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Original at The Independent (article no longer available)
Sir John Gielgud, the last of the great actor knights, dies at 96
By Jojo Moyes, Arts and Media Correspondent
23 May 2000
Stars of the stage and screen paid tribute yesterday to Sir John Gielgud, one of the greatest actors of his generation, who has died aged 96. The actor, who had spent just four weeks without working since the age of 17, died at his home in Buckinghamshire. He had continued acting until poor health forced him to halt last month.
Trevor Nunn, director of the Royal National Theatre, said: "Everybody currently working in the theatre will agree that his death is the end of an era. As Shakespeare said, 'There's a great spirit gone'."
Born in 1904, Sir John managed to straddle the worlds of stage and screen; famed as one of the greatest Shakespearean actors, with legendary diction and classical training, but achieving fame in Hollywood as Dudley Moore's acerbic butler in the comedy film Arthur. He was never afraid to take risks; at 87 he appeared naked in Prospero's Books, Peter Greenaway's film version of The Tempest.
Lord Attenborough, who directed Sir John in the 1982 film Gandhi, said he was "probably the greatest theatre actor, the greatest classical actor".
Dame Maggie Smith said simply that the world "would not see his like again".
Kenneth Branagh said Sir John, who died on Sunday, had made Shakespeare "vivid, passionate and real" for millions of people across the world.
The last of a classic generation of actors with Olivier, Redgrave, Richardson and Ashcroft, Gielgud first trod the stage in 1917. He tackled every major Shakespearean role including King Lear, Hamlet and his own favourite, Prospero. In the Nineties the Globe Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End of London was renamed the Gielgud Theatre.
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