Paul Bailey

The Player King

John Gielgud: Matinee Idol to Movie Star


Methuen 720pp £30 order from our bookshop

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.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • ‘At every waking moment Barbara Hepworth was aware of herself as a woman paving the way in a man’s world’ From the… ,
    • The entertaining Howard Jacobson is in conversation with Prof John Mullan at the Queen’s Park Book Festival on Sund… ,
    • 'A modest and retiring man, Thompson spent his life describing apple varieties and recommending the best – Ribston… ,
    • 'Macfarlane is a poet with the instincts of a thriller writer, an autodidact in botany, mycology, geology and palae… ,
    • 'Some scholars attribute Shakespeare’s pre-eminence to four centuries of propaganda and not to the fact that Hamlet… ,
    • RT : We would appreciate any retweets ,
    • We've just stumbled on a gem from the LR archive. The emoluments page from May 1995, in which one reviewer asked to… ,