The Masters  
The Powell & Pressburger Pages

Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.

A lot of the documents have been sent to me or have come from other web sites. The name of the web site is given where known. If I have unintentionally included an image or document that is copyrighted or that I shouldn't have done then please email me and I'll remove it.

I make no money from this site, it's purely for the love of the films.

[Any comments are by me (Steve Crook) and other members of the email list]

  Steve's Logo

The Wit and wisdom of Gielgud

On acting:

"It's my whole life. It's all I can do."

"What is fun about the theatre is that we get our prizes while we are alive to enjoy them."

"I have been extraordinarily lucky. I've had sort of three goes, which is rare, very fortunate for an actor, and in every kind of work."

"I spoke rather well but rather too well, and fell in love with my own voice. All that took me years to get away from."

"I've been able to take no notice of the flattery and praise and concentrate on the things that were wrong. I'm frightened, now that I'm old, that people will be so respectful."

On Lord Olivier:

"He was very much more extrovert. He had a tremendous actual physical side of acting, which I'm not good at at all."

When James Villers assumed Olivier's Victor role in Private Lives, Olivier asked Sir John what his performance was like. Sir John replied: "Oh. Larry, I've never seen the part of Victor so perfectly realised. Oh, sorry, I didn't mean that..."

Visiting an ailing Olivier he proclaimed: "Larry! You're dead! I mean... you're dying! I mean... my poor darling Larry, you don't look at all well!"

On having a West End theatre named after him:

"Walking down Shaftesbury Avenue recently I have not known any of the names billed outside the theatres. Now I will know at least one."

On his role in Arthur:

It brought me fan mail from all over the world. It still does, which is extraordinary, really... I turned it down a couple of times... I thought [the script] was rather smutty, rather common."

"They just wanted a posh-looking Englishman saying rather racy things."

"Every time I said 'no' the price went up and finally, when I accepted, they said 'how clever of you' which wasn't the case at all."

On Richard Burton's performance as Hamlet:

"We'll have dinner when you're better, I mean ready."

On art:

"David Hockney did a drawing of me when I was 70 and I thought that if I really looked like that, I must kill myself tomorrow."

On old age:

When asked to join Glenda Jackson and Gyles Brandreth at the House of Commons for his 90th birthday celebrations, Sir John joked: "Yes I would be delighted to join them. You see, all my real friends are dead."

On appearing naked in Peter Greenaway's film Prospero's Books:

"It got a bit cold but the nudity soon ceased to be surprising. I don't think it's offensive, do you?"

On life:

"I'm a flibbertigibbet, I bolt through cheap thrillers, but I couldn't read Troilus And Cressida or Coriolanus with any great pleasure."

"One's self-image is very important because if that's in good shape, then you can do anything, or practically anything."

"Acting is half shame, half glory. Shame at exhibiting yourself, glory when you can forget yourself."

"When you're my age, you never risk being ill, because everyone then says, 'Oh he's done for'."

"In my last big parts, I kept thinking, 'Suppose I die in the middle? What is it going to cost everyone?'"

"One's had the odd horror and mishap, but on the whole I have very, very much to be thankful for. That I can still go on working at this age is extraordinary really; the only sadness is so many of my contemporaries are gone. Most of the actors that I knew well and worked with have died."

"I intend to go on for as long as I can because apart from pottering in the garden with Martin (his partner of 40 years) there isn't a great deal else I have ever wanted to do."

Bricks dropped

On Ingrid Bergman "She speaks five languages, and can't act in any of them."

To Clement Attlee, when Prime Minister "Tell me, where are you living these days?"

Back to index