Archive for Arthur Gielgud


Posted in FILM, Politics, Theatre with tags , , on May 6, 2009 by dcairns


Since this week’s Hitchcock is SECRET AGENT, a quick story about it’s star, Sir John Gielgud. I never knew until after his death why it took him so long to get a knighthood. Olivier and Richardson got theirs’ much earlier, yet Gielgud was compelled to live to an absurdly old age before he qualified. It turned out he’d been arrested for soliciting in a gentleman’s lavatory, at the height of theatrical success, and it had been felt that he could not be honoured until this event was completely forgotten.

The story combines pathos and farce. Gielgud, a famously unworldly sort of chap, had been advised by friends what to do if he was ever caught “toilet-trading” (a practice basically enforced upon gay men if they wanted any sex life at all during the dark days of the “blackmailer’s charter”). “Don’t give your right name,” was the advice: you would be held in the cells overnight, fined in the morning, and released without damaging publicity.

There were reporters, but they were sitting outside the courtroom, listening half-heartedly. They heard the accused asked his name. And then they heard a very famous theatrical voice reply:

“Arthur Gielgud.”