The Academy Award-winning English theater and film actor, particularly known for his warm expressive voice, SIR JOHN GIELGUD died on this date. In 1964 he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in “Becket.” In 1981 he won for Best Supporting Actor, for his role as the durable butler in “Arthur.” In 1952 Gielgud was convicted of “persistently importuning for immoral purposes” (known at the time as “cottaging”) in a Chelsea mews. 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 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 decriminalize homosexuality in England and Wales. Longtime partner Martin Hensler, 30 years his junior, died just a few months before Gielgud’s own death 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 Charlton Heston in “Julius Caesar” in early 1970s, Gielgud would avoid Hollywood for over a decade for fear of being denied entry because of the arrest. The Globe Theater in London was renamed the Gielgud Theatre in 1994 in his honor.