Sir John Gielgud Dies, Aged 96Date: 22 May 2000
Sir John Gielgud, one of Britain's greatest classical actors, died at his home near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire yesterday. Gielgud was 96. The cause of death was thought to be simply old age.
Gielgud was the final survivor of a generation of classical actors which included Sir Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and Peggy Ashcroft. Over his incredible career, which started in 1917 and continued until a month ago, Gielgud appeared in countless plays and films. The 1982 Hollywood hit Arthur earned him his only Oscar for his role as Dudley Moore's butler.
But Gielgud, like Olivier, was perhaps best known for his mastery of Shakespeare. Between 1949 and 1961, he was a key member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and, over the years, he performed every major Shakespearean male role, including King Lear, Hamlet and Prospero from The Tempest.
In a statement issued today, Adrian Noble, RSC artistic director, commented: 'We are all deeply saddened at the news of John's death. John made a crucial contribution to the Royal Shakespeare Company, being one of the key members of the Company during a legendary period in its history. His work at Stratford has become part of theatre history, impacting on performers and directors the world over. He will remain a inspiration to many performers, and his dedication to the theatre will always be remembered with great fondness and admiration'
Meanwhile, Gielgud biographer Sheridan Morley, said: 'Gielgud was the greatest actor and his life was exactly the history of British theatre in the last century.' Morley continued, 'With him, we have lost not only the best actor of all time, but a man who was a link back to the Victorian theatre.'