John Gielgud: Matinee Idol to Movie Star is the most authoritative and comprehensive account of the finest classical actor of the twentieth century. This entertaining but critical biography charts the ups and downs of Gielgud's long and glittering career, from his young ground-breaking Hamlet to his later success in plays by Pinter, Storey, Bond and Bennett, and his recognition as a major movie star following his role in Arthur. It also reassesses his complex relationship with his great rival Laurence Olivier and throws fresh light on his personal relationships and the turbulent episodes of his private life that threatened to shatter his career.
For this biography Jonathan Croall's exhaustive research has included over a hundred new interviews with key people from his life and career, including Peter Brook, Kenneth Branagh, Alec Guinness, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins, and it draws on several hundred letters to and from Gielgud that have never been published, including correspondences with Noël Coward, Somerset Maugham, Siegfried Sassoon, Edith Evans and Edward Gordon Craig. What emerges is an intimate, complex and often startling portrait of this great actor and much-loved man.
Gielgud's interpretations of Shakespeare's great roles made Shakespeare's plays a commercial success on London's West End for the first time. He was also hugely influential as a director and an actor-manager and worked extensively in film and television later in life. Since Jonathan Croall's first biography of Gielgud was published in 2000 a considerable amount of new material has come to light and the result is a much more rounded, candid and richly textured portrait of this celebrated stage and screen actor.