{    Cnytr   }

{Tuesday, January 27, 2009  }

.:{Alec Guinness - Convert through Theatre}:.

I've been reading the Fr. Brown mysteries by GK Chesterton lately, and after a bit of googling discovered that this was the source of the late Sir Alec Guinness' conversion.

There were two articles on the wikipedia site, this from an explicitly Catholic point of view and focusing on his conversion, and this, his 2000 obituary from The Guardian, which I was recently maligning. [g]

I thought this was interesting:

He always denied having any technique as an actor - or knowing what technique might be. Yet he was proud of his gift.

For Guinness the purpose of acting was to make-believe. The theatre was an act of faith, whose object was to tell the inner truth about situations and feelings, not to embroider falsehood with trickery and display. [...]

But the Kind Hearts gallery of family victims was consciously broad brush. Guinness was an actor, not an entertainer or vaudevillian. The spiritual core of Guinness's inner conviction remained the same - whatever game of disguise he might play.

I find that completely beautiful and astounding.

And briefly on his conversion:

His conversion to Roman Catholicism followed an episode during the 1954 shooting of Father Brown (called The Detective in the US), in which he played GK Chesterton's cheery cleric. Walking back in the dark, still in a cassock, to the station hotel of a village near Macon after a drink in the local bar with Peter Finch, his hand was seized by a small boy, a complete stranger, who called him "Mon père" and trotted along beside him chatting in French.

Despite his phony credentials as a cleric, Guinness felt strongly that the reality of this trust was important. When his 11-year-old son Matthew was temporarily crippled from the waist down with polio, Guinness had taken to dropping in on church and praying. Shortly after Father Brown, he joined the church of Rome.


I've always found the seeds of conversion in beauty, expressed via the humanities most strongly in art and history. I've always said that, had I not been born and raised a Catholic, the Alba Madonna hanging in the National Gallery would have converted me on the spot. I feel similarly (thought not quite as strongly) about the writings of the Inklings -- and literary converts are some of those people I most wonder at and admire. History has been known to convert people. I've sometimes wondered if film, acting and theatre work the same way (though often they work the opposite way). This actually gives me hope. If it converted Alec Guinness, perhaps it would work for others.
posted by Lauren, 8:21 PM | link | 0 comments