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Obi Wan Is One With The Force, Feisal's in Cordoba, and Nicholson Has Blown The Bridge

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some rumblings from the Lab.

I hate this. I hate when I open my mailbox and there's thirty e-mails in an hour, all about the same thing, because normally that means someone has passed away.

I especially hate it when it turns out to be a giant... a legend... a truly astonishing artist like Sir Alec Guinness. He was born in April 1914, and the shadow he has cast over the craft of film acting is enormous. I will always remember my first exposure to him, as many of us will, when he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in STAR WARS. As a seven year old, I had never seen a film with someone like Guinness in it. There was a centered peace to him onscreen that I found immediately iconic. I will always remember that little smile he gives to Vader, just after he spots Luke, and just before he steps back from his duel and surrenders himself to the infinite. It's one of those things that no writer and no director can count on, one of those perfect little human moments that helped ground the spectacle of STAR WARS and make it, ultimately, a human experience.

And as I learned more of the work of Guinness, my esteem for him only grew. His collaborations with David Lean stand out as particular highs in an amazing filmography. His first two films were for Lean but it was a later pairing of the two that looms largest in my heart. Guinness gave remarkable life to Prince Feisal in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, my favorite film ever. He is perfection in the role, wise and sly and saddened by truth. There's an early sequence in the picture where Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) and Feisal sit across from each other, talking quietly, as the tent creaks around them in the wicked night winds of the desert. It's not a flashy scene, and it's certainly not one of the images from LAWRENCE that leaps to mind for most people. But there's something so great, so real about that scene... and I think it's the connection between O'Toole and Guinness as actors. He had that ability to make everyone around him better in a scene.

Do yourself the favor. Go find some of his Ealing comedies tonight. See THE LADYKILLERS or KIND HEARS AND CORONETS or THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT. Laugh as you watch, and shed no tears for the passing of this giant. There was a kindness, a generosity of spirit, that passes with him, and it is the work he leaves behind that becomes even more important now. He worked so hard over the course of his career to entertain, to enlighten, and to inspire. Honor that tonight. Enjoy.

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