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Tony Blair to buy John Gielgud's former home

Link: Tony Blair to buy John Gielgud's former home - Telegraph.

Gielgud_clockFinally Tony Blair and I have something in common; we both own something that used to to belong to the great actor John Gielgud. In Blair's case, it's the great man's house. In mine, it's his long-case regulator clock which used to stand there. I bought it at the auction  sale of the great man's effects, with the proceeds going to charity. I also bid by telephone for his BAFTA, but bowed out after what seemed like a long, exciting head-t0-head with "Dickie" Attenborough. I have a weakness for auctions and become terribly competitive. The BAFTA duly went back to the Academy. At least I ran him up a bit and it was for a good cause.

I was a great admirer of Gielgud; perhaps rather more (unusually for an actor) than he was himself. How he must have regretted his characteristically warm gesture in presenting (if I remember the story correctly) Edmund Kean's sword to Olivier. The sword had come to Sir John, via his aunt Ellen Terry. It was supposed to have been used on stage in a play under Shakespeare's personal direction. The tradition had been to present it to the finest Shakespearian actor of each generation. Gielgud honoured that by presenting it to Olivier backstage after "Larry" gave his Hamlet (although many thought Gielgud's finer). When he died (though Gielgud survived him) Olivier left instructions that, as there was no living actor worthy of it, it should be buried with him. I defer to no-one in my admiration for Olivier's acting, but he was no great human.

I have no sources for this story, by the way, so treat is as "internet fact". I was told it with great authority by someone who seemed to know, but theatricals are famously loose with facts. True or not, it illustrates the stupidity of our modern cult of celebrity. A man (Wagner, Olivier) may be a genius, but have opinions of very little value. We should honour the talents and ignore the man, except for the rare cases - such as another man I greatly admire - where his character was his talent. Generally, it's ridiculous to give credence to the opinions of people with a single (and often questionable) skill that happens to place them in the public eye.

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