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Guinness diary raises curtain on rivalry with "tiresome" Olivier

LONDON (Reuters) - They may have had accolades and a knighthood in common, but veteran British thespian Alec Guinness found his fellow actor and former mentor Laurence Olivier tiresome and vindictive, newly released extracts from his diary show.

Writing just a day after Olivier's death, Guinness praised his contemporary as a "giant" of the theatre, but said he was unmoved by Olivier's performance in "Oedipus Rex".

"His 'I defy you, stars' in Romeo was memorable. And so was his Poor naked wretches etc in Lear. But his famous howl in Oedipus I thought just tiresome," Guinness wrote in a diary entry dated July 12, 1989.

"Like so many people whose ambition drive them to great eminence, he had a cruel and destructive streak. Side by side with his generosity, he could be unpleasant, possibly even vindictive," he wrote.

Born seven years apart, Guinness and Olivier first met on stage in 1935 in a performance of "Romeo and Juliet".

Guinness went on to win an Oscar for his performance in "The Bridge on the River Kwai" in 1957 and star as Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas's "Star Wars" franchise.

Guinness wrote that Olivier "knew every trick of the trade", including brightening and dimming lighting when he entered and exited the stage.

"He was always very conscious of the audience - and his own powers over them. I'm not sure he was an artist but he was total actor - a giant among actors," Guinness wrote.

The entries are part of a collection of 100 diary volumes and 900 letters which will be available for research at London's British Library next year and chronicle Guinness's career from the late 1930s until his death in 2000.

The library purchased the documents for 320,000 pounds ($502,500) from the Alec Guinness Estate, which still holds the copyright.

($1 = 0.6368 British pounds)

(Reporting by Alice Baghdjian, editing by Paul Casciato)

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