John Gielgud

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John Gielgud, 1973
Photograph by Allan Warren
John Gielgud, 1936
photograph by Carl van Vechten , from the Van Vechten Collection of the Library of Congress

Sir Arthur John Gielgud , OM , CH , [ ˈɡiːlɡʊd ] (born April 14, 1904 in Kensington , England , † May 21, 2000 in Wotton Underwood , England) was a British actor and director . He is considered one of the most outstanding English theater actors of the 20th century. Gielgud was also able to record successes as a film actor for decades; In 1982 he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Arthur - No Child of Sadness . Gielgud is one of the few artists to have won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards .


John Gielgud's path to acting was already mapped out, he was a member of the Terry family , an important theater dynasty. He gained his first experience in 1922 with the acting troupe of Phyllis Neilson-Terry (1892–1977), his cousin. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London , he worked in the West End and the Old Vic Theater , and occasionally on Broadway in New York, in the decades that followed . He played Hamlet for the first time as early as 1930 and, along with Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Alec Guinness, was considered the most important interpreter of the great roles of William Shakespeare of his time. At a young age, the stage star also directed and headed the Old Vic Theater for a long time, where he brought high-class Shakespeare productions to the stage. In addition to Shakespeare, Gielgud also appeared in the plays of younger authors. He also produced record versions of plays, for example Oscar Wilde's Bunbury for Columbia.

Gielgud made his film debut in 1924, but over the next few decades, despite many offers, he was only very selectively in front of the camera. One of his few films was the leading role in Alfred Hitchcock's secret agent of 1935. In 1953 he was Cassius in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's film adaptation of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar . After he had made rather derogatory comments about film acting for a long time, he was increasingly in front of the camera from the 1950s. Gielgud received an Oscar nomination in 1964 for the role of King Ludwig VII in the film adaptation of the play Becket by Jean Anouilh (1964). In 1982 he received an Oscar for the role of the sarcastic butler in the comedy Arthur - No Child of Sadness . He shot well into old age and appeared as a piano teacher in David Helfgott's Shine (1996). His last film was released the year he died.

In the German dubbing of his films, Gielgud was mainly spoken by four very similar sounding speakers of the dignified elderly gentleman type, who all four lent him their voices in almost as many films: Friedrich Schoenfelder , Leo Bardischewski , Friedrich W. Bauschulte and Wilhelm Borchert .

Private life

In 1953 Gielgud was sentenced to a criminal offense on the occasion of a flap visit. The public did not reject him because of this, but received a standing ovation after his next stage appearance. This helped promote the decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales . In the same year he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II . Between 1977 and 1989 Gielgud was also director of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art . His long-time partner Martin Hensler (1932–1999), whom he had met in the 1960s at an exhibition at the Tate Gallery , died a few months before Sir John.

A letter from Gielgud to his acting colleague Stringer Davis (known from the Miss Marple films), which he wore unopened in his pajama jacket when he died, provides a slightly morbid secret to this day . The letter was buried unopened with Davis. Gielgud kept silent about the content until his death.

The writer Val Gielgud (1900–1981) was his older brother.

In 1994 the Gielgud Theater in London was named after him.

Filmography (selection)


Literature (selection)

Web links

Commons : John Gielgud  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. John Gielgud in the German dubbing index
  2. ^ Roy Somlyo: The Tony Award: a complete listing of winners and nominees of the American Theater Wing's Tony Award with a history of the American Theater Wing . Heinemann, London 2001, ISBN 978-0-325-00294-1 .
  3. Jonathan Croall: Gielgud - A Theatrical Life, 1904-2000 . Methuen, London 2000, ISBN 978-0-413-74560-6 .
  4. John Gielgud . Hollywood Foreign Press Association . Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  5. John Gielgud . Hollywood Foreign Press Association . Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  6. John Gielgud . Academy of Television Arts & Sciences . Retrieved February 25, 2014.