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Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 21, 2005


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Hardcover, Deckle Edge, June 21, 2005
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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First American edition (June 21, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743244982
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743244985
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.6 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,389,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Guinness died in 2000, his widow designated Read (Alive!) as the actor's authorized biographer, and the results are mixed. Read doesn't allow his friendship with Guinness to interfere with an honest account of some unsavory aspects of the actor's personality (e.g., his frequent cruelty to his wife). But Read's treatment of his subject's professional career is spotty—while Guinness's early years in London theater are well represented, some of his best films from the 1950s are barely mentioned, and even his most famous role, as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars and its sequels, gets less than 10 pages. Instead, Read offers repeated, lengthy speculations about his subject's sexuality. Anecdotal evidence and cryptic diary entries do suggest Guinness may have wrestled with an attraction to men, and might even on occasion have acted upon it and felt guilty afterward, but the issue probably doesn't require quite so much attention. Read fares better in discussing other aspects of Guinness's emotional life, including his ambivalence toward the mother who conceived him out of wedlock, and an adult conversion to Roman Catholicism. Readers hoping for the usual celebrity biography filled with the star's encounters with other stars, however, will likely be disappointed. B&w photos.
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Review

The authorised life of a truly great actor by a highly accomplished novelist, historian and journalist, who happened also to be a friend of the actor and his family. This is a perfect meeting between author and subject matter, Read's prose being comfortably equal to the abundance of material he had to work with, including many private letters as well as various published sources, notably two volumes of diaries. The result is a highly readable account of a private individual who loomed large in public consciousness across the generations, the actor who won an Oscar as Colonel Nicholson in Bridge on the River Kwai being better known to many either as George Smiley or as Ben Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on August 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Alec Guinness's career spanned generations. Great-grandparents might recall his days on the British stage. Grandparents may have seen such classics as The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. Younger cinemaphiles still picture him as Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.

Like most actors, Guinness had more than his share of success with a few clinkers thrown in. Piers Paul Read reveals the enormity of his life's work, along with a massive account of Sir Alec's personal side, in ALEC GUINNESS: The Authorised Biography.

Read, author of more than a dozen books, has done a huge amount of research, culling letters and journals from Guinness and his extended Guinness family, as well as a large circle of friends and acquaintances, to produce an intimate portrait of one of the greatest actors --- along with fellow Englishmen Olivier and Gielgud --- of stage, screen and television.

Guinness came from humble roots. His mother was an alcoholic who never married his father and became an embarrassment to the celebrity as he grew older. It was a stigma that no doubt weighed heavily on him as a young man and beyond, and formed his persona. He was at the same time generous and tight with his money, easily offended but quick to make friends. These paradoxes form the main theme for ALEC GUINNESS.

He found a soul mate in his wife, Merula, to whom he would be married for more than forty years, but once their son, Matthew, was born, their conjugal relationship was non-existent. Nevertheless, she was the perfect partner, casting a blind eye to his moodiness and confusing behavior, especially when it came to Guinness's "infatuations" with pretty young men.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By SusieQ on March 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I found this to be an outstanding biography of Alec Guinness, the man and the actor. I have to say I don't really understand the objections that the Publisher's Weekly blurb (directly above) raises about this biography: "Read's treatment of his subject's professional career is spotty... some of his best films from the 1950's are barely mentioned." Huh? There's more than just adequate coverage of Guinness's 1950's films (and films from other decades). Read describes the directors and other personalities involved; he describes Guinness's performances and how they were received by critics both at the time, and later.

"Readers hoping for the usual celebrity biography filled with the star's encounters with other stars...will be disappointed." GOOD, I say! This biography offers us much, much more than that kind of shallowness. There are no mere "encounters" here, thankfully, but many warm friendships.

And I, for one, can live comfortably with less than 10 pages about Obi-Wan. Alec Guinness's life and career are worth much more than that one role.

I didn't find any "repeated, lengthy speculations about his subject's sexuality" here. Just a kind of caring, gently worded, non-blatant exploration of the question of bisexuality or homosexuality. It was apparently a lifelong conflict, so naturally the biographer would have to raise the issue more than once as the subject's life went on. I prefer the fact that this author presents Mr. Guinness's whole life in "shades of gray", as opposed to reducing it to a black or white, definitive - he was this/he was that. No man's life, especially sex life, can be summed up with that kind of ease.

Guinness was a conflicted man and a very unhappy man at times.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By kip on July 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This may well be the best biography I have ever read. I loved it from cover to cover, because the author does such a wonderful job of bringing Guinness to life and bringing out all of his good points, foibles, and contradictions. It is an incredibly thorough biography, well-researched, and truly balanced. The author loves Guinness, but the book comes nowhere near being a hagiography. I especially love how the author weaves Guinness's spiritual journey throughout the narrative, and Guinness's struggle with his homosexual feelings as a Roman Catholic. It is a fascinating, fascinating read. I frequently get it off the shelf and re-read various parts of it. I cannot recommend it highly enough!!
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