- Gebundene Ausgabe: 528 Seiten
- Verlag: Simon & Schuster (5. März 2002)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0743222423
- ISBN-13: 978-0743222426
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 17 x 4 x 23,8 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: Schreiben Sie die erste Bewertung
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 1.631.321 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
John Gielgud: The Authorized Biography (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 5. März 2002
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"The Sunday Times" (London) Morley, who knew Gielgud, writes a generous, sympathetic but never cringing study of the late great theatrical knight...a great biography.
Drawn from letters, diaries, personal files, and interviews, a fascinating glimpse into the life of the late actor, who was one of the best Shakespearean actors ever and a vital part of the golden age of theater in England, details his childhood, his family background, his extraordinary rise to success, his Academy Award-winning performance in Arth
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There are some surprising omissions as well, ignoring completely Gielgud's rivalry with Giles Isham when they were at the Old Vic in 1929/30, when at the offset it was assumed that Isham instead of Gielgud would play Hamlet.
Still, it's an interesting book that probably would have seemed better if I hadn't read Croall's first. He's very matter-of-fact about Gielgud's homosexuality, and uses his 1953 arrest as a focal point (as Croall does). Olivier comes off poorly in both books, although I would say that Morely has more patience with him than Croall seems to (in Croall's book, Olivier is depicted as a kind of antagonist, which I think gives his book more drama). I also think that Morely has a tendency to accept a lot of the Gielgud history at face value, whereas Croall thinks it through and considers the logic of a lot of it. The best example of this is the legendary story of Gielgud and Olivier swapping of roles of Romeo and Mercutio in 1936: Morely accepts that this gimmick was intended from the get-go, whereas Croall ponders (quite logically) that Gielgud and producer Binkie Beaumont were hedging their bets against Olivier's inexperience in Shakespeare at the time, and the role-swapping was agreed upon in case Olivier's reviews as Romeo were so disastrous that they would switch parts to keep the production from suffering. In view of the state of Olivier's career at the time (he had yet to even attempt a leading Shakespearean role on the professional stage), this makes infinitely more sense. Another example is the famous story that Gielgud went to Olivier after the latter opened in Hamlet and said "it's one of the most brilliant performances I've ever seen, but it's still my part." Morely reports it as though
he witnessed it, but Croall points out that not only did neither actor mention it in his autobiography and that Gielgud was actually in America when the comment was allegedly made, but such boasting was very out of character for Gielgud.
This is not to say that Morely's book is a wash. He does a fine job of talking about Gielgud's finances, and brings up the point that Ralph Richardson and Gielgud maintained a friendship despite the fact that Richardson was homophobic and openly uncomfortable with Gielgud's private life (a topic Croall doesn't mention, and indeed even Morely doesn't do much more than mention in passsing). Morely does blow it a lot, though - such as the famous anecdote where Gielgud goes to meet Richard Burton in the latter's dressing room after a performance of "Hamlet," and drops the brick "Why don't you come along when you're better...I mean ready?" Every time I've heard that story related (including Croall's book), it took place in 1953 when Burton played the part at the Old Vic, but Morely maintains that the exchange took place during the 1964 Broadway production. I think he booted it, and I think he does that a disconcertingly large amount of the time. He also has a tendency to bring himself into the narrative (a paragraph might begin with "John approached me about writing this book..."), which I find disconcerting.
"John Gielgud: The Authorized Biography" is a must-read for serious students of Gielgud's career, but Croall's book is the definitive study and should definitely be read first.
It follows Gielgud from his childhood (from a family with several respected actors) to his early acting career, ascending from a skinny-legged boy to a much-respected actor, and then a knight and universally revered thespian. His arrest for soliciting a plainclothes policeman resulted in a reworking of laws on homosexuality. And he left behind an astonishing body of work, from a quiet man whose life essentially revolved around his work.
One of the unusual aspects of "John Gielgud: The Authorized Biography" is the respect that Morley has for Gielgud. He keeps his tone constantly respectful but not fannish. His handling of potentially sordid situations (the soliciting case) is always careful and respectful, a rarity in most biographies. His handling of Gielgud's homosexuality and its place in 1940s and 1950s England is particularly good. The attitude there and then was quite different from now. Some of the best actors today -- Ian McKellen being the most prominent -- are able to be openly gay, but then it was actually illegal. Morley does a good job describing the social and legal atmosphere at that time, through conversations, letters to the editors, the press's response, and the changes in the law. One slightly frustrating aspect of the book is the lack of presence of the Gielgud family -- when one of them popped back into the narrative, I found myself wondering, "Who is that again?"
Morley also offers insights into British theater and actors, including Gielgud's connections with Vivien Leigh, Lawrence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and Noel Coward. We get to hear the good and bad reviews, some from Gielgud himself, such as his disgust with his shoeless "Romeo" costume (though the picture of him in that play isn't bad). And (wow, another rarity) Morley lets us see some examples of Gielgud's undeniable wit. Though he seems to have put his foot in his mouth frequently, he had some great zingers: at one point he complained about a flatulent crew member by saying that he didn't mind dying, but must it be in a gas chamber?
What is lacking? Perhaps it's a greater sense of knowledge about what made Gielgud tick. Morley knew him, but he fails overall to really let the readers really know what he was like. I got bits and pieces of his personality -- his shyness, his wit, his intense love of acting -- but not a picture of the whole. Some of the dates and situations seem unreliable or debatable. That, and I found the pictures a little unsatisfying. I like it when professional and personal photos are balanced out; this book had almost entirely professional pics.
Gielgud was part of a golden generation of great actors, and had a certain quality that filled whatever stage or screen he was on. While "John Gielgud: The Authorized Biography" can't be called the best, it's certainly worth a look.