Final bow

Sir John Gielgud: Consummate actor excelled at Shakespeare as well as movies for eight decades.

May 27, 2000

LIGHTS dimmed on Broadway Tuesday night. One of the brightest stars to grace the stage, Sir John Gielgud, died Sunday at age 96. An actor to the end, he appeared in a film this spring - not a Shakespearean classic (his specialty), but in a play by existentialist Samuel Beckett.

For eight decades, he never lost the acting bug. From early on, critics applauded. Many considered him the pre-eminent Shakespearean actor - even better than his colleague Lord Laurence Olivier. As one early critic put it, "No one has ever spoken Shakespeare with such intelligence and understanding." His crystal-clear elocution was the envy of every other English-speaking actor.

He adored the theater but will be remembered longest for his performances on celluloid. A comic turn - at age 77 - as the acerbic butler in the film "Arthur" won him an Academy Award and vaulted him into roles in movies, television and even commercials.

He never stopped learning about his craft, be it the Bard's works or modern drama, experimental films or a TV series. Whatever he did, he performed with enormous preparation and attention to detail - and a passionate love for acting.

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