The Oscar-winning actor Alec Guinness was left deeply unimpressed by Sir Laurence Olivier's performance in Oedipus Rex, generally considered to be one of the finest turns of his career. However, Sir Alec, known for his roles in Star Wars, the classic Lawrence of Arabia and equally impressive The Bridge on the River Kwai, wrote of his disdain for the performance in his diary, the day after Olivier's death in 1989.
"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," wrote Guinness, conceding, "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." The acting legends are said to have met during a 1935 performance of Romeo and Juliet - according to the Daily Telegraph - and remained acquaintances throughout their acting careers. Alec's thoughts on his contemporaries are disclosed in his personal archive, which date from the 1930s until his death 2000, aged 86. The documents have been acquired by the British Library for a rather monumental $320,000. It includes over 900 letters to friends and family and around 100 volumes of diaries that will go on public display for the first time next year.
Lord Olivier and fellow actors Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson already have their documents included in the Library's collection of great 20th century theatrical knights.