Email this review


A blessing undisguised--the lively, literate reminiscences of one of the treasures of the British stage and screen. No footlight flapdoodle here. Instead of the sniggers, sneers and snivels that mark so many theatrical memoirs these days, Guinness offers insights into the actor's art, thoughtful discussions of religious experience, encomiums to family life, plus deft portraits of everyone from Edith Sitwell to Sophia Loren, Pope Pius XII to Hemingway. He also provides some highly individual reactions to such matters as Post-Vatican II Roman Catholic services (""kneeling is out, queuing is in"") and theatre in the round (""a panoramic view of chubby. . .knees""). Guinness sketches the basic facts of his eventful life--illegitimacy, early struggles, religious conversion, stage successes, naval exploits, even greater screen successes, eventual knighthood--with disarming modesty and candor. In the telling, he comes up with a few unexpected revelations. We're surprised to learn, for example, that he is convinced he possesses psychic powers. These once led to his foreseeing James Dean's death one week before the young actor was killed in a fiery auto crash. On another occasion, his sixth sense prevented Sir Alec himself from being carried off (in drag) in a runaway hot-air balloon during the filming of Kind Hearts and Coronets. His powers apparently deserted him, however, the afternoon the bibulous Martita Hunt, a longtime friend, very nearly deafened him permanently with an overly enthusiastic greeting. Whether discussing John of the Cross or Celia Johnson, Ralph Richardson or Richard II, Guinness is a delightfully idiosyncratic raconteur. In summing up, the actor/author states, ""Of one thing I can boast: I am unaware of ever having lost a friend."" It's easy to understand why. And, with the publication of Blessings in Disguise, Sir Alec is going to discover that he has made thousands of new ones who will be charmed, and frequently moved, by this portrait of a wryly sensitive ""original.

Pub Date: March 4th, 1986
Publisher: Knopf