Paul Bailey

The Player King

John Gielgud: Matinee Idol to Movie Star


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I was fifteen when I first saw John Gielgud on stage, in a special matinee performance for London schoolchildren of the then rarely produced Much Ado About Nothing. He remains the most consummate of all the Benedicks I have seen since. At one point in the afternoon, Gielgud stopped the audience’s laughter with the raising of a single finger, as if to suggest that he, Benedick, was already bored with their frivolity. I left the Phoenix Theatre in a state of euphoria, knowing that I had just witnessed magisterial comic acting.

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