Eliot with Alec Guinness, at a reception to celebrate The Cocktail Party.
© Roger Wood; by permission of the Estate of Roger Wood and King’s College Archives, Cambridge.

Alec Guinness


Alec Guinness (1914–2000), distinguished actor, performed in several Shakespeare roles from 1936 at the Old Vic Theatre, London. After war service in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, he returned to the Old Vic; later playing in the first production of J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls at the New Theatre (1946), and as the Uninvited Guest in TSE’s The Cocktail Party (1949). Much acclaimed for his performances in films including Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob, and The Ladykillers; for a series of films directed by David Lean including Great Expectations (1946), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and A Passage to India (1984); and as the august Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars trilogy dir. by George Lucas. Winner of numerous awards including a BAFTA, a Tony, and an Academy Award, he was knighted in 1959 for his services to the arts.

‘Guinness on Eliot’, BBC Radio Three, 25 Dec. 1975: ‘He has always been a hero of mine. From about the age of 17 he has been the greatest literary influence in my life.’