John Gielgud’s amiable, chatty, and sometimes wickedly ironic voice permeates this narrative. In recalling his early years at the Old Vic, he candidly remarks that there were whole passages he failed to understand, “but I padded my doublet and wore a false beard and shouted and boomed and seemed to get some sort of result.” This sort of refreshing candor comes from the accumulated wisdom of a distinguished career. However, Gielgud’s self-skewering remark acts as a disarming prelude to a droll discussion of the American penchant for the fruitless probing of character and the endless exploration of the complexities of motivation—all of which, he suggests, does little to bring the play to the audience. When Gielgud remarks that his friend and much lauded colleague Lawrence Olivier had a fondness for artificial noses that sometimes diminished the effect of his performance, his observation is saved from being mean-spirited by a narrative voice of wry and self-effacing wisdom.
Gielgud’s reminiscences havebeen admirably edited by his longtime colleague John Miller, who has sketched a chronological frame for Gielgud’s reflections on his career. Miller outlines the highlights of Sir John’s career in an informative introduction. Moreover, he supplies four interesting appendices that provide intriguing tidbits of information. The index of “The Casts” reveals a host of familiar names. In a 1937 production of RICHARD II, Gielgud directed himself in...
(The entire section is 336 words.)
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