and another on his war service He jumps back and forth in time, and from place to place, stringing together anecdotes haphazardly You ll get several pages about his experiences in Cuba, and then all of a sudden we re in Spain, by way of Ireland By the same token, he ll suddenly plop down a character in the midst of his narrative, and not get around to introducing him or her until later But I got used to all of this quickly, and the book as a whole was so enjoyable, it didn t bother me This book heightened my appreciation for Alec Guinness as an actor, a writer, a Christian, and a human being It must have been a joy to know him All those friends were very blessed indeed.

  7. says:

    Charming, self effacing autobiography A delightful read Chock full of amusing anecdotes about famous and not so famous and often eccentric people he knew Covers his early years, his stint in the Navy, as well as his acting career I very much enjoyed this book, and his voice, but I was a little disappointed, because I was hoping he would share his conversion to Roman Catholicism story He only mentioned religion fleetingly Looking forward to reading the other autobiographical works he wrote My Name Escapes Me is the one after this.

  8. says:

    Great gossipy fun and funny too Enjoyed learning about the 20th century Brit theater world Guiness was friends with Olivier, Gielgud, Richardson and others Not as much about his experience in the movies but, he has 2 other volumes of memoirs I will read and I hope to learn there.

  9. says:

    This book came with a lot of good reviews and it starts off well with Guinness talking about his youth but then he goes off onto another episode of his life completely out of sequence from the last The book appears to be a sequence of random thoughts and observations, some are interesting, others not He spends entire chapters on dull and uninteresting people yet glosses over encounters with Sophia Loren, Richard Burton and many other film luminaries One really annoying aspect was numerous oblique mentions of his wife but she is never properly introduced, neither are we ever advised as to how Alec met or married her.Well written but ultimately disappointing.

  10. says:

    I love Alec Guinness but I admittedly didn t get a lot out of his book Had I been familiar with the theater scene in England during his youth, I am sure I would have enjoyed it but I ended up skimming most of it He didn t talk much about his big movies that I wanted to hear about and his writing style is pretty dry.

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