Alec Guinness told Garry O’Connor that he “could not possibly be described as a Shakespearean actor”: indeed, his performance as Macbeth was one of the most notorious flops of the Sixties. His enigmatic personality was better suited to contemporary roleson stage, and to the screen, where he remained Britain’s finest character actor for almost half a century. In Alec Guinness, The Unknown: A Life (Sidgwick & Jackson, pounds 18.99), O’Connor provides a riveting account of the bisexuality behind the enigma. The revelations of his cruel and vitriolic treatment of his wife, Merula, stand in sad counterpoint to the uxorious endearments of the actor’s own writings.
Guinness’s bisexuality was first publicised last year by Sheridan Morley in his biography of John Gielgud. As well as being a leading theatre critic, Morley has written over 20 stage and screen biographies. Now, turning the spotlight on himself, he musesat the beginning of Asking For Trouble (Hodder & Stoughton pounds 20) that he may have lived his life “perhaps too often through other people”. On the evidence of this richly entertaining and wryly winning memoir, he has maintained an admirable balance.Through his father, Robert, and his grandmother, Gladys Cooper, Morley was born into the thespian purple and he shares a wealth of anecdotes about friends from Noel Coward to Bette Midler.
MICHAEL ARDITTI, Books for Christmas: film & theatre books: Star quality that. , Independent, 12-02-2002, pp 11.