A Star is Scorned

He played everything from a low-life English thief to an Arab prince to a Jedi sage, but in a 62-year career, Alec Guinness never played Alec Guinness. This most chameleonlike of actors did his best to keep his true self hidden from the camera and from the world. Three years after his death, biographer Piers Paul Read aims to explode that subterfuge in Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography (Simon & Schuster; 632 pages). He succeeds at a superficial level, uncovering plenty of unpalatable truths about Guinness. Sadly, Read brings us no closer to understanding the actor's art. The mask behind the...

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