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He was born in London, England, allegedly as Alec Guinness de Cuffe, although what is written on his birth certificate, which reportedly lacked a father's name, is not known. His mother's maiden name was "Agnes Cuffe". She would later marry Alec's stepfather, a mentally ill soldier from the Anglo-Irish War who was suffering from what would today be known as Post-traumatic stress disorder. It is rumoured that Guinness' birth father was a wealthy businessman whom he once met.

Guinness first worked writing copy for advertising before making his debut at the Old Vic Theatre in 1936 at the age of 22.

He married the artist, playwright, and actress, Merula Salaman, a British Jew, in 1938, and they had a son, Matthew Guinness, an actor born in 1940. Despite this, in more recent times it has been argued that he was probably gay, especially since he was arrested in 1946 for cottaging in a toilet Liverpool - during the arrest he gave his name as Herbert Pocket, a character from Great Expectations that he had recently played, and hence avoided drawing attention to the event.

Alec Guinness served in the Royal Navy throughout World War II, serving first as a seaman in 1941 and being commissioned the following year. While in the military Guinness for awhile planned on becoming an Anglican priest. He commanded a landing craft taking part in the invasion of Sicily and Elba and later ferried supplies to the Yugoslav partisans. During the War he appeared in Terence Rattigan's West End Play for Bomber Command, Flare Path. He returned to the Old Vic in 1946.

He was initially mainly associated with the Ealing comedies, and particularly for playing eight different characters in Kind Hearts and Coronets. Other films from this period included The Lavender Hill Mob, The Ladykillers, and The Man in the White Suit. In 1952, director Ronald Neame cast Guinness in his first romantic lead role, opposite Petula Clark in The Card.

Invited by his friend Tyrone Guthrie to join in the premier season of the Stratford Festival of Canada, Guinness lived for a brief time in Stratford, Ontario. On 13 July 1953, Guinness spoke the first lines of the first play produced by the festival (Shakespeare's Richard III): Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this sun of York.

In 1954, during the shooting of the film Father Brown, he and his wife converted to Roman Catholicism and became devout regular church-goers for the rest of their lives. It is not clear if their minor-aged son, Matthew (14), was also converted at the same time.

Guinness was also a talented dramatic and character actor. His memorable film appearances included Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Tunes of Glory, and the title role in Hitler: The Last Ten Days.

From the 1970s, Guinness made regular television appearances, including the part of George Smiley in the serialisations of two novels by John le Carré: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People. One of his last appearances was in the acclaimed BBC drama Eskimo Day.

His role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the immensely successful original Star Wars trilogy brought him worldwide recognition to a new generation. Guinness agreed to do the part on the condition that he would not have to do publicity to promote the film. He was also one of the few cast members who believed that the film would be a box office hit and negotiated a percentage deal that made him very wealthy in later life.

However, he was never happy with being identified with the part, and expressed great dismay at what he perceived to be the obsessive, out-of-touch-with-reality fan following the Star Wars trilogy attracted. Rumours say that Obi-Wan's death was at his request, in order to limit his subsequent role in the series.

Sir Alec Guinness died on 5 August 2000, aged 86, from liver cancer, at Midhurst in West Sussex, and was interred in Petersfield, Hampshire, England. His widow died of cancer two months later and is interred with her husband of 62 years.

He won the Academy Award as Best Actor in 1957 for his role in Bridge on the River Kwai. He was nominated again in 1958 for his screenplay adapted from Joyce Cary's novel The Horse's Mouth. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting actor for his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977. He also received an Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievements in 1980.

He was appointed CBE in 1955, and was knighted in 1959. He became a Companion of Honour in 1994 at the age of 80.

He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1559 Vine Street.

Guinness wrote three volumes of bestselling autobiography, beginning with Blessings in Disguise in 1985, followed by My Name Escapes Me in 1996, and A Positively Final Appearance in 1999.

His personal and artistic legacies were tarnished when one of his dressers (assistants) accused him of sexual assault.

Alec Guinness huskes mest for sin rolle i Star Wars. Men heldigvis mestrede hans talent mange sider. Det klassiske engelske Shakespeare, den moderne komedie, engelske krimi-B-film som den skønne Plyds og Papegøjer og Vor Mand i Havanna. Selv foretrækker min hukommelse hans fantastiske TV-rolle som den engelske spionchef George Smiley, baseret på John Le Carré´s romaner. Han må klart vurderes som blandt de 4 store britiske mandlige skuespillere - Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud og.... Alec Guinness.
Hans påståede bi-sexuelle observans deles af flere andre af de store (afdøde/nulevende) britiske actors og betyder intet, når man sad på den anden side af scenen og nød skuespil i verdensklasse.
En gang imellem genser jeg med fryd hans "George Smiley"; en mulig karrikatur af Storbritanniens tidligere chef for Secret Service Sir Maurice Oldfield.