For millions of young
"I shrivel inside each time it's mentioned," Guinness once said of "Star Wars," though the Oscar winner (
Director Alexander Mackendrick's film didn't showcase Guinness the way other films did; it's an exquisitely balanced ensemble comedy, 85 minutes of sublime interplay and deft thrusts and parries. But in his portrayal of the driven, borderline-sociopathic research chemist who discovers a formula for fabric that will never wear out, thereby threatening the livelihood of textile workers and imperious industrialists alike, Guinness shines from within, his saucer eyes glowing with blinkered purpose.
At the time of the movie's initial U.S. release, critic Kenneth Tynan wrote of the actor's "inward fanatical glow."
This is what you remember of Guinness, who died in 2000, if you've seen his George Smiley in the TV miniseries adaptation of
He learned how to act onstage: His first speaking parts in London came in a play called "Queer Cargo," in which he played a Chinese coolie, a French pirate and a British seaman. Then
Writing in 1952, Tynan asserted that the minimalist upstart in question "is not, and never will be, a star." He was wrong in that particular only. "Star Wars" made him rich. But Ealing gems such as "The Man in the White Suit" trained Guinness for his own peculiar sort of stardom, in our own galaxy, not so far, far away.