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The late Alec Guinness was born in Maida Vale, London in 1914. When he wrote this letter to his dear friend Anne Kaufman 62 years later, and spoke so enthusiastically about his new play, Yahoo, he was known to most as a very dependable Academy Award-winning actor who regularly starred in the films of David Lean, the acclaimed English director of such classics as Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai. However, it’s the upcoming role to which he so amusingly alludes in this letter—the part of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars—that went on to introduce him to a far larger audience of avid fans, and which ultimately brought him huge financial reward.
Easter Monday ‘76
My dear Anne,
The sun has shone all over Easter and that has meant out-of-door life; bees humming in the cherry blossom; Walter on guard against birds having it off in hedges; daffodils wilting; balsam poplars scenting the air; baby ants on the march into the grubby kitchen; good wine to drink, and all fairly idyllic except for the presence of my provoking, irritating and unbalanced daughter-in-law. And her squabbling children. The children are more or less alright, I suppose, except for their foul manners and nasal cockney accents. Merula has now got them for the next ten days and I bet that once their parents have gone on their (separate) holidays the children will prove angelic. That has been the pattern before.
I have returned to London this evening for my stint at the studio for the rest of the week. Can’t say I’m enjoying the film [Star Wars], – new rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wadges of pink paper – and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable. I just think, thankfully, of the lovely bread, which will help me keep going until next April even if Yahoo collapses in a week. . .
Another bright day has dawned. . . I must off to studio and work with a dwarf (very sweet – and he has to wash in a bidet) and your fellow countrymen Mark Hamill and Tennyson (that can’t be right) Ford – Ellison (? – No!*) – well, a rangy, languid young man who is probably intelligent and amusing. But Oh, God, God, they make me feel ninety – and treat me as if I was 106.
*Harrison Ford – ever heard of him?
Sir Alec is, for me, eight characters: Ethelred, 8th Duke of Chalfont, The Reverend Lord Henry d'Ascoyne, General Lord Rufus d'Ascoyne, Admiral Lord Horatio d'Ascoyne, Lord Ascoyne d'Ascoyne (Banker), Lady Agatha D'Ascoyne (Suffragette), Young Ascoyne d'Ascoyne, Young Henry d'Ascoyne... All in the same film!
Sir Alec Guinness is, for me, five characters: the double of Mario -my father's best friend-, the unforgettable man on a white suit, the poor desperate professor from Ladykillers, the hilarious blind Jamessir Bensonmum, and the so loved and respected Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The letter you have chosen is a delight!