His great-aunt was the renowned Victorian actress Ellen Terry, and John Gielgud committed early to the craft, playing bit parts in a touring company as a teenager. Now 93, the great English actor has rarely been at liberty since.
Sir John—he was knighted in 1953—recalls here his great roles (such as Romeo, Macbeth and Lear), the productions he directed and an amazing range of people he came to know—not only Olivier and Chaplin, but George Bernard Shaw, T.S. Eliot and Lord Alfred Douglas, the notorious lover of Oscar Wilde. As a survey of 20th-century English theater, Gielgud's account is admirable. Yet there is a striking lack of personal intimacy. The narrative voice is that of a British gentleman—modest, well-bred, amusing. Sir John offers next to nothing about his private life and, of course, no scandalous tidbits. (Applause, $21.95)