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Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:
Actor. (b. Apr. 2, 1914, London, as A. Guinness de Cuffe.) Sir Alec may be the only member of British acting royalty whose voice can be heard in video arcades. As space-age gladiator Obi-Wan Kenobi, guardian of "The Force" and mythic hero of George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy, he has become a familiar face (and voice) to the MTV gen- eration. Others regard him as one of the finest actors of the century, who seems constitutionally incapable of giving a bad performance. Initially an ad copywriter, the young Guinness took up acting while still in his early 20s. He played in "the classics" at Britain's legendary Old Vic theater, and even made a brief appearance on-screen in 1934'sEvensong But World War 2 interrupted his career, which didn't get back on track until 1946.
Guinness' first really notable movie work was done for director David Lean in two Dickens adaptations,Great Expectations (1947, as Herbert Pocket) andOliver Twist (1948, as Fagin). Guinness, on a roll now, brightened a whole slew of classic comedies made at the Ealing studio:Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949, in an astonishing eight roles),The Man in the White Suit (1951), The Lavender Hill Mob (also 1951, Oscar nominated), andThe Ladykillers (1955), as well as comedies and dramas as diverse asThe Captain's Paradise (1953),Father Brown (1954, the title role, aka The DetectiveThe Horse's Mouth (1958) and Our Man in Havana (1959). His script for The Horse's Mouth earned him an Oscar nomination.
Although primarily a character lead, Guinness by this time was also an acknowledged international star, and he worked in multinationally financed films that were widely released. During this period he appeared inThe Scapegoat (1959),Tunes of Glory (1960),A Majority of One (1961),Damn the Defiant! (1962),The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964),The Quiller Memorandum (1966), The Comedians (1967),Scrooge (as Marley),Cromwell (both 1970),Hitler: The Last Ten Days (as Adolf)Brother Sun, Sister Moon (both 1973),Murder by Death (1976), andLovesick (1983, as the ghost of Freud). And of course, he always returned to Lean:The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), which won him an Oscar as the military martinet he originally thought unplayable,Lawrence of Arabia (1962, as Prince Feisal),Doctor Zhivago (1965, as Zhivago's halfbrother Yeugraf), andA Passage to India (1984, as the Hindu sage Godbole).
Guinness played John Le CarrŽ's master spy George Smiley in a pair of acclaimed 1980s TV miniseries, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "Smiley's People," and tutored young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the ways of "The Force" inStar Wars (1977),The Empire Strikes Back (1980), andReturn of the Jedi (1983). He was Oscar-nominated for Star Wars and in 1980 Guinness won a special Oscar for his entire career-one which, happily, was far from over. He gave a magnificent performance in the lengthy production ofLittle Dorrit (1988, Oscarnominated), and also appeared inA Hand ful of Dust (also 1988), Kafka (1991), and A Foreign Field (1993). His autobiography, "Blessings in Disguise," was published in 1985.