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Genuine Class: Sir Alec Guinness

Published: 4/2/2014

Sir Alec Guinness, born Apr. 2, 1914, would have turned 100 today. He will forever be Obi Wan Kenobi to generations of Star Wars fans, although he initially balked at appearing in the film, calling it "fairy-tale rubbish." The film was a departure for Guinness, who made a name for himself onstage playing such roles as Hamlet and Macbeth and in film appearing in such classics as Lawrence of Arabia,Doctor Zhivago and The Bridge on the River Kwai, for which he won an Oscar in 1957. Early in his career Guinness appeared in dramas, mysteries, action films and comedies –– he cited Stan Laurel as one of his influences, according to talk show host Dick Cavett. The award-winning actor even portrayed Adolf Hitler in Hitler: The Last Ten Days before becoming the first actor to ever portray a Jedi knight. Despite his misgivings about Star Wars, Guinness joined the production, taking home a sizable paycheck and 2 percent of the profits. That deal changed his life, as the film went on to become an enormous blockbuster, generating ticket sales that allowed Guinness to live comfortably and only pursue projects he felt passionate about.

By the time he died Aug. 5, 2000, Guinness had completed more than 50 films and around 70 theatrical productions. For those who remember him only as the wise old man telling us to "Use the force," see some of his other career highlights in our Alec Guinness slideshow.

Sir Alec Guinness | Photo Gallery
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