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Sunday, January 26, 2014

THE REEL REALS: Alec Guinness

Alec Guinness gets in character.

Alec Guinness has the quality that many actors wish they possessed but fail to understand. He had control. This distinctive attribute is what made his performances so sincere, no matter how outlandish, theatrical, or even absurd they may have been. He was a stone-cold fox: cemented, locked in, and certain, right down to his very core. As such, his communication with the camera or audience, his interactions with other actors, are always believable, if only for the unbelievably graceful and almost hypnotic tone of his deep voice. "This is the truth, I'm speaking," it seemed to say. His surrender to and thus envelopment within his roles made him quite the "force" to be reckoned with. 

Perhaps the reason for his unbelievable physical and psychological articulation in his roles-- in which he metamorphosed seamlessly from creature to creature-- was his clear-headedness as a man. While palpably passionate about his craft, he wasn't an unbridled beast. This made him more threatening. He was calculating. He seemed to house all of the answers to the universe in his head. What this means, in laymen's terms, is that he was able to cut through the bullsh*t, the façade, the mere presentation and get at the truth. He knew what mattered, in his work and in his life. His work was work: a job to be conscientiously well done. One can say with certainty that he applied the same dedication and attention to detail in his early work in advertising. However, by the age of twenty, he had received his call to an even more artistic profession. Still, it didn't own him. He was devoted but unabsorbed. The fame or wealth that is often associated with movie stardom was of no interest. Treading the boards of the Old Vic for an honest day's work was enough. His sense of reality grounded his every day life so that when venturing on the flights of fancy and all out fantasy in his work, his spirit may have been in the clouds but his head was not, and his feet remained solidly on the earth. 

His filmography is nothing to be sniffed at. While "Darth Vader" remains the iconic, albeit masked, face of Star Wars, "Obi Wan" remains its soul. Alec's performance as the guru Jedi master remained potently felt throughout the first three movies, though his character died in the first (reputedly his idea), and it is almost solely due to his performance that a sense of gravity was given to what could have become an absolutely ridiculous "space movie." He never actually said, "May the force be with you," but fans of the film attributed this quote to him, because that was the feeling he bestowed upon them. However, he is much more than this film, though it nearly eclipsed his entire preceding career. In addition to all of his many celebrated performances on the stage, opposite other English greats like Laurence Olivier, Alec contributed to Oliver Twist, The Lavendar Hill Mob, The Ladykillers, The Swan, Bridge on the River Kwai, and Lawrence of Arabia. All characters were intricately detailed in both an emotional and physical sense. All different, yet all real. Conviction. Alec had conviction. As such, it seems that nearly all films in which he starred have stood the test of time. Integrity is timeless, as is honesty. Thus, Mr. Guinness still has us in his trance.

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