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John Gielgud


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The definitive life of arguably the greatest classical actor of the twentieth century, Croall's brilliantly written and exhaustively researched biography of Gielgud provides a captivating account of both his private and personal lives.

About the Author

Jonathan Croall is the author of Buzz Buzz: Playwrights, Actors and Directors at the National Theatre. He edits and writes for the programmes at the Old Vic theatre, and was editor of the National Theatre's StageWrite magazine 1992-2007.


His public loved him, and so does the author of this thoroughly readable biography. * New Statesman. May 23, 2011 *
John Gielgud's life makes such a good story...the book is a significant reminder of a silken-voiced, altogether singular talent. * Sunday Times *
The work of a stage actor, however great, is writ on water...It was for his theatrical work that Kenneth Tynan (who, mind you, preferred Laurence Olivier) could refer to [Gielgud] as 'not an actor, but the actor.'...So, whatever the limitations of merely reading about a magnificent actor, it is gratifying to have such a well-researched and fluently written, committed yet not adulatory biography...[Gielgud] emerges as a witty, charming, conversationally apt human being. (refers to the previously released edition) * New York Times *
'Elegantly written...riveting.' * The Independent *
Magisterial biography...Authoritative yet sensitive handling...[Croall] is very good on the rivalry between Gielgud and Olivier...On this and aspects of Gielgud's homosexuality, Croall is revealing without going into excessive detail, quoting love letters in which the actor, with startling frankness for such a reserved man, analyses and explains himself....[Croall] demonstrates to those who do not know it, and confirms to those who do, Gielgud was the greatest actor of the century. * Theatre News Online *
An authoritative, nicely balanced account of both Gielgud's public and private lives... Croall also emphasizes what an important, modernizing figure he was as a director... This is by no means an uncritical biography of Gielgud - Croall illustrates his character defects of snobbery, tactlessness...and impatience...but overall he comes across as an attractively modest man with a mischievous sense of humour, possessing an evergreen enthusiasm for and deep understanding of theatre. This book does full justice to a protean performer who bestrode the stage like a Colossus * Exeunt *
'(A) tremendous biography...the result of a great deal more material which had become available to the biographer -- mostly letters, but also people more willing to speak openly. (The contents) illuminate not only the man himself but also the great changes that have taken place in social and legal attitudes in the past half-century. This is a splendid book, impressively researched and extremely readable. ' * Harriet Devine's Blog *
'As entertaining and full of variety as the subject himself' * Oldie Magazine *
'I really enjoyed reading it. In fact it's marvellous - and best of all FACTUAL! That's something of a rarity these days.' * Peter Hall *
'I am so grateful for the close scrutiny you give the performances: their context, their aspiration, their achievement. It's compelling, grown-up analysis.' * Simon Callow *
'If what you want from the genre of showbiz biography is sleaze or sycophancy, you'll have to look elsewhere. What is on offer here is something else. Croall manages the difficult balancing act of maintaining a discreet distance from his subject while at the same time seeming to have immersed himself in that subject's complexity.' * Inside Story *
'An unexpectedly enjoyable book to read... I found Croall a good navigator through the curious narrative of Gielgud's life...Croall manages to round out his portrait with nuance, new information and a gusto that drives the narrative... the larger story of a man with a mercurial talent, utterly committed to his craft, alive to instinct and nuance with a magical quota of talent, is well told.' * The New Zealand Herald *
'By the end of Jonathan Croall's massive homage to Sir John Gielgud, the great actor seems like an old friend... This meticulously researched book can be read as more than merely a biography of a single man, since it is wide-ranging enough to place his life in the context of theatre across the 20th century. Readers are therefore able to learn much about trends in drama throughout Gielgud's lifetime. Sir John Gielgud was a man of the theatre the like of whom we may never see again. Therefore, the ever-readable Jonathan Croall should be warmly congratulated on researching and writing what must surely be the definitive biography.' * British Theatre Guide *
Croall has the knack of evoking vividly stage performances from the past and gives a sense of how Gielgud went about approaching these. ... From Croall's 700-page account emerges a staggeringly prolific and very engaging figure - both career and man brought to brilliant life. With this and his biography of Sybil Thorndike, Croall stakes a serious claim to be the most notable theatrical biographer of the day. -- Brian McFarlane * Australian Book Review *

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