Good Night, Sweet Prince: ARTHUR JOHN GIELGUD (1904-2000)


As Sinatra was to popular music, so John Gielgud was to theater: The Voice. It could draw a word out into a long cello note or quaver like the lead fiddle in the pit of a Victorian melodrama. It made Shakespeare's verse immediately comprehensible and ethereal: perfectly analyzed, beautifully felt. Declaiming the final scene from King Lear in his solo Shakespeare show The Ages of Man, Sir John sounded like a noble basset. "Howl, howl, howl, howl!" The tone was mournful, then (an octave higher) deranged, then weirdly ecstatic and finally strangulated, stilled.

For nearly 80 years in theater, film,...

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