Scott Brown
April 05, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

John Gielgud: The Authorized Biography

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Sheridan Morley
genre
Nonfiction, Biography

We gave it a B

BUTLER IN DUDLEY MOORE FILM DIES read a tabloid obit for one of the most influential English stage actor-directors of the 20th century. The slight was an exception — most gave Gielgud (1904-2000) the Viking eulogy he deserved — but it was emblematic of the great player king’s inability to conquer pop culture in the manner of his showier rival Laurence Olivier. To his credit, Morley, a friend of Gielgud’s, isn’t trying to get his subject a posthumous mention on Hollywood Squares: Rather, he lays out an eight-decade career that yielded, along with that Arthur Oscar, revolutionary interpretations of Shakespeare, Chekhov, and the artistic goals of the classical repertory company. But in the end, the interior Gielgud eludes Morley. Despite reams of reprinted reviews, reminiscences, and gossip (not to mention a full account of his agonizing 1953 arrest for homosexual soliciting), the man himself, like his famous Prospero, recedes into the mist, his mysteries intact. B

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