Today there are generations who know Alec Guinness (1914-2000) only as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy, but when George Lucas cast him in that iconic role, the British actor had long established himself as one of the world’s consummate artists of stage and screen. Trained in classical theater, Alec Guinness delivered his first two significant film performances in Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), both adaptations from Charles Dickens directed by David Lean, with whom he would collaborate on four additional films.

Guinness’s most celebrated early film performances were in comedies for Ealing Studios, beginning with Kind Hearts and Coronets, which showcased his versatility in eight roles. His ability to disappear in his roles and play multiple characters would inspire Peter Sellers. Later Guinness would win the Academy Award for Best Actor for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), and in 1980 he received an Honorary Oscar for “advancing the art of screen acting through a host of memorable and distinguished performances.” Following his supporting role in Star Wars (for which he was Oscar-nominated), he starred in two highly acclaimed television adaptations from John le Carré novels: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) and Smiley’s People (1982).

DISCLAIMER: The trailers below are clearly not digitally restored, we just thought that they were too much fun not to share.

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New Digital Restoration!
Sunday, August 17  •  4:30 and 7:00

An Ealing Studios production considered one of the classics of British cinema, writer-director Robert Hamer’s pitch-black, Edwardian-era comedy stars Dennis Price as the ninth in line for the D’Ascoyne fortune, who sets out to murder the eight heirs before him, including a general, a parson and a dowager, all played by Alec Guinness. With Joan Greenwood. (UK 1949) 106 min.

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New Digital Restoration!
Sunday, August 24  •  4:30 and 7:00

Alec Guinness received his first Academy Award nomination for the role of a meek bank teller who teams up with seedy neighbor Stanley Holloway to steal gold bullion and smuggle it out of the country as Eiffel Tower paperweights. Screenwriter T.E.B. Clarke won an Oscar for this enduring comedy from Ealing Studios. (UK 1951) 78 min.

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4K Digital Restoration!
Sunday, August 31  •  2:00 and 7:00

David Lean’s masterpiece, the winner of seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture), is still one of the most intelligent epics ever made and a must-see on the big screen. Peter O’Toole stars as the British officer who assisted the Arab revolt against the Turks during World War I. With Alec Guinness is Prince Feisal and Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins. (UK/US 1962) 227 min.

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4K Digital Restoration!
Sunday, September 7  •  3:00 and 7:00

Among its seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture), Alec Guinness was honored as Best Actor as the resolute but misguided Colonel Nicholson, the leader of British prisoners of war during World War II, who are ordered by the Japanese captors to build a railroad bridge in the Burmese jungle. With William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa. Director: David Lean. (UK/US 1957) 162 min.

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Archival 35mm Print!
Sunday, September 14  •  4:30 and 7:00

Alec Guinness stars as a vacuum cleaner salesman in pre-revolutionary Havana, and when Noël Coward recruits him as a spy for British intelligence, he must invent a fictional network of operatives. Graham Greene’s script, directed by Carol Reed, captures the cynical mood of a crumbling Cuban establishment. With Burl Ives, Maureen O’Hara, Ernie Kovacs, Ralph Richardson. (UK 1959) 111 min.

Archival 35mm print courtesy of Sony Repertory.

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New Digital Restoration!
Sunday, September 21  •  4:30 and 7:00

In Alexander Mackendrick’s terrific satire for Ealing Studios, Alec Guinness plays a mild-mannered scientist in a textile factory who invents a fabric that never wears out and never gets dirty, a capitalist’s nightmare that incurs the wrath of both management and labor. With Joan Greenwood, Michael Gough. (UK 1951) 85 min.

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New Digital Restoration!
Sunday, September 28  •  5:00 and 7:00

Director Alexander Mackendrick’s hilarious dark farce for Ealing Studios, written by William Rose, stars Alec Guinness as the leader of a ragtag group of crooks who pose as classical musicians and find their landlady getting in the way of their nefarious plans. With Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, Katie Johnson. (UK 1955) 91 min.

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