SIR JOHN GIELGUD, English actor was born (d. 2000); No need to skimp on superlatives. Sir John Gielgud spent a lifetime of hard work earning accolades. Simply put, he was one of the great men of the world of theater, had one of the most extraordinarily mellifluous voice of any actor on the English-speaking stage, and was one of the few actors capable of taking on any role, no matter how slight and making it play. In his youth his only rival as the most beautiful man on the English stage was Ivor Novello. And lost little of that beauty in old age.
Rent any of his films and try, just try to take your eyes off him when he acts, if you doubt this. Brideshead Revisited, Arthur, Becket, Julius Caesar, Murder on the Orient Express, Caligula, The Elephant Man, Gandhi, Chariots of Fire, Prospero’s Books…just to name a few. It just doesn’t get much better than Sir John.
Gielgud was convicted of “persistently importuning for immoral purposes” (“cottagiong” in the vernacular of the day) in a Chelsea (U.K.) mews in 1953. Instead of being rejected by the public, he received a standing ovation at his next stage appearance. Biographer Sheridan Morley writes that while Gielgud never denied being Gay, 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 decriminalize homosexuality in England and Wales. Longtime partner Martin Hensler, 30 years his junior, died just a few months before Sir John did in 2000. He only publicly acknowledged Hensler as his partner in 1988, in the program notes for The Best of Friends which was his final stage performance. Despite going to Hollywood to appear alongside Marlon Brando in Julius Caesar in early 1950s, Gielgud would avoid Hollywood for over a decade for fear of being denied entry because of the arrest. He was knighted in the 1953 coronation honors, became a Companion of Honor in 1977, and was admitted to the British Order of Merit in 1996.