Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Authorised Biography of Fr Brown and Obi-Wan

Alec Guinness, most famous for his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi, played Father Brown in the 1954 film The Detective. Piers Paul Read's Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography was released June 21 by Simon & Schuster. Katherine Powers reviewed the biography at the Boston Globe.
Where Read is uniquely good and perceptive is in his treatment of Guinness's cruel tongue, his bullying — there is no other word for it — of his wife and son, his castigation of himself for his sins and inadequacies, his battle against existential bleakness, and his Catholicism. The last is of immense importance in the actor's life. Read (correctly, I'm sure) notes that Guinness's embrace of Catholicism in its English version had a snobbish element. ("After a few months in the arch-diocese of Archbishop Spellman," he wrote from New York, "I have a lot of sympathy with anti-Catholicism.") But his faith was primarily his hedge against despair. To quote what, according to Read, was his favorite passage from G. K. Chesterton, "The Church is the one thing that prevents a man from the degrading servitude of being a child of his own time." Surely it is that contrariness that lay at the heart of Guinness's genius.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating- his Catholicism helped him- I guess it being literally his one saving grace- while those around him apparently suffered from his behavior anyway. Not uncommon, but very sad that sometimes people can't seem to forgive themselves their own trespasses, and know peace.