06 Apr 2002
|Sir John with mother
and sister. Photo: BBC Web Site
While looking for just the right picture of Sir John Gielgud,
I came across this gem on the BBC's web site. Their caption reads
"After receiving his knighthood from the Queen at Buckingham
Palace in 1953, with his mother and sister." What you can't
really see here is all the hair he has. Since I've been drawing
breath, Gielgud has been pretty much bald, so whenever I see him
in something like "Julius Caesar"
(the film version, with Marlon Brando, released one year this
photo was taken), it inevitably takes me a scene or two to
realize that the hirsute young buck on screen is actually he.
My personal memories about Gielgud number three:
- As Prospero, in Peter
Greenaway's "Prospero's Books". Gielgud speaks most of the dialog in
this sumptuous film, and now I can imagine no other
playing the role. A couple of years ago, I saw William
Hutt read as Prospero in a made-for-radio presentation of
the play. I think it was the first time I had seen anyone
other than Gielgud perform the role. And it was all
wrong. Of course, it was simply all
"different", but you know what I mean.
- In a radio interview from the
early days of the Stratford Festival (Ontario, Canada).
He is giving a few words of advice to a younger actor on
the importance of breathing. He delivers a line from some
bit of Shakespeare to illustrate his point, the first
time taking a breath after one particular word, the next
time after a different one. The first version came out
stilted and awkward, the second like velvet. "You
see?" he says. Even I saw.
- Reading Alice Through The
Looking Glass on a 2 CD album. Many nights I've
fallen asleep listening to John's sing songy voice wade
from one side of the mirror to the other.
John Gielgud died on the weekend (May 21, 2000).