Actor. Born Arthur John Gielgud in South Kensington, London, he attended Hillside preparatory school, where he first appeared onstage in a production of Shakespeare's ‘Merchant of Venice'. At 17 he made his professional debut at the Old Vic in 1921 in a minor role in ‘Henry V.' He studied his craft at Lady Benson's Dramatic Academy and attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. He debuted in film in 1923 in the silent picture ‘Who Is the Man?' In 1929, he joined the Old Vic Company and established for himself a solid reputation. He became the first actor under 40 to play Hamlet in the West End, and his performance was considered to be groundbreaking; the best interpretation of his generation. Playwright Elizabeth Mackintosh, under her Gordon Daviot pen name, wrote ‘Richard of Bordeaux' specifically for Gielgud. The play was a huge financial and critical success. He wrote a 1939 autobiography entitled ‘Early Stages.' He was awarded a knighthood in the Coronation Honors list of June 1953. For the 1957 Edinburgh Festival, he created a solo recital of Shakespearean excerpts called ‘The Ages of Man' which was such a success that he toured with the show for a decade and won a special Tony Award in 1958 for its Broadway run. He won again in 1961 taking the Tony Award as Best Director for ‘Big Fish, Little Fish.' He was nominated twice for a Best Actor Tony Award for ‘Tiny Alice' and again in 1971 for ‘Home.' His book, ‘Distinguished Company' appeared in 1972. He won an appointment as a Companion of Honor in 1977. A new autobiography ‘An Actor in His Time' was published in 1979. Although he had appeared in almost eighty films he was regarded as a stage actor by most and was not generally noted for his film roles until his immensely popular portrayal of Hobson in the 1981 comedy ‘Arthur' for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Special Award in 1986 for lifetime achievement. He made his final appearance in the theatre at the age of 83 in ‘The Best of Friends' in 1988. He wrote a primer for Shakespearean actors, ‘Shakespeare - Hit or Miss?' in 1991. For his exceptional contributions to arts, he was made a member of Order of Merit by Elizabeth II in December 1996. His final film role was as Pope Pius in ‘Elizabeth' which was released in 2000. That year, after a career of over 75 years, Gielgud passed away at the age of 96. Appropriately the former Globe Theatre in London's West End, renamed the Gielgud Theatre in 1995, survives as his monument.
Bio by: Iola