Beaumont was brought up in Cardiff, where he joined the staff of a local theatre at the age of fifteen. From there he built a career in theatrical management. His company, H. M. Tennent, which he co-founded in 1936, was based at the old Globe Theatre (now the Gielgud Theatre) in Shaftesbury Avenue, London. His success was based on lavish productions, starry casts and plays calculated to appeal to a West End audience. Among those with whom he was closely associated were Noël Coward and John Gielgud. His successes included new plays, revivals of classics, and musicals.
With the rise of state-subsidised theatre and avant garde plays from the mid-1950s onwards, Beaumont's genre of opulent productions of safe repertoire started to seem conventional. He recognised this by serving on the board of the new National Theatre during the last decade of his life.
Throughout his life Beaumont was evasive about his background, given, as one biographer wrote, "to disseminating fanciful accounts of his origins". It was not until a 1989 biography by Richard Huggett that the facts became widely known. He was born Hughes Griffiths Morgan, in Hampstead, London, the son of Morgan Morgan, a barrister, and his wife Mary Frances, née Brewer. Morgan divorced his wife for adultery when the boy was two. Mary Morgan then married the co-respondent, William Sugden Beaumont, a Cardiff timber merchant, whom the young Beaumont was brought up believing to be his real father. The boy was formally known as Hugh, but was generally called "Binkie". The origin of his nickname is uncertain; John Elsom in a 1991 book Cold War Theatre suggests that "Binkie" was Cardiff slang for a black child or a ragamuffin. William Beaumont died while Binkie was still a boy. Mary Beaumont then let rooms to a lodger, Major Harry Woodcock, a former Army Entertainments Officer and latterly general manager of the Cardiff Playhouse.
At the age of fifteen Beaumont left Penarth Grammar School and became a box-office assistant at the Playhouse; he was appointed assistant manager of the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cardiff a year later. He was subsequently business manager for Aubrey Smith's touring company and then of the Barnes Theatre in London for the producer Philip Ridgeway. The Barnes Theatre was famous for its productions of Chekhov and the other Russian classics, often directed by Theodore Komisarjevsky. During Beaumont's time with the company five of its productions transferred to the West End, giving him valuable managerial experience in five West End theatres. During his time with Ridgeway, Beaumont met John Gielgud for the first time.
Beaumont was appointed assistant to Harry Tennent, a senior executive in the Moss Empires theatre chain. In 1933 Tennent engineered the merger of Moss with the Howard & Wyndham group and became general manager. Tennent and Beaumont were unimpressed by the quality of many shows offered by producers for staging in the group's theatres. At Beaumont's instigation, he and Tennent went into production and management on their own account in 1936, setting up H M Tennent Limited. Tennent concentrated on the business side of the enterprise, with Beaumont as the producer, choosing plays and engaging directors, actors and designers.
Their first production, The Ante Room, by Kate O'Brien at the Queen's Theatre in 1936, was a failure. The firm suffered a series of further flops, running short of capital before finding success with the 1937 production of Gerald Savory's George and Margaret, which ran for 799 performances. This was followed by Dodie Smith's Dear Octopus (373 performances) and other long-running shows that established Tennent as a highly profitable concern. When the Chamberlain government closed all the theatres in Britain on the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Beaumont had enough clout to persuade the prime minister to cancel the closures less than a week later.
Tennent died in 1941, leaving Beaumont in sole control, and for the next twenty years he was one of the most powerful men in British theatre. He maintained a low profile, shunning the limelight partly from natural reticence (saying, "I haven't the temperament to be a Cochran or a Diaghilev") and partly from his belief that he could operate more effectively behind the scenes. The first full-length biography of Beaumont, published in 1989, is subtitled "éminence grise of the West End theatre, 1933–1973".
Beaumont gained a strong commercial advantage over his rivals by setting up a subsidiary company to present classic plays: he successfully maintained that this operation qualified as "educational", and was thus exempt from tax. With productions such as The Importance of Being Earnest, with Gielgud and Edith Evans, and Hamlet, with Gielgud and Peggy Ashcroft, Beaumont made large profits from this ostensibly charitable enterprise. A close associate was Noël Coward. In his play Present Laughter, he caricatured himself and his friends, including Beaumont, portrayed as "Henry Lyppiatt", the shrewd man of business. Despite the heavy entertainment tax paid on productions by the main Tennent organisation, Beaumont made substantial profits from such new plays as Coward's Blithe Spirit, which ran for 1,997 performances.
Beaumont was always careful to balance innovation and box-office appeal. He combined both in the London premiere of Oklahoma! in 1947, which ran at Drury Lane for 1,543 performances. He promoted the works of new dramatists, including Christopher Fry, Tennessee Williams, and later Robert Bolt and Peter Shaffer, and engaged promising young directors and performers including Peter Brook and Richard Burton.
The rise of state-subsidised theatre, and the emergence of kitchen sink drama undermined Beaumont's pre-eminence beginning in the 1950s. He disapproved of both, and stuck to his style of lavish, starry West End productions, even when they began to go out of fashion. He alienated both Coward and Terence Rattigan with his arrogant and sometimes duplicitous behaviour. Beaumont attempted to sabotage the former's new play Waiting in the Wings by telling him that the actresses Coward wanted to cast refused to play in it, whereas in reality Beaumont had not consulted them. He continued to have enormous successes: in 1958, he presented the first British productions of both West Side Story (1040 performances) and My Fair Lady (2281 performances). The latter cost an unprecedented sum to stage, but, thanks to a sustained publicity campaign by Tennent's, advance bookings meant that the show was in net profit two months before it opened.
Beaumont sufficiently overcame his suspicion of the subsidised theatre to be a founder member of the board of the National Theatre, on which he served with energy and commitment during the last ten years of his life. He also continued to run H M Tennent until his death. His last production for Tennent's was a 1973 revival of Maugham's The Constant Wife, starring Ingrid Bergman, directed by Gielgud, which opened after Beaumont's death.
Beaumont died at his house in Lord North Street, Westminster, at the age of 64.
Sir Arthur John Gielgud, OM, CH (14 April 1904 – 21 May 2000) was an English actor, director, and producer. A descendant of the renowned Terry acting family, he achieved early international acclaim for his youthful, emotionally expressive Hamlet which broke box office records on Broadway in 1937. He was known for his beautiful speaking of verse and particularly for his warm and expressive voice, which his colleague Sir Alec Guinness likened to "a silver trumpet muffled in silk". Gielgud is one of the few entertainers who have won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award. Longtime partner Martin Hensler died in December 1998, 16 months before Gielgud's own death in 2000. He publicly acknowledged Hensler as his lover only in 1988, in the programme notes for The Best of Friends, which was his final stage performance.
John Gielgud was born in South Kensington in London to Kate Terry and Frank Gielgud. He was of theatrical lineage on his mother's side, being the grandson of actress Kate Terry, whose actor-siblings included Ellen Terry, Marion Terry and Fred Terry.
Gielgud's Catholic father, Franciszek Giełgud, born in 1880, was a descendant of a Polish noble family residing at a manor in a town called Giełgudyszki (now Gelgaudiškis in Marijampolė County, Lithuania). In his autobiography, Gielgud states repeatedly and clearly that his father was Polish Catholic, and mentions Gelgaudiškis as being his ancestral home whence his family and their surname originated.
Sir John Gielgud was an English actor, director, and producer. For Gielgud, true love arrives with a Hungarian, Martin Hensler, and Gielgud's letters of the time become saturated with a new, blissful sense of mutual dependence. Hensler was a chef, secretary, gardener, and was long-term lover of Gielgud from 1974. Gielgud bought his house in Wotton Underwood in Buckinghamshire and lived there with Hensler, for over 25 years, until Martin's death in 1998, even if their relationship began in 1962, when Gielgud picked up Martin, a designer exiled from Hungary, at an art exhibition.
His elder brother Val came to be a pioneering influence in BBC Radio. His brother Lewis was a scholar, writer, intelligence officer and humanitarian worker. His niece Maina Gielgud is a dancer and one time artistic director of the Australian Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet.
After Hillside Preparatory School in Godalming, Surrey, and Westminster School, where he gained a King's Scholarship, Gielgud trained briefly at RADA and understudied Noël Coward in Coward's The Vortex at the Everyman Theatre in Hampstead under the direction of Norman MacDermott (1890–1977).
He had his initial success as a stage actor in classical roles, first winning stardom during a successful two seasons at the Old Vic Theatre from 1929 to 1931 where his performances as Richard II and Hamlet were particularly acclaimed, the latter being the first Old Vic production to be transferred to the West End for a run. He returned to the role of Hamlet in a famous production under his own direction in 1934 at the New Theatre in the West End. He was hailed as a Broadway star in Guthrie McClintic's production in which Lillian Gish played Ophelia in 1936. (The production's popularity was assisted when a rival staging featuring film star Leslie Howard opened shortly afterward and was critically denounced in comparison to Gielgud's. Gielgud's production broke the long-run record for a Broadway "Hamlet.") There followed a 1939 production that Gielgud again directed at the Lyceum Theatre, historic for having been the professional home for Henry Irving's company. This was the last production to play the Lyceum until 50 years later when it was restored to host, among other shows, the hit musical The Lion King. Gielgud's Hamlet was later taken to Elsinore Castle in Denmark (the actual setting of the play), there was a 1944 production directed by George Rylands, and finally a 1945 production that toured the Far East under Gielgud's own direction. In his later years, Gielgud played the Ghost of Hamlet's Father in productions of the play, first to Richard Burton's Melancholy Dane on the Broadway stage which Gielgud directed in 1964, then on television with Richard Chamberlain, and finally in a radio production starring Gielgud's protégé Kenneth Branagh.
Gielgud had triumphs in many other plays, notably his greatest popular success Richard of Bordeaux (1933) (a romantic version of the story of Richard II), The Importance of Being Earnest which he first performed at the Lyric Hammersmith in 1930 and which remained in his repertory until 1947, and a legendary production of Romeo and Juliet (1935) which Gielgud directed and alternated the roles of Romeo and Mercutio with a young Laurence Olivier in his first professional Shakespearean leading role. Olivier's performance won him an engagement as the leading man of the Old Vic Theatre the following season, starting his career as a classical actor, but he was said to have resented Gielgud's direction and developed a wary relationship with Gielgud which resulted in Olivier turning down Gielgud's request to play the Chorus in Olivier's film of Henry V and later doing his best to block Gielgud from appearing at the Royal National Theatre when Olivier was its director.
Gielgud had hoped to stay in America after his Broadway performance as Hamlet in 1936 to play Richard II in New York, but director Guthrie McClintic was so certain that the production would fail in the United States that Gielgud gave up the idea (and was dismayed when Maurice Evans had a legendary success in the play on Broadway after Gielgud gave him his blessing to mount it when he decided not to).
However much Gielgud may have wished to stay in America, his return to London in 1937 had an enormous influence on the development of English Theatre. In 1937/38, he brought his celebrity and talent to bear in producing a season of plays at the Queen's Theatre, presenting the aforementioned Richard II, The School for Scandal, Three Sisters, and The Merchant of Venice with a permanent company that included himself, Peggy Ashcroft, Michael Redgrave and Alec Guinness. Although not always acknowledged for this achievement, Gielgud set a precedent in establishing a company of actors gathered together to present classics. This effort proved it could be done and shaped the development of such future theatrical institutions as the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. Gielgud acted in all four productions and directed the two Shakespeare plays, while Tyrone Guthrie directed The School for Scandal and Michael Saint-Denis staged Three Sisters. From Sheridan Morley's authorised biography: "Accustomed as we have now become to...the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, it is almost impossible to conceive how revolutionary John's idea was for the West End of 1937, where there had simply been nothing like it since the heyday of Henry Irving and the actor-managers more than fifty years earlier." Laurence Olivier said that Gielgud's performance in The School for Scandal was "the best light comedy performance I have ever seen - or ever shall!" and considered his Shylock to be among his greatest impersonations, but the greatest success of the season was the production of Three Sisters. That production went far toward Gielgud's successful effort to establish Chekhov's's viability on the English-speaking stage. Gielgud's own performance as Vershinin, along with his past successes as Treplev in The Seagull (1929 and 1936), and his later work in The Cherry Orchard (1954), and Ivanov (1965) were part of that Chekhovian legacy.
It has always been, however, for his Shakespearean work that Gielgud has been best known. In addition to Hamlet, which he played over 500 times in six productions, he gave what some consider definitive performances in The Tempest (as Prospero) in four productions (and in the 1991 film Prospero's Books), as well as in other roles - Richard II in three productions, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing which he first played in 1930 and revived throughout the 1950s, Macbeth and Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream twice, Romeo three times, and King Lear four times (as well as taking on the part for a final time in a radio broadcast at the age of 90). He also had triumphs as Malvolio in Twelfth Night (1931), Shylock in The Merchant of Venice (1937), Angelo in Measure for Measure (1950), Cassius in Julius Caesar (1950) (which he immortalised in the 1953 film), Leontes in The Winter's Tale (1951), and Cardinal Wolsey in Henry VIII (1959) (although his 1960 performance as Othello was not a success). It became rumoured that Gielgud also provided the voice for the uncredited role of the Ghost of Hamlet's Father in Laurence Olivier's 1948 film version, but the voice was actually that of Olivier, electronically distorted. Gielgud did voice the Ghost in both the stage and film version of the Richard Burton Hamlet, which he directed in 1964, and in the 1970 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation starring Richard Chamberlain.
Gielgud's crowning achievement, many believe, was Ages of Man, his one-man recital of Shakespearean excerpts which he performed throughout the 1950s and 1960s, winning a Tony Award for the Broadway production, a Grammy Award for his recording of the piece, and an Emmy Award for producer David Susskind for the 1966 telecast on CBS. Gielgud made his final Shakespearean appearance on stage in 1977 in the title role of John Schlesinger's production of Julius Caesar at the Royal National Theatre. He also made a recording of many of Shakespeare's sonnets in 1963. Among his non-Shakespearean Renaissance roles, his Ferdinand in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi was well-known.
As he aged, Gielgud sought out distinctive new voices in the theatre, appearing in plays by Edward Albee (Tiny Alice), Alan Bennett (Forty Years On), Charles Wood (Veterans), Edward Bond (Bingo, in which Gielgud played William Shakespeare), David Storey (Home), and Harold Pinter (No Man's Land), the latter two in partnership with his old friend Ralph Richardson, but he drew the line at being offered the role of Hamm in Beckett's Endgame, saying that the play offered "nothing but loneliness and despair". It looked as though Gielgud would retire from the stage after appearing in Half Life at the Duke of York's Theatre in 1978, but he made a successful comeback in 1988 in Hugh Whitemore's play The Best of Friends as museum curator Sydney Cockerell.
Gielgud was almost as highly regarded for his work as a theatre director as for his acting, having staged his first production as a guest director of the Oxford University Dramatic Society production of Romeo and Juliet in 1932. The custom of OUDS at the time was to cast student undergraduates in the male roles and professional actresses in the female roles. Gielgud engaged Peggy Ashcroft as Juliet and Edith Evans as the nurse, who played the same roles three years later in his legendary production of the play at the New Theatre.
Gielgud quickly rose to the status of being one of the top directors for Binkie Beaumont's H.M. Tennent, Ltd. production company in London's West End Theatre and later on Broadway, his productions including Lady Windermere's Fan (1945), The Glass Menagerie (1948), The Heiress (1949), his own adaptation of The Cherry Orchard (1954), The Potting Shed (1958), Five Finger Exercise (1959), Peter Ustinov's comedy Half Way Up a Tree (1967), and Private Lives (1972). Gielgud won a Tony Award for his direction of Big Fish, Little Fish in 1961, the only time he won the award in a competitive category (having won honorary awards for "Best Foreign Company" for his 1947 production of The Importance of Being Earnest and for his one-man show Ages of Man). He also directed the operas The Trojans in 1957 and A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1960.
Gielgud directed other actors in many of the Shakespearean roles that he was famous for playing, notably Richard Burton as Hamlet (1964), Anthony Quayle as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing (1950), and Paul Scofield as the title role in Richard II (1952). But Gielgud didn't always have the magic touch, staging a disappointing revival of Twelfth Night with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in 1955 and a disastrous production of Macbeth with Ralph Richardson in 1952.
But Gielgud was best known for directing productions in which he also starred, including his greatest commercial success Richard of Bordeaux (1933), his definitive production of The Importance of Being Earnest (1939, 1942, 1947), Medea with Judith Anderson's Tony Award-winning performance of the title role with Gielgud supporting her as Jason (1947), The Lady's Not for Burning (1949) that won Richard Burton his first notoriety as an actor, and Ivanov (1965). But many believed that his greatest successes were in Shakespearean productions in which he both directed and starred, especially Romeo and Juliet (1935), Richard II (1937, 1953), King Lear (1950, 1955), Much Ado About Nothing (1952, 1955, 1959) and his signature role of Hamlet (1934, 1939, 1945).
Gielgud's brother Val Gielgud became the head of BBC Radio Production in 1928, and John made his radio debut there the following year in a version of Pirandello's The Man With the Flower in His Mouth, which he was then performing at the Old Vic Theatre. In the ensuing years, John played many of his greatest stage roles on BBC Radio including Richard of Bordeaux, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Tempest, and Hamlet, one production of which featured Emlyn Williams as Claudius, Celia Johnson as Ophelia, and Martita Hunt as Gertrude (the part she played in Gielgud's debut in the role at the Old Vic in 1930). He also played some Shakespearean roles which he never essayed on stage, such as Iago in a 1932 broadcast of Othello opposite Henry Ainley as the Moor, Buckingham (1954) and Cranmer (1977) in Henry VIII, and Friar Laurence in Romeo & Juliet for the first time when he was eighty-nine.
John Gielgud played Sherlock Holmes for BBC radio in the 1950s, with Ralph Richardson as Watson. Gielgud's brother, Val Gielgud, appeared in one of the episodes, perhaps inevitably, as the great detective's brother Mycroft. This series was co-produced by the American Broadcasting Company. Orson Welles appeared as Professor Moriarty in The Final Problem.
Gielgud gave one of his final radio performances in the title role of an All Star production of King Lear in 1994 that was mounted to celebrate his 90th birthday. The cast included Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, and Simon Russell Beale.
Although he began to appear in British films as early as 1924, making his debut in Who Is the Man? and appearing in the Edgar Wallace-based thriller The Clue of the New Pin (1929), he did not make an international impact in the medium until the last decades of his life. His early important film roles included Inigo Jollifant in Victor Saville's The Good Companions (1933), the lead in Alfred Hitchcock's Secret Agent (1936), Benjamin Disraeli in The Prime Minister (1940), Cassius in Julius Caesar (1953) (BAFTA Award for Best British Actor), George, Duke of Clarence to Olivier's Richard III (1955), and Henry IV to Orson Welles' Falstaff in Chimes at Midnight (1966). A brief glimpse of his Hamlet from the gravediggers scene appears in the Humphrey Jennings short A Diary for Timothy (1945). But he lost his aversion to filming in the late 1960s, and by the 1980s and 1990s he was appearing in films so regularly that it was jokingly said that he was prepared to do almost anything for his art. He won an Academy Award for his supporting role as a sardonic butler in the 1981 comedy Arthur, starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli, a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Providence (1977), and a BAFTA Award for Murder on the Orient Express (1974), and his performances in The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), The Elephant Man (1981), and Shine (1996) were critically acclaimed. In 1980, he played the role of Nerva in the Penthouse-funded film Caligula. In 1991, Gielgud was able to satisfy his life's ambition by immortalising his Prospero on screen in Peter Greenaway's extremely offbeat version of The Tempest, a film called Prospero's Books in which Gielgud voiced every single character in the play.
Television also developed as one of the focal points of his career, with Gielgud giving a particularly notable performance in Brideshead Revisited (1981). He won an Emmy Award for Summer's Lease (1989) and televised his stage performances of A Day by the Sea (1957), Home (1970), No Man's Land (1976) and his final theatre role in The Best of Friends as Sydney Cockerell in the 1991 Masterpiece Theatre Production, along with Patrick McGoohan and Dame Wendy Hiller. In 1983, he made his second onscreen appearance with fellow theatrical knights Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson (following Olivier's own Richard III) in a television miniseries about composer Richard Wagner. In 1996 he played a wizard in the TV adaptation of Gulliver's Travels. Gielgud and Ralph Richardson were the first guest stars on Second City Television. Playing themselves, they were in Toronto during their tour of Harold Pinter's No Man's Land. According to Dave Thomas, in his book, SCTV: Behind the Scenes, their sketch was very poor and the actors gave bad performances. Gielgud's final television performance was on film in Merlin in 1998, his final television studio appearance having been in A Summer Day's Dream recorded in 1994 for the BBC 2 Performance series.
Gielgud was one of the few people who has won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award.
Gielgud's final onscreen appearance in a major release motion picture was as Pope Pius V in Elizabeth which was released in 1998. His final (silent) acting performance was in a film adaptation of Samuel Beckett's short play Catastrophe, opposite longtime collaborator Harold Pinter and directed by American playwright David Mamet; Gielgud died mere weeks after production was completed at the age of 96 of natural causes.
Gielgud lived and worked in an era when there was a conspiracy of silence around homosexuality outside of theatrical circles. Shortly after he was knighted, Gielgud endured a horrific humiliation. In 1953, he was convicted of "persistently importuning for immoral purposes" (cottaging) in a Chelsea mews, having been arrested for trying to pick up a man in a public lavatory. Gielgud avoided Hollywood for over a decade for fear of being denied entry because of the arrest. There was much discussion behind closed doors about whether his career could endure the ignominy, but he continued to rehearse the play in which he was scheduled to direct and act. Instead of being rejected by the public, he received a standing ovation at the play's initial opening in Liverpool, in part because of his co-star Sybil Thorndike; Thorndike seized him as he stood in the wings unable to bring himself to make his first entrance and brought him onstage, whispering "Come on, John darling, they won't boo me." Biographer Sheridan Morley writes that while Gielgud never denied being homosexual, he always tried to be discreet about it and felt humiliated by the ordeal. Some speculate that it helped to bring to public attention a crusade to decriminalise homosexuality in England and Wales.
The 'Gielgud case' of 1953, above, was dramatised by critic turned playwright Nicholas de Jongh in the play Plague Over England and performed at the Finborough, a small London theatre, in 2008, with Jasper Britton as Gielgud. In 2009 the play was presented for a limited run at the Duchess Theatre, in London's West End, with Michael Feast (who had worked with Gielgud) in the main role.
Gielgud's long-standing professional relationship with producer Hugh "Binkie" Beaumont had its personal side as well. Gielgud's first significant lover, playwright John Perry, left Gielgud for Beaumont. Later, Perry went on to partner Beaumont in the H. M. Tennent organisation, within which Gielgud continued to work. Beaumont, himself closeted outside the theatrical community, was a very powerful producer who oversaw a great deal of high-profile and artistically ambitious work. He stood behind Gielgud during the 1953 scandal, and, with Perry, took the risk of backing Gielgud's Queen's Theatre season. However, Morley's biography states: "Binkie...was..to keep him.....on such an extremely tight salary that it wasn't until Gielgud first escaped to Hollywood in 1953 that he began to earn the kind of money that Olivier and Richardson and Redgrave had earned for decades."
In the same biography, Keith Baxter remarks on Gielgud's private life: "...the theatre was always much more important to John G. than any private relationship..."
Paul Anstee, actor, theatre designer and interior decorator, was one of three great loves in Gielgud's life, the first being John Perry and the last a possessive Hungarian, Martin Hensler.
Sir John gave the opening address at the Queen Mother's's 90th Birthday Celebration Gala at the London Palladium in 1990, referring to a glittering array of stars and personalities assembled saying that because of the love and affection in which she was held they were laying at her feet, this rather large Birthday present, which provoked tremendous approval. He also read from Alan Bennett's Forty Years On, in which he had appeared in earlier years.
Laurence Olivier's friendship with Gielgud was peppered with barely acknowledged competitive tension, for, while Olivier's fame as a film actor eventually eclipsed Gielgud's, Gielgud had been the great Shakespearean actor when Olivier was just coming up and that was hard for Olivier to forget. Gielgud maintained a very close relationship with Olivier's second wife, Vivien Leigh, throughout their marriage, divorce, and her long struggle with manic depression. In Curtain (1991), Michael Korda's novel based on the marriage of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Gielgud becomes Philip Chagrin.
Another fictionalised Gielgud – this time given the family name John Terry – appeared around the same time as de Jongh's play in Nicola Upson's detective novel An Expert in Murder, a crime story woven around the original production of Richard of Bordeaux.
John Gielgud died of a respiratory infection and was cremated at Oxford Crematorium.
Burial: Oxford Crematorium (Cremation location), Headington, Oxfordshire, England
Arthur John Perry (born Woodruff, Co Tipperary 7 May 1906; died Cambridge 16 February 1995), actor, playwright, theatrical agent, was one of the last surviving members of H.M. Tennent Ltd - "the Firm", as it was known - which under the management of Hugh "Binkie" Beaumont dominated the West End and provincial theatres for more than 30 years. Founded in 1936, it flourished during the Second World War, and in the course of its existence produced over 400 plays, musicals, intimate revues and revivals of the classics. The name came to symbolise excellence of style, presentation and casting, setting standards which were the envy and admiration of its competitors on both sides of the Atlantic.
Perry's association with Beaumont began in 1938 when John Gielgud approached him and offered to direct a play Perry had written in collaboration with Molly Keane (under her pen-name M.J. Farrell), Perry's childhood friend and neighbour. Full of Irish wit and eccentric characters, the play, Spring Meeting (Ambassadors, 1938), provided Margaret Rutherford with a starring role and established her as a favourite with audiences and critics alike, a position she occupied with the Firm for the rest of her theatrical career. Simultaneously Gielgud agreed to make his first appearance for the Firm in Dodie Smith's Dear Octopus (Queen's, 1938) and apart from seasons at the Old Vic and Stratford-upon-Avon, remained as its brightest star for the next two decades. Gielgud subsequently staged two more of Perry's collaborations with Keane: Treasure Hunt (Apollo, 1949), an amusing vehicle for Sybil Thorndike, and Dazzling Prospect (Strand, 1961), which provided another comic role for Margaret Rutherford.
Perry was born at Woodruff, Co Tipperary, in 1906, and educated at Cheltenham College. He made his professional acting dbut as Jack Chesney in Charlie's Aunt in 1928, joined the Florence Glossop-Harris company for a tour of Canada and the West Indies and then left the stage to concentrate on writing. Among his other plays and adaptations were Kate O'Brien's The Last of Summer (Phoenix, 1944), Francis Brett Young's A Man About the House (Piccadilly, 1945) and Elizabeth Bowen's Castle Anna (Lyric Hammersmith, 1948). Although he never took his acting seriously, Perry found his career cut short by the Second World War and he served in the RAF for the next five years. In 1943, with support from Anthony Quayle, he was appointed ADC to the Governor of Gibraltar, which prompted Beaumont to organise a visit to the Rock by an all-star concert party which included Gielgud, Vivien Leigh, Elisabeth Welch and Michael Wilding. When his service career ended, Perry joined Beaumont at the Globe Theatre and eventually became a director of H.M. Tennent. Tall, fair-haired and elegant, at home in Ireland Perry was the typical gentleman, riding to hounds (he was joint master of his local pack, near Clonmel) and a keen gardener.
In 1945 Rudolf Bing, then administrator of the Glyndebourne festival, invited Beaumont to join him, Tyrone Guthrie, administrator of the Old Vic, and Norman Higgins, of the Arts Theatre, Cambridge, to form what became known as the Company of Four. Its policy was to present new plays at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, and also to provide a showcase for actors returning from the services. After the usual uncertain start ("The Company of Four and the Audience of Two") and losses which led to the withdrawal of Glyndebourne and the Old Vic, Perry replaced Murray Macdonald, the original administrator, and the theatre began to build up a dazzling reputation as the foremost experi- mental theatre in London.
Plays by English authors such as Wynyard Browne, Peter Ustinov and Christopher Fry and the Americans Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, William Saroyan and Thornton Wilder were included in productions by Peter Glenville and Ustinov himself, while Peter Brook produced translations of Sartre and Anouilh. Cocteau's The Eagle Has Two Heads, with Eileen Herlie, had laid the foundations of its mounting success but it was the intimate revues Tuppence Coloured and Oranges and Lemons, devised by Laurier Lister, that wiped out the first losses and provided financial security. Many of these productions transferred to the West End, including Anouilh's Point of Departure and The Rehearsal (which I translated) and Vanburgh's The Relapse in a memorable production by Anthony Quayle.
In Coronation year Gielgud repeated for the Company of Four the formula he had used at the Queen's in 1938 and at the Haymarket in 1944 when he appeared in a season of plays using the same cast; it was virtually the forerunner of the National Theatre. The Lyric's season included Paul Scofield in Richard II, which Gielgud directed. Peter Brook's Venice Preserv'd, with Gielgud, Scofield, Pamela Brown and Eileen Herlie, and The Way of the World with Margaret Rutherford as Lady Wishfort.
All these productions were backed by Tennent Plays Ltd, the non-profit- making organisation which was set up as a tax-free concession in the days before the subsidised theatres were launched. In spite of mounting opposition from other managements, which even led to questions being asked in the House of Commons, the system was allowed to continue.
Despite public conviction to the contrary, the Firm never held any star or writer under contract, Beaumont's genius and charm proving more effective than any written signature. But if anyone fell foul of the management or "blotted their copybook" they were unlikely to work for the Firm again.
This inference extended to all the personnel connected with the technical side and anyone who worked for the Firm will remember the team collected, each as uniquely qualified as the managing director himself: Lily Taylor in the wardrobe, Joe Davies the electrician, Bernard Gordon the general manager, Ian Dow in charge of construction, and the redoubtable Elsie Beyer, the first woman general manager to be appointed, Daphne Rye, the casting director, Vivienne Byerley, in charge of publicity, and a whole host of stage directors, company managers and wardrobe mistresses.
Perry retired to the country in the late Sixties but when Beaumont died suddenly in 1974 he came back to the Globe to help run the firm. Beaumont had never concerned himself with training a successor and with his failing health and competition from the subsidised theatres the Firm lost its impetus and, although it officially continued to exist, nothing could replace the original driving force and the name itself disappeared some five years ago.
Martin Hensler (1944 - December 1998) was a chef, secretary, gardner, and was long-term lover of Sir John Gielgud from 1974. Sir John bought his house in Buckinghamshire and lived there with Martin Hensler, for over 25 years, even if their relationship has begun in 1962. (Picture: Actors in Plague over England, the acclaimed West End play about John Gielgud)
Gielgud's Letters, 800-plus missives, written between 1912 and 1999, are with his mother, his onetime lover Paul Anstee, the actress Irene Worth, photographer and designer Cecil Beaton and the playwright Hugh Wheeler. The early part of the volume is dominated by correspondence to his mother (the only family member who figures prominently), and is full of excited career talk as he achieves success. Then comes the romance with Anstee — tarnished by Anstee's jealousy and Gielgud's insistence that "I can't really share my life completely with anybody." Finally, true love arrives with a Hungarian, Martin Hensler, and Gielgud's letters become saturated with a new, blissful sense of mutual dependence.
When Gielgud died at the age of 96, he was lauded as the last of the great theatre-knights: an actor and director whose work enriched the 20th century. But his friends, lovers and contemporaries also knew him as an eloquent writer. His letters range in tone from the mischievous and outré to the fearful and desperate - when he is threatened by a blackmailer.
Such was his fear of exposure that it was only towards the end of his life that he publicly acknowledged his debt to Martin Hensler.
In 1959 Paul Anstee supported Gielgud through a blackmail attempt made on him in New York, reminiscent of the cottaging incident in London in 1953 when Gielgud was arrested for approaching a man in a public lavatory who turned out to be an undercover policeman. But Gielgud continued to demand independence and, in October 1962, picked up a young Hungarian, Martin Hensler, at an art exhibition.
Paul Anstee (December 30, 1928 - August 26, 2010) was one of three great loves in Sir John Gielgud's life, the first being John Perry, who worked for and later lived with "Binkie" Beaumont at HM Tennent impresarios, and the last a possessive Hungarian, Martin Hensler.
Anstee was born Henry Miskin on December 30 1928, the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Harold Miskin, OBE, MC and Bar, of the Bedfordshire Regiment, from a well-known family of builders in St Albans.
Henry was educated at Bryanston and then trained at Rada before changing his name to Paul Anstee and going into repertory. A tall, languid figure with a pronounced coiffe, he later moved into theatre design, working closely with Cecil Beaton for seven years. In 1953 Beaton was amused to notice him spraying hydrangeas blue before the Queen attended a Coronation command performance of Aren't We All? The originals had faded under the television camera lights.
In the same year Anstee had a part in A Woman of No Importance alongside Isobel Jeans and Athene Seyler. He designed Time Remembered in 1954; Nude with Violin (for Noël Coward, thanks to John Gielgud, who starred) in 1956; Suddenly It's Spring, starring Margaret Lockwood in 1959; and The Collection in 1962.
During his relationship with Gielgud, which flourished for several years from 1953, he opened an interior decorating and antiques shop in the King's Road, partly financed by his father and briefly by the actress Adrianne Allen, wife of Raymond Massey. The shop opened in October 1955, giving him pleasure and hard work in equal measure. In September 1961 he opened a design shop in Cale Street, with favourable publicity, retaining for a few further years the King's Road shop solely for antiques.
Vivien Leigh entertains over lunch at Tickerage Mill. Seated from L-R: Actor and interior designer Paul Anstee, Sir Kenneth Clark, Vivien, John Gielgud, journalist Alan Dent, and Lady Jane Clark (http://www.vivandlarry.com/vivien-leigh/vivien-leigh-through-jack-merivales-lens/)
During his relationship with Gielgud, which flourished for several years from 1953, Paul Anstee opened an interior decorating and antiques shop in the King's Road, partly financed by his father and briefly by the actress Adrianne Allen, wife of Raymond Massey. The shop opened in 1955, giving him pleasure and hard work in equal measure. In September 1961 he opened a design shop in Cale Street, with favourable publicity, retaining for a few further years the King's Road shop solely for antiques.
Paul Anstee's country home, Templewood, near Heathfield in Sussex
In the early 1970s Paul Anstee found happiness with a young Canadian called Guy Gauvreau. In London they lived at Chelsea Studios, weekending at Anstee's country home, Templewood, near Heathfield in Sussex. Their garden was badly damaged in the 1987 storm. Gauvreau died of leukaemia in December 1989, aged 41. In his later years Paul Anstee suffered from Alzheimer's disease, spending his last two years at Dudwell St Mary Nursing Home, Burwash, where he died on August 26, 2010.
He travelled frequently with Gielgud, mixing with figures such as Truman Capote and Somerset Maugham. But in June 1956 his relationship with Gielgud became troubled after the actor revealed that he was still occasionally involved with George Pitcher, a Princeton professor of philosophy with a long-term partner – the composer Ed Cone.
Gielgud found it hard to relinquish Pitcher, despite his devotion to Anstee, something he explained as "the worst kind of Rex Harrison compromise". "I do feel such a treacherous bitch," the actor confessed. Gielgud and Anstee remained lovers, and by 1958 Gielgud was less concerned about whether his infidelities remained secret. Seizing a week with Pitcher in America that year, Gielgud told a friend: "I cannot be bothered with intrigues, lies and subsequent recriminations."
In 1959 Anstee supported Gielgud through a blackmail attempt made on him in New York, reminiscent of the cottaging incident in London in 1953 when Gielgud was arrested for approaching a man in a public lavatory who turned out to be an undercover policeman. But Gielgud continued to demand independence and, in October 1962, picked up a young Hungarian, Martin Hensler, at an art exhibition.
From being an "agreeable once a week diversion", Hensler soon became Gielgud's partner, staying with him for 37 years until he predeceased the actor in 1999. By this time the relationship with Anstee had settled into one of close companionship, Gielgud confiding in him about Hensler and welcoming Anstee's friendliness towards his successor. Anstee remained steadfast in his devotion to Gielgud, and such was the mutual trust that Gielgud appointed him his executor.
As an interior designer, Anstee decorated Tickerage Mill for Vivien Leigh, the Sussex house which she bought after her separation from Laurence Olivier. Anstee brightened it with chintzes, creating for the star a beautiful refuge. He also decorated for Yehudi Menuhin, Lady Pamela Berry, Mrs John Hare and others.
The death of Anstee's father in 1971 gave him some financial independence. He was able to give up the Cale Street shop and his interior decorating, and opened Bailey's Gallery in Prince's Arcade, specialising in ephemera (cartoons from the 1700s, Valentine cards, novelties, boxes and so on). This kept him busy until he retired in the late 1980s.
In the early 1970s he found happiness with a young Canadian called Guy Gauvreau. In London they lived at Chelsea Studios, weekending at Anstee's country home, Templewood, near Heathfield in Sussex. Their garden was badly damaged in the 1987 storm, during which they lost 58 trees. Gauvreau died of leukaemia in December 1989, aged 41.
In his later years Paul Anstee suffered from Alzheimer's disease, spending his last two years at Dudwell St Mary Nursing Home, Burwash, where he died on August 26, 2010.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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