Museum of Fine Arts, Houston presents the Alec Guinness: An Actor for All Seasons film series.

Alec Guinness (1914–2000) was one of British cinema’s most brilliant and versatile actors. He was a commanding presence in film, theatre, and television for over 50 years, more versatile than most movie stars and more popular than most character actors.

He appeared in an enviable number of timeless classics, from the Charles Dickens adaptations which first made his name and the Ealing comedies that made him a star to the box-office heights of the great David Lean epics.

And then there were the Star Wars films, thanks to which he was plagued ever after by endless piles of fan mail!

This summer, the Museum’s repertory programming spotlights many of his most entertaining performances which are well worth experiencing on the big screen, in the company of other cinephiles. Film descriptions are courtesy of the British Film Institute.

Oliver Twist

Director  David Lean
Released  1948
Country  UK
Running Time  114 minutes
Format  35mm, B/W

David Lean was puzzled when pale, young Alec Guinness asked to play Fagin, Charles Dickens’s grotesque old king of pickpockets, described in the novel as being shriveled and Jewish, with a “villainous-looking and repulsive face.”

A screen test won Guinness the part, and the result, based closely on the text and illustrations, brilliantly presents Fagin as Oliver Twist sees him—funny at first, tutoring his boys in theft, but increasingly evil and even murderous.

The filmmakers were shocked when, in America, they were accused of anti-Semitism. The U.S. release was delayed for years, as other hands cut out the very comedy scenes which Lean felt humanized Fagin and had made the accusations untrue.

Read about filmmaker’s David Lean collaborations with Alec Guinness.

Archival print courtesy of the British Film Institute.


July 08, 2017


Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

1001 Bissonnet
Houston, Texas, United States
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