Actor Sir Alec Guinness Dead at 86

ByABC News
August 6, 2000, 9:03 PM

Aug. 7 -- Sir Alec Guinness, who was knighted after his Oscar-winning role in The Bridge on the River Kwai and delighted audiences as Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, has died. He was 86.

A hospital spokeswoman says Guinness died Saturday after becoming ill at his home in southern England. News reports in Britain say hed been battling liver cancer.

Guinness career spanned more than 60 years. He was a tall man, with large, expressive blue eyes and otherwise unremarkable features, including a deep baritone voice.

He earned praise for his stage performances in Shakespeares Hamlet, and after a string of postwar comedies, rose to prominence in such blockbusters as Lawrence of Arabia, repeatedly earning praise as one of the most versatile of actors.

He was one of the all-time greats of both stage and screenprofessionally, said Ronald Neame, who produced Guinness 1946 film Great Expectations.

The wonderful thing about Guinness was he became the parthe was playing, he was like a chameleon, he would changecolors, he added.

Guinness once said, I might never have been heard of again if it hadnt been for Star Wars. Yet he leaves behind a rich legacy.

A Versatile Performer

Guinness first made his mark in films in the Ealing Studiocomedies of the late 1940s and the 1950s The Man in the WhiteSuit, The Lavender Hill Mob, The Lady Killers, and most remarkably in Kind Hearts and Coronets. In that classic black comedy he played the entire dAscoyne family in his own words, eight speaking parts, one non-speaking cameo and a portrait in oils.

I had countless first impressions of him, playwright RonaldHarwood wrote. Each time I saw him, in films, later in thetheater, I had the uncanny feeling I had never before watched himact.

In parts such as Fagin in Oliver Twist, Guinness was barelyrecognizable behind his makeup and costume.