Essay, Research Paper: Alec Guinness


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Alec Guinness writes My Name Escapes Me - The Diary of a Retiring Actor - in
purpose of documentation of his performance to commit his story to the public
record. In the diary, Alec Guinness, at 82, shows his wishes to spend his
declining years as, "a retiring actor"; he has not done with acting;
he is still performing; yet retiring. This time his performance is committed to
words in the commissioned diary. I see a diary as documentation of one's life,
especially when it is to be shown to public. By definition, a document is a
“formal paper bearing important or official information”. In the same sense,
Alec Guinness’s diary is a document of his "act" of writing as Paul
Matthew Pierre called. In addition, the facts that it is commissioned and is
admissionable to us, the public, that he is a public figure; and that it is
commemorating his people suggest Guinness's intentions for his stories and his
performances, in the diary to be for the public record. Writing is another way
of acting for Alec Guinness. His desire to perform is reluctantly replaced by
writing. Alec Guinness wishes to act again: "...if I am to retired, I am in
inclined to assume a pained expression and deny it.... I doubt if any part,
however small, would tempt me". *P 10* He openly shows his regrets toward
his retirement forced by his senescent body: "I think the T.V unit has
finished with me came home to me, almost savagely, that age has withered
memory, alertness had taken ...what talent was there." *p 41*: "
granny will be thrilled."*p 41* Also in the quotation, "...almost
unrecognizable in the film. I like the 'almost', " we see that he still
wants to be remained as a public figure. His love for acting and plays are
all-transparent in the book. He consistently refers back to the plays he has
done and read. He often expresses strong opinions about the plays and the acting
business: "... but I can't help feeling an actor should be made of sterner
stuff.... Than their ill report while you live”. *p 19* Something like this
quotation is not in character for him because he has been very conscious of
making statements about other social issues. When he does make them, he does so
indirectly that they could be interpreted in several different ways. These all
imply that this old man desperately wants to act once more. Moreover, he finds
another way to remain in the acting business and in the public eye: "The
difficulty is the chore of learning (I used to be reasonably reliable and fairly
quick, and diminishing physical vitality, both of which would choke any
creativity effort. So I am happy to scribble instead". As we are reading
his scribbles, we are seeing the other part of him; the inner Alec Guinness. He
again impersonates and creates a new character as he writes. What he writes is
about what he does and what he does identifies who he is. His actions are
committed to his words. Also his writing is performance in a sense that he is
presenting himself in the book. He seems to be very conscious of expressing his
opinions and views on sensitive issues like gender, class system, and racial
matters as though he’s overly awared of his audience. He was conscious of us,
when writing this book. It was not his usual diary anymore. This man's diary
described as, "...a small, strictly private almost, illegible series of
daily jottings," has been published as My Name Escapes Me, "being
fuller, quirkier and more haphazard and, to my regret, unavoidably self
revealing". *p 1* He could, in fact, write it in whatever way he wanted.
Maybe it is not himself that he is portraying. After all, he is an actor.
However he declares that it is his two years he is writing about, "I have
been unable to disguise my phobias, irritations, prejudices (though the latter
are often short lived) and my childishness and frivolity". "...and
when the show is over, or the day's shoot, and he is once more Alec":
“the show” is over and he is once more Alec Guinness in this diary.
"...The show that previous other world where life has meaning, form and
resolution, events perched accord or written rule". The title, "My
Name Escapes Me", may be implying that his name, Alec Guinness, which the
public remember it as when it has disguised itself with a new identity, is not
here in the book with the real Alec Guinness. He is presenting himself out side
the film in normal life. Perhaps, he now wants us to remember him without the
images of his well-known name and face, appearing on the screen. Perhaps, that
is the reason that he is documenting himself as in realistically at his
retirement stage. However, in the same way that he has always disguised himself
in different personas to us, this again is a new Guinness to us, bringing out
curiosities. His familiar name also created mystique around the book; there is
little insight created by the title. Alec uses his title, his new name
effectively reach out for publicity. He refers records of people’s deaths as
"obituaries," a formal announcement or report of a person's death,
often giving details of their life and work; "I had hoped to complete this
diary with no further obituaries but that was not to be. Sometimes, somehow, I
must try to write something about Peter". This quotation gives insight
about his character. He seems to want to write more personally on the topic of
his death. However, his official documentation remains impersonal. He admits
that this diary is formal official document. Again, his identity is immortalized
in the words he writes, in the same sense that his previous identities in the
films have been immortalized on the screen. "...My mind ruminating on
Tuesday's rehearsal...what seemed O.K. at the time.... It doesn't get
immortalized on film until Monday week - time enough for me to get into my usual
panic". *P37* I like the verb, "immortalize,"-“giving ever
lasting fame,”- here. He regards documentation of his experiences as
immortalization of his actions. Here he is immortalizing his friends in print:
"Lord Howe of the Hirsel has died...." *p53* "Ten years ago today
my mother died...."*p 104* "Peter’s death...." *p195* In order
to commemorate the births and deaths in his life, he leaves a record of them in
the diary. These records are important to him and are official in his world. He
had many reasons to document this diary; one of them is to immortalize his
performance in his world. In that sense, this diary is a documentation of his
private life. He depicts his world including people around him, the places he
goes to, and his thoughts, also immortalizing them in a print. His primary
interests shown in the diary are not about current social issues or his previous
movies, but his life. As one’s world goes around oneself, Guinness’s world
goes around himself. He focuses on himself and his name more than anything else
in the book. While he focuses on his health, his plan, his home, and so on, he
makes brief notes about the war going on the other side of the world, because
this diary is about documenting part of his life in which Guinness records his
official information. In a self conscious, restricted way, Guinness reveals
himself to us in the documentary form of a diary. This is how he wants to be
remembered by the public. However he is unable to escape his role as an actor.
This book seems to be written with the public in mind, but it does not reveal
any deep personal sides on the actor; he rather seems to be just identifying
himself in the public’s eyes at his retirement stage.
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